Sunday, March 25, 2007

Prodding the Sleeping Lioness of My Feminist Tendancies

I’ve had two people guess my sun sign just by looking at me as a teenager, completely unprompted, and from complete strangers, two separate incidences. Both were 100% accurate on the first guess. One day a middle-aged lady sitting down to a cup of coffee in a restaurant, looked at me and asked;
“You’re a Leo aren’t you?”
“Good grief!” I was amazed, “how did you know?”
I’d never seen this woman before in my life and to my recollection, hadn’t even said a word to her.
“It’s the way you hold yourself, with a regal self-confidence, a lioness”, she responded.

I was quite pleased with myself for having inspired such an impression. The self-confidence part of it was especially true. I’ve always had confidence in spades. I knew who I was and what I believed and to hell with anyone who didn’t like it.

So, what happened to my lioness self?

Well, she was trapped live by a Saudi hunter who sought to domesticate her. She bred in captivity and gave birth to three cubs. The oldest female cub is starting to hone her nascent inclination to bite at her keeper’s hands. For the most part, my lioness has been content raising her cubs, which is busy work. Occasionally, my lioness is let out to stretch her limbs and chase a gazelle on the Saudi wild game reserve. It’s fenced in so there’s no chance of her escaping to intimidate the world at large. But as everyone knows, a lioness can only feign domestication for so long. Then one day, someone prods her, teases her, or doesn’t show the proper respect due to such a magnificent creature….and she lashes out.

I’ve been in a maternal lull for so long I’ve almost forgotten her. I got a glimpse of my old lioness self when I met one of my high school friends last summer when I was in the States. To her, I was almost unrecognizable. Her impression was akin to, “What the hell happened to you?” Hadn’t I been a rampant feminist when she knew me? I attributed it to mellowing with age, after all, I was just turning a ripe old 30 years old. In the west, people are just getting around to getting married and thinking about kids at that age. I’ve already been married for 10 years. My friend is still single and childless. I still remember the reaction of the doctors and nurses when I was delivering my first child in America, “You’re so young to be married and pregnant (I was 20 at the time)”. Ironically, there was an unwed teen mother and a crack addict whose child was taken from her upon delivering in the same room as me and yet, I was the oddity. I wanted to be married and I wanted children. I supposed I bought into the ‘You can have it all” brand of modern feminist thinking. And yes, I am trying to have it all. I’ve earned advanced degrees while working part time, all while my kids are at school to avoid guilt. Damn, it’s hard having it all. But the thing is, I’ve been so busy having it all I’ve forgotten something; my duty to improving my perceived status in this world for my sake, my daughter’s sake, and the sake of my sisters in the world. It’s time to do my part. It’s time to allow my lioness to awaken and find a place for her to live in my life.

“So, what prompted this rant” enquired another friend after telling her of this post. “It’s always been there”, I informed her. Only recently, it’s taken the form of a stomach ulcer developing as a result from holding it all in. The ulcer is from my lioness, who’s been scratching away at my innards while dreaming of hunting down hapless antelope on the open range and it’s causing me very real physical pain. It’s the little things on a daily basis that keep building up, poking and prodding at my lioness, threatening to wake her. I, and her captor, do our best to lull her back to her dreams. It’s been really difficult keeping a lioness all these years. Her Saudi captor tries to keep her sedate by scratching her in back of her ears every once and awhile and buying her a steak as a treat. Then after his short displays of affection, she purrs a bit and goes back to sleep. There’s been no place for me to keep my lioness these past few years, if she were to escape. So, she’s mainly had to stay in hibernation. She’s usually has an even-keeled personality. She rarely roars, and my oldest daughter knows; the quieter I say something, the faster she’d better do what it is I’m asking. Posing as a male lion, the captor lounges around and expects the lioness to bring him food and take care of the cubs by herself. Occasionally the cubs are allowed to pounce playfully on him but when he’s had enough, that’s it. She’s almost never shows aggression to her captor. She’s learned to value a peaceful den; it’s easier to take cat-naps when it’s quiet. Every once and awhile her captor postures menacingly and roars intimidatingly in an attempt to remind the lioness who’s the boss. Knowing full well in her heart who’s the better of the two, she goes off to find him more food to stuff in his mouth to shut him up. Only last week….he, and just about every other male in the world, prodded my lioness too strongly.

Having internet access is a mixed blessing for me. The more I read, the more restless my lioness became. I read a piece about new “Places’ for women to pray in the Haram so we’ll be “protected’ from men in crowded mixed areas. As I read that piece I remember how I so wanted to go and touch the black stone on the Kaaba but because I’d need to wade through a sea of men, I couldn’t. I read about a non-Saudi woman arrested for driving and her husband told he needs to stop her because it will lead to immorality. I read about not allowing women to vote when the time comes.

Then there’s what I experience every day. I can’t even go for a walk down the street by myself if the mood hits me because single males may interpret it as “flirty” and my captor feels a need to “protect” me from it by prohibiting me from going alone. There’s not real danger here. At least there isn’t for me. My lioness can handle hormonally-charged adolescents with delusions of being ‘playas’ while driving their shiny flirt-mobile cars playing a 50cent track and not reeeeeally understanding it. They’re not dangerous, just annoying and they’ll go away if you don’t give them face (veil pun intended).

Since last week, my lioness has been awake. She’s still a bit drowsy and can still be contained in my house, for now. But, she’s tried to make a break for it a couple of times already. Beware world, my lioness is still stretching and preening now, but she’ll be making her appearance soon.


Sand Gets in My Eyes said...

I am SO happy to hear the soft roar of another lioness here in Kingdom.

Red Jenny said...

What a great post. Who knew a lioness could be such a good writer? :)

Carol said...

Your prose was quite "purrfect" to me! Enjoyed immensely.


Organic-Muslimah said...

Where have you been deary? I have been looking for you all my blogging life. On my blogroll sweets. Shall read more!

saudi stepford wife said...

By the way Carol (aka American_Bedu), because of your blog I now hate My Space. You put some cool posts on your blog and love reading your stuff, but I can't comment on it. Hell, I can't even send you an email. Talk about frustration! I hope you end up reading this comment! Send me your email so I can at least let you know my appreciation.

Haitham said...


i came late, but now a regular reader, keep writing pls

Carol said...

I am so disappointed to hear you cannot comment at my blog?! What a disappointment...but we women in the Kingdom need to stick together and support one another...please do email me:

I wonder if your inability to comment has anything to do with me being unable to access my web page since arrival in the Kingdom? As you can see, I can access my blog but my own web page is blocked?! Could it be my wallpaper of desert scenes and camels? Go figure!

I am so happy to have discovered your blog. Keep it up and don't stop!


hedoorientia said...

Note to self: beware of arab hunters!

Anonymous said...

Isn't it sad to see/hear/read that a lioness such as yourself is unable to go out without a male companion??? I guess there needs to be a collective roar from all the females out there so that they don't get suffocated. You write so well mashallah. sf

saudi stepford wife said...

SF- I do go out occasionally on my own, i just have to plan it when most young men are fast asleep...basically anytime before sunset:) I'll run to the grocery store 2 blocks over from my house but after the coffee shop that's in between my house and there opens...forget it!

Thanks for the comments and hope to see you again soon.

melissa said...

i came across this blog looking for a picture of a lioness. i started reading and could not stop! I feel the same, different circumstances, but basically the same outline of your experience. married young, children young, domesticated and turning 30 next year. I am happy and relieved to know that I am not alone! also, you write beautifully!

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