A lot of times I ask myself how can we really change people’s mentality about stereotypes and prejudices through the power of conversation and whether that really works? I have been a blogger for four years now and most if not all of the interaction with my readers has been online. Unfortunately I have realized that this has programmed my mind to think that taking a stand and expressing my views would be much more useful in the virtual world. Let me assure you I was wrong.
In a recent gathering, one of my friends announced that he and his wife were expecting a baby girl. Of course I could not hide my enthusiasm and excitement, being a mother of a two year old daughter myself and immediately began to share motherhood tips and advice. The mother smiled as the father joked about how he was “disappointed” when he found out they were having a girl and how there was still hope that in the last minute his baby would magically be transformed into a boy.
Now I know what you are thinking, how could someone in the 21st century think like this, well the truth is this was not the first time I had heard something like that. In Saudi Arabia the mentality of the “baby boy” being superior to a ” baby girl” is so entrenched in the society that when my sister’s doctor found out that her first baby was a girl she announced the news with a low pitched voice and a dose of sad eyes fearing that the news would anger my sister’s husband, when my sister’s second baby was a boy, the doctor could not be happier and was not hesitant to express her relief and joy.
The story of my friend and the doctor are not strange stories in our society; if anything they are sometimes the norm, but I am not writing this for the sake of criticism but for the sake of taking a close look at myself and how I reacted to my friends story and the lesson this incident taught me.
Unfortunately I did not condemn my friend’s behavior nor did I stand up and argue that what he was saying was unacceptable. I must admit that I struggled with myself whether I should say something or not. ” This is normal, he’s just joking and I’m sure he won’t think this way when she is born…” are some of the things I kept telling myself hoping that they would be true in order to dismiss the inner guilt and the inner voice that was telling me that this is not Ok. The inner voice that was telling me that I should speak up and not allow this kind of conversation to even take place, even if it was a joke. But I silenced that inner voice and the guilt played its part all the way back home.
I kept asking myself why I didn’t say something, why was it so hard to just stand up and disagree and why was it so easy for me to “take a stand” online but not in real life situations? In one way or another and whether I liked it or not, by not saying anything I was saying that I was ok with what my friend was joking about and I learned that the hard way. I also learned that promoting change, voicing our opinions and expressing our beliefs is much easier thought than said. To stand up to a group of your friends or colleagues and say that you disagree is not an easy thing to do but if we really want things to change then we have to start at the right place; with the people who are disappointed that they are having a girl instead of a boy, the people that believe that a hijab-wearing woman can’t be Britain’s next great baker, people who judge and make assumptions. This is where we need to start, we also have to expand the conversation, whether it be through blogging, awareness videos, campaigns, you name it.
Some might argue that changing someone’s mentality is rather difficult but I’d rather give it a shot than just stand there and watch the future of our girls and their worth being threatened before they are even born… and I hope you will do the same.