On Postponing Pain and Other Anecdotes

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I watched my grandmother’s funeral from a distance, her body mingled with the earth covering her grave. My grandmother never  strayed away from the stereotype of an Arab woman. She married  young and made lots of children, buried her own husband and joined  him soon after. I’ve never seen my grandmother speak up to  something she believed in, as if she believed in nothing.  My  grandmother like many women had been postponing the pain of being  a woman for the right moment.

The right moment for her and many others had been the grave; their  decaying bodies carry the stories they witnessed to the roots of what  grows under the sun, yet the somewhere between the roots and the  stems the transmission was lost. Nothing ever gets delivered. The  earth keeps their secrets hidden.

Postponing pain is a process we find ourselves doing automatically. It is a process where we as women deny ourselves the very right to be present and to react to justice. It prevents us from fully living our humanity to the most. To postpone our pain is to accept the very notion that promotes women as inferior to men. It is the coping mechanism we have inherited that prevents us from questioning the reasons behind our suffering and misery. And yes women are miserable, for no soul living under oppression and injustice can understand what happiness or freedom are.

Women are commodities. Their bodies are sold by the thousands of companies to market products. Women’s bodies represent obedient objects; you can turn them on as you please or turn them off with ways you find suitable, just like owning a car you drive.  Women postpone their ownership of their bodies, because it’s painful to feel unused when the alternative of being unused-that is emancipation and freedom- remains hidden and manipulated by religion, economy and patriarchy.

Women postpone pain that should initiate their struggle against a huge war machine that comes prepared with all kinds of weapons, be it physical, emotional, social or psychological.  This war bombards them daily with products to match a predetermined identity from cleaning products to cosmetics. It is painful to realize that you are always in need of corrections to suit a society that you thought you belonged to. It is painful to realize that you are loved because of what you add to yourself not because this is the “natural” you.

To postpone pain is to accept that injustice is part of the normalcy, where sexual harassment becomes part of an identity rather an aggressive ill-mannered behavior that demeans the very idea of women. It is painful to destroy everything we are familiar with, to have to build one’s self in a world so fast and so changing that the issue of being a woman becomes irrelevant sometimes, because women’s rights, issues and demands are being diluted by modernity and globalization. What is a woman to a world that is still debating the accuracy of humans causing climate change while natural catastrophes are hitting left and right?

It becomes essential that we face all of these painful facts. It is essential to end our current passive stand, while the world around us is falling apart. It is with our emancipation that this world can have a chance in surviving such an abusive system be it patriarchy, or capitalism and their existing structures that are all forms of discrimination.

Other anecdotes on postponing pain

Tarik El Jdideh – 1998

Salma had been exhausted all day, she had just entered the peak of her teenage angst and her mother didn’t want to hear about it. Someone needed to get dinner on time because it was not going to cook itself. She had been avoiding the elevator for years now. She’d take the stairs all they way up to the 5th floor. Her neighbor had this weird habit of coming very close to her in the elevator; his smell never seemed to depart the space, and so she avoided the memories of those unpleasant memories. His breath had been something she dreamt about constantly. It was September and the heat had brought trouble to her mind, as she entered the small alley leading to her building, the images of her neighborhood falling apart was irresistible. She’d walked slowly to enjoy the imagery of her mind, it had helped her to forget about the heat, it had helped her to forget about going up to the 5th floor.

Harit Hreik – 2006

She gathered whatever she could fit to the small bag, running down to meet her husband in the car, the bag in one hand and the baby in the other hand. She ran down the stairs insisting that no errors of falling down will occur as she finds her way to the ground floor passing through the many residents of her building fleeing their homes as well. Everyone was one she knew was on the street; everyone was shouting, and all the cars where honking. The music of the war was growing louder by the second. In a kindergarten classroom, she’d found her new home. She made sure to stifle anything that came up directly from her heart to her mouth. It’s been chaotic and thrilling. On the 17th day of displacement, a friend of the family had managed to make her body a battlefield. She survived two wars; in the second war she’d lost something more valuable than the land itself, than victory and pride. On her first day of returning to what looked like home, she took a long shower.


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