Op-Ed: Torn between two worlds: the struggles of Arab women in America

Razan Makhlouf, Reporter

Different cultures and traditions can always be wonderful. Each culture is unique, bringing special events, styles, food, and beliefs to the table in their own distinctive way.

The Arab communities living in America are no different. Family, as it is in many cultures, is significant for Arabs. Respecting parents and elderlies are a high priority, and possibly, the most important quality to have.

A close second is a reputation, especially that of a woman. Although women are often viewed as the ones with the least amount of “freedom”, they are more powerful than one might think.

Women in the Arab communities can determine the level of respect the entire family is given based on their reputation among the community.

If the girl’s reputation is clean, meaning that she remains a virgin until marriage, or stays away from drugs and alcohol, or even a “bad” group of friends, she would be glorified amongst her Arab community and bring great respect to her family name.

Other families would begin to seek her out for their sons in hope of a marriage that can unify the two families to become one highly respected family.

This, however, comes at a great cost for the women who must struggle to find a balance between what is respected and accepted versus what may be perceived as a threat to the family’s reputation.

This is considered the normal way of living for Arabs in the Middle East, and one would think that in America things would be different.

Arab women, who were born in America struggle with their families just the same, especially the daughters of parents who were not born and raised in America.

Arab American parents hold on to tradition as Arabs do back in the Middle East, and sometimes even more strict. However, the new generation of Arab Americans, who were born and raised in America, are torn between two cultures they live in at the same time.

While it is acceptable for boys to emerge into the American culture, girls are restricted from it unless they are married.

Things such as staying out late, smoking, drinking, traveling without another family member, are accepted for boys but not for girls.

As they grow up, girls are often pressured at an early age to consider marriage, preferably to an Arab. The older they get, the more pressure they feel.

Although pressure and tension get in the way sometimes of living happily, celebrations make up for it.

The Arab American communities have a lot of great qualities in terms of family, respect, food, and culture; however, they need to embrace the new culture they are living in for their children to live a happier life.

If parents can learn to be more accepting in embracing other cultures, especially the western way of living, and if Arab girls can learn to be more proud of their culture, there would be a significant increase in appreciation for both worlds to live in harmony.