Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. Everything has been figured out, except how to live. One always dies too soon or too late. And yet, life is there, finished. The line is drawn, and it must all be added up. You are nothing other than your life. There is only one day left, always starting over. It is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk. We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are, that is the fact. When you live alone you no longer know what it is to tell a story: the plausible disappears at the same time as the friends. You let events flow by too.Suddenly you see people appear who speak and then go away; you plunge into stories of which you can't make head or tail. You'd make a terrible witness. It is true that people who live in society have learned how to see themselves in mirrors as they appear to their friends. Luckily, I only have a few...

Dr Shaw is a lecturer in Further Education at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk. She also offers philosophy courses at the School of Continuing Education, Lifelong learning, at the University of Liverpool. In 2015, she has completed her Doctorate in philosophy with a focus on existentialism, the equilibrium doctrine and narrative. She has worked as a teacher of English and Comparative literature and Philosophy at The American University in Cairo, Egypt where she also obtained her BA (Hons). Dr Shaw has an MA in Philosophy and Literature from the University of East Anglia where she also taught on a number of humanities subjects. Whilst working in North Wales in Further education, she gained a PGCE aimed at teaching in FE and HE sectors. Dr Shaw moved to Liverpool in 2010 where she now resides.

Interests: Existentialism, Narrative, Comparative Literature, Feminist Thought, Public Speaking, Arab Existentialism, Philosophy of Education, Art, Music, Film and Theatre, Greek Mythology, Existential counsellor and psychotherapist.


Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The One OR The Many

Unlike Polygamy, where a man marries more than one wife, there is the opposite, Polyandry, where a woman has two or more husbands at the same time.

Now coming from an Egyptian woman or even any Middle Eastern woman, it would sound outrageous. People would raise eye brows and roll eyes. But seriously now, some women talk between themselves about the possibility of this idea since Egypt is going through change at the moment (a state of liberation) then why not turn everything on its head and look change in the eye.

Although I hear this idea secretly exchanged and joked about, I cannot say it could ever happen. Egypt is (unfortunately for females) a dominantly patriarchal society- although it would be helpful to have the exact gender figures/ statistics to show that women are more than men. Last time I heard people joking that there are more women than men yet it never changes the structure of the country and how it is run the slightest. Someone even went further to claim that every man will be encouraged to have more than one wife by law to solve the population and instability… What an excuse...

Now let me clarify where this polygamy idea came from in the first place in Middle Eastern countries and how it is backed up by Islamic religion. In the olden days when men in tribes used to leave their wives and children behind and go fight other tribes for land, money...etc many women found themselves widows as a result of the death of their husband in battle. A suggestion by Prophet Mohamed (May peace be upon him) was to encourage men who have the means to live (money, shelter...etc) to take another wife so that she would have support for herself and any kids she had before becoming a widow. This sounds all noble to me and many people who realise or are familiar with the origin of polygamy realise that good deed and will behind this act. The irony is how the idea developed over the years like a game of charades or telephone whisperers.  Instead of realising the nobility behind the act, men today take this as an invitation or almost permission by God to go ahead and take as many as four wives. One point that men leave out of the prophet's tale is that he strictly told men who would marry the widows only to do so if they, firstly, can afford to, and secondly, treat all wives equally and fairly. These conditions- specifically the second condition- are almost non-existent today as many men assume that having plenty of money and being able to provide for the four women is enough regardless of being able or not to treat all equally and fairly as the prophet said (which is also noted in the Quran but usually left out when referred to orally or misunderstood).

Now Polyandry has been a concept that interested many women as a result of this unfairness. My explanation also- which makes me actually grin- is perhaps because women who think of polyandry or it crosses their mind keeps meeting, liking or even loving guys that they would like to marry all at once rather than dedicate themselves or –from some of the women’s perspective- enslave themselves to only one. When I used to tell that to my friend, she used to laugh and say “You think like a man!” which I found puzzling...why are men given the liberty to think freely while even women’s thoughts are under scrutiny and ridicule?

From research, I found out that polyandry is originally a Greek word for poly & many. Who else
could think of a genius concept and be ok about it than the Greeks- I bow to them for that. I wished to find something about the Pharohs to support that, but all I can recall from tales I was told in my childhood is a tale of Osiris and Isis who were brother and sister and got married, which isn't really the same in this case.

Something I came across recently is this: A Saudi journalist Nadine Bedair has caused a storm in the Wahabbist kingdom.

Bedair penned an article for the Egyptian daily newspaper 'Al Masry Al Youm' titled, “My Four Husbands and I.” You hardly have to read beyond the headline to forecast the storm ahead — but, of course, you’d be missing out on her delightfully daring indictment of polygamy if you didn’t.
Badir writes: “Allow me to choose four, five or even nine men, just as my wildest imagination shall choose,” Bedair continues.... “I’ll pick them with different shapes and sizes, one of them will be dark and the other will be blonde.”

Now this would be against what many people call the “common defence of polygamy within Islam” which states as I mentioned in the beginning that it rescues widows and divorcees from their unfortunate plight by allowing men to welcome multiple women into their homes. Bedair, however, doesn’t buy it: “I have long questioned why it is men have a monopoly on this right. No one has been able to explain to me convincingly why it is I’m deprived of the right to polyandry.”

No wonder this is polemic in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the middle east in general, so much polemic, that they are accusing her of blasphemy!  Or more like- off with her head... Yuks!


In Arab history, I came across this term “Nikah Ijtimah” which means “combined marriage” where a woman has intercourse with a group of men and if she gets pregnant, she sends them invites to come see the child, an offer which they cannot turn down. She then chooses from the group those who she would like to father her child and act as a mentor and guide. This of course was outlawed by Islam and today it is required of any man and woman to be married prior to sexual intercourse. Also, Islam requires that the identity of the father must be known. In other words, the whole process of sex and marriage is structured by social norms and are becoming stricter than in the olden days.
All I can think of now is regardless of the disadvantage of polyandry and attacks against it, there is a suggestion here that the off springs will be of excellent genes since polyandry ensures “variety”, in other words, one male could be tall, another could be handsome, the third has excellent trait, and the fourth compliments these traits with further traits. The off springs in this scenario will benefit so much more than being from a single father who may lack on many traits and possess weaker ones, hence limit the child’s potentiality.


- http://polyandry-society-international.org/
- http://nickshell1983.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/americas-guilty-pleasureobsession-with-polygamy-what-the-bachelor-big-love-and-sister-wives-teach-us-about-the-ultimate-case-of-seeing-other-people/
- http://www.norcalblogs.com/post_scripts/2010/10/send-in-the-sanity-clowns.html
- http://tessera2009.blogspot.com/2010/01/whos-daddy-why-polyandry-is-bad-idea.html

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