I am, but only, my Brother’s Mother’s Daughter.


I’m the eldest of a four siblings. I have only one brother.

Today, my Mum changed her name on facebook to that of Umm (Umm)-my brother.  Which irritated me now, as much as it did when she used to call herself Umm-my brother when I was little. 

Although the reasons why have changed somewhat, from ‘I was born first, I’ve been your kid the longest, why not me?’ when I was a child – to, as an adult, feeling sad that (i) my Mum chooses to ignore and disacknowledge the three of us without a penis who my Mum also gave birth to, but (ii) and more sadly for me, that my Mum’s identity seems to have been subsumed and exchanged with that of my brother. If anything, shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t my brother identify himself as son-of-my-Mum, she has done everything for him? My Mum will argue that this an Arab/Islamic/Traditional thing to do, but it isn’t it just reducing women to the producers of heirs, as if that is their role, par excellence, in society, and their highest accolade? Is it not a symptom of society that dismisses the achievements and identity of women?  Shouldn’t a woman be as proud to identify themselves as mothers of their daughters, as of their sons  – and what’s this ridiculous idea that we should not use our names and use that of our sons to identify ourselves? I think it’s a stupid, dehumanising tradition and one that soon, I hope, is forgotten.

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4 responses to “I am, but only, my Brother’s Mother’s Daughter.

  1. I am glad to see this being brought up. As a father with two lovely and wonderful daughters, I get offended when people insist on calling me abu-MaleName – they make up the name of a son that I never had and never will have. Even relatives and close friends do it. I often insist that if one feels obliged to follow a tradition (so they say), call me Abu-Fatima after my older daughter. I no longer get upset at this but simply pitty the ignorant and the lemmings and only repond to people that call be by my first name.

  2. It can be annoying when our mothers come from a different background with their own beliefs about what is right. (If only they got it!! They are so out of date! So ignorant!)
    If we want to get over the frustration and annoyance we need to move past the emotional reaction and judgments we have, and try to understand her perspective.
    By stepping into her shoes you can empathize with her reality. We all have our own reality and way of seeing things. Hers is different from yours, and probably most of your generation!. Instead of struggling with it, accept that there is a difference here. Then find a way from a place of compassion to tell her how it feels to you, her daughter. She may even hear you….

  3. Thank you both for replying to my post.

    Abu Fatima – it warmed me that the first comment was from a progressive father like yourself! These things will only change if we challenge them and it is especially important (& makes me VERY happy!) when I see men using their priviledged place in society to challenge the status quo, we need more male feminists in the Middle East, I think, so thank you for doing that! Your daughters must be as proud of you as you are of them!

    Val, thank you, your comments are very kind and empathetic. The advice would certainly be more apt if it wasn’t the case that my Mum is a British convert to Islam who has wholeheartedly and enthusiastically embraced the religion and also, Arabic & Egyptian culture. This makes it very difficult for me to understand – as she grew up in England and so understands perfectly my perspective! There is no real justification to ‘traditions’ like this. I guess there are some things I will never understand!

    (By the way, a coincidence – my Mum’s name was Val before she converted!)

  4. I agree – why should she lose her identity after having children and resort to Umm xxx or a kunya? And more often than not, the arrival of a son usually prompts this adoption of kunya as if the daughter is insignificant. Shame 😦

    Nice blog 🙂

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