The holidays are
supposed to be the season of joy, family and reflection of the experience and growth
a person has had and achieved in the past year.
Traditions, gatherings and of course the vast amount of delicious foods make it a season many look forward to.
Be it Christmas cookies, decorations and gifts under the tree, we all do have some positive memories of the holidays, at least from our childhood, when life was less complicated and people were less intrusive in personal matters.
Considering those of us living in the diaspora and spread all over countries and continents, the yearly gathering in the family home is supposed to be an event to look forward to. And I dolook forward to it, at least to a certain extent.
Let me explain why my
feelings for the holidays are somehow conflicted:
2019, the last year before I turn 30 years old, I have had another Christmas celebration in my childhood home, travelling 10h with a transit all the way from Lebanon to Switzerland, in order to celebrate a religious holiday of a religion I don’t believe in. (Side note: I’m an atheist/humanist). I don’t celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday but rather as an opportunity to get a chance to see my family in Europe after my move to the Middle East in 2018.
So, considering the fact that for me, as well as many others, Christmas is supposed to be about family, it also becomes more and more a celebration I dread. It began after I graduated from my undergraduate studies, when people started to bring up my way of life, my way of fashion and my way of seeing the world.
In a recent ‘public opinion poll’ among the older generations of my vast clan, the following were the most Top 10 expectations towards me:
- Learn how to cook traditional dishes to find a husband
- Get a nose job to find a husband
- Change your hair style to find a husband
- Wear make-up to find a husband
- Dress more feminine to find a husband
- Quit your job in the Middle East and get a ‘proper’ job in Europe to find a husband
- GET MARRIED
- GET MARRIED
- GET MARRIED.
- (GET MARRIED and then) HAVE CHILDREN
I sometimes wonder if all my male relatives have to go through the same ritual whenever they visit for the holidays. Of course, by now you might have realized that this article isn’t really talking about the holidays per se, neither the cultural nor the religious importance of it. No, this article is meant to be a rant representing all young, feminist, single women in our Assyrian/Syriac community, who have consciously decided not to get married, not to have children, but instead to follow their dreams of a career, be it as an artist, as an activist or any other occupation that is not deemed as respectable as the jobs traditionally considered to be representable: Doctor, Engineer or Lawyer.
I managed to fulfill the expectations halfway. I did study law and I am working as an advocate, however I decided to focus my career on human rights and supporting activism in the Middle East, therefore not representing the kind of lawyer you would want to brag about during a family celebration.
I would want my family to brag about the strong young woman I have become. About the independent life I am living. About the courage I have for being alone in the Middle East, working in and around war zones, representing the most vulnerable communities. Instead, I am being reminded that I don’t fit in. That I don’t fulfill the expectations of what represents a good, decent Assyrian/Syriac woman.
Talking about expectations, during the holidays, I saw many Assyrian/Syriac friends on Social Media posting about their holidays alone at home. They are the shunned ones; they are the rejected ones. Our society is priding itself regarding its strong sense of community and unity, be it under the church, the language or the cultural connection. However, there are those, that cannot find any way back into this community, and instead they had to create their own safety network, their own (alternative) family, that in many ways is more tolerant and supportive. Of course, I am talking about the plight of the LGBTQ+ community within the Assyrian/Syriac people.
So, let us recap for a second what I am trying to say: Our people is intolerant and dismissive towards young, unmarried Assyrian/Syriac women and constantly judges their lifestyles and gives unsolicited advice and recommendations. Our people is outright homophobic and cruel towards the LGBTQ+ community. Our people was, still is and probably will be stuck on a patriarchal mindset for many years to come. I do hope however, that each new article, each new scandal and each new conflict, in all the years to come, will shake up the rigid mentality and slowly tear down the patriarchy. One holiday after the other. Let’s see what the Easter celebration in 2020 is going to be like.
So, dear readers, I hope this article has shaken things up a bit. In any case, just to make sure the message has been clear and loud enough:
Merry Christmas and “F*CK THE PATRIARCHY” to you and your family.