BEIRUT: Worrying about looking too smart, too independent, too strong, too masculine, too fragile, too attached, or too single might be common among Lebanese women. Above all, what she might be worrying about most is hearing the same line she has heard from a relative for the hundredth time at her younger cousin’s wedding: “When are you going to get married and make us happy?”
According to a Dutch demographic study of the Arab countries conducted in 2013, Lebanon was ranked as the highest country with single women in this region. It is estimated that 85 percent of Lebanese women are in-fact single. The study is not very surprising, the Lebanese economy and unemployment rate take most of the blame.
Weddings are costly worldwide, and for Arabic culture, it takes more than just a pretty venue and a nice cake to impress both sides of the wedded families. During a recent survey that was conducted by Information International, it was estimated that weddings in Beirut cost approximately $15,000 US dollars for the average couple.
But when it came down to women, money, and economy weren’t the only reasons a ring is not on women’s fingers.
Psychologist Dr. Nasrelddine told Annahar that there are a lot of psychological factors that might push women into late marriage or no marriage at all.
“It’s a different generation, with different problems, goals, standards, and psyche,” she said. “Women’s psychology has majorly changed with time and of course the need to have a husband and children at a young age no longer sounds like a must.”
Nasrelddine also explained that women became more prone to focus on self-fulfillment.
“I have a successful business and a happy life. Yet, when I’m asked about my status and I say single, I get this empathetic look from people,” said Zeina Chaito. “I understand that there are a limited number of men for eight women but, the taboo of the unwedded woman should not be normalized. Your success and worth are not determined by your relationship status.”
Annahar's Naya section decided to look further into the subject and inquire from women themselves what makes them want to be single. Here’s a glimpse of what we got.
“My mom was already married with a child at my age,” Lydia Mouradi told Annahar. “I am single one hundred percent by choice. I just have bigger plans for myself that don’t involve me taking care of a family at the moment.”
While some decided to brace their single status and focus more on their personal lives, others found it hard to find a soul mate.
“If you take a good look around you, you can see that toxic masculinity and patriarchy are the norms for so many Lebanese men,” said Dayana Nourelddine. “I’d rather be single than to have another male figure tell me what to do, how to dress, and how to act. I’d rather be single my whole life, and let them call me an old maid, at least I’m a free maid.”
Beyond focusing more on personal satisfaction, the stories that have evolved because of patriarchy give women other reasons to stay away from marriage.
“I’m single because I have seen too many cases of domestic violence, abuse, rape, sexism, discrimination, and all that falls in between,” said human rights activist and feminist Yasmine Midani. “Once you see all of this in front of you, working with different cases, relationships stop meaning much to you, you search for the bigger love, the love for humanity. What they don’t see, is that I don’t need a relationship, because I have a higher purpose than being single, or having a ring on my finger: I want to make a change.”
Single or married, Lebanese women are making phenomenal progress towards independence and self-sufficiency. Maybe it’s time to come up with a new question to be asked at a family wedding celebration.
Welcome to “Naya,” the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations — Naya Editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org
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