Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘“heyder”

“Imagined Masculinity”, edited by Mai Ghoussoub and Emma Sinclair-Webb

March 1st, 2007 

I have read three chapters of “Imagined Masculinities”.

One of the chapters written by the Turkish Jew Moris Farhi is funny.  The kids Moris and his friend Selim, used to accompany his family Armenian servant Sofia to a Turkish bath called “Paradise”.  The manageress Teyze hanim (Lady Aunt) allowed the two kids to bath with the females because their testicles did not yet drop off; the kids heard this chit chatting and started to continuously checking their testicles and wondering when they might drop off; they roamed the streets looking for any pairs of testicles in case theirs might drop off and attach the found ones.

The kids heard a lot of myths told by Gypsy kids about female genitals and breasts and would surreptitiously investigate the category of women in the “hammam” through seemingly closed eyes. The kids would try to discriminate the temperament and emotional sexual performance of women according to the size of the aureole of the breast, the shape and elasticity of the labia and the size of the clitoris, sesame, or lentil, or chick-peas and whether the pubic hair is shaved daily (a status of riches) or occasionally.

 Chapter 2: Hassan Daoud on moustaches.  It appears that in older times, village leaders instituted various styles of moustaches depending on ranks and nobility; whomever wore moustaches not adequate to his rank was forced to shave them; thus, when a person used to leave a single hair from his moustaches as a guarantee for a loan, the lender would know the capacity of this fellow to repaying his loan.

The Lebanese army used to, or still is, allocate a monthly stipend for soldiers with appropriate moustaches as large as for any additional child he had.  I can generate two plausible hypotheses for this practice in our army:

First hypothesis: Emir Majeed Erslan was the defense minister most of his life since our independence and he wore these fine but ridiculous moustaches that circled upward and would swear on his moustaches; I guess he might have induced the army to encourage the officers and soldiers to carry these moustaches so that he would not be laughed at or mocked by the new generation of Lebanese.

The second hypothesis is that our army is a carbon copy of the French colonial army in structure. laws and behavior; I guess the republican French army held to the standards of the elite Napoleonic “grognards”, who were selected among the most hairy and owe-inspiring virility of their large moustaches, among other factors.

            Now, why moustaches are no longer a la mode? Pick and chose one or several of these reason:

First, women don’t like moustaches because they rub roughly their skins, they send the implicit message that the man is not interested enough to beautify his looks to please them and insist on the virility value of moustaches, or because the upper lip would cease to look like the man version of pudendum when shaved;

Second reason: after our many defeats with Israel we are no longer fond of imitating our valorous grandfathers; well, may be after the Hezbollah victory we might experience a resurgence of the moustaches, hopefully left unkept and wild; or

Third reason: Nose mucus sometimes stick to moustaches along with food and other sticky materials and finger-pointing to these humiliating debris can destroy the resemblance of virility; or because the Mullahs, and religious men are no longer appetizing for the modern generations and they need to remove that visible aberration; or because the modern sharp and safe razors, manual or electric, provided the adequate leverage for fashion alternatives.

Chapter on circumcision: The Tunisian Abdelwahab Bouhdiba wrote a chapter on circumcision. Nothing in the Koran, what the Prophet Mohamad admonished, states anything related to the need to get circumcised or “khitan“; it is Muslems and not Islam that imposed circumcision to the conquered people who opted to join Islam.

Even in the 3,000 pages of the “Fatawa Hindiyya” or the 2,000 pages of “Ihya” of Al-Ghazali the act of circumcision was never accorded a compulsory duty, barely a “sunna” act or strongly recommended.  Al-Ghazali recommended that circumcision of boys must not be done a week after he was born as the Jew did but after the boy’s head at least grew steady hair. The excision of girls was basically irrelevant and this act was demoted to at best a “makruma” or a pious act.

Clearly, circumcision is a tribal sign, a tattoo, for inclusion in the Muslim communities; like it is within the Jewish communities, although the Jew attached this act to the Torah in an attempt to create a tight tribal relationship.  In any case, circumcision has become the number one obligation among the Muslims and festivities of violence accompany these events; the ceremony is an almost a carbon copy to the ceremony of wedding and which could be interpreted as the preparation of the boy to matrimony, a few years earlier before the girl loses her virginity when the boy is married off.

The circumcision of a boy occurs when he is between 8 and 12 years old and the ceremony is accompanied by very loud noises to cover the crying and shouting of the victim.  The advantage of circumcision is to direct the boys away from lechery, and because the head of the penis becomes much less sensitive than the wife would enjoy a longer copulation time which she usually needs and wants. Actually, getting a hard on becomes mostly an act of good imagination and a willingness to please the mate.

The author Abdu Khal wrote a section about his circumcision ceremony (brit milah in Hebrew or the cutting according to the covenant) in the early forties in South Saudi Arabia close to the borders with Yemen. Abdu was to go on pilgrimage to Mecca with his grandmother because his dad has died and he was the only male in the family; thus, he was to be circumcised first.

Abdu was to dance all the way to the open place of the “makhatina” podium for the cutting of his foreskin (orla in Hebrew), accompanied by the “zaghareeds” of the women and loud noises, then he was to stand erect, akimbo, hands on his hips and looking far in the distance; he was not to blink or swoon or flinch “takhabbab” otherwise he will bring shame to the whole family as long as he lives.

Abdu proved to be a man and asked the circumciser to cut another slice in honor of his uncle and then another slice in honor of his mother.  His mother carried him away promptly in fear that he would mutilate himself for the whole tribe.  Abdu suffered three gruesome months from infections to the wounds which festered and spread to his testicles and could have died.

            The act of circumcision of the male boys (zhakar for male in both Arabic and Hebrew) seems to be a common ritual in nomadic tribes starting for hygiene reason and then taking on several structural and religious dimensions and interpretations like the prerequisite step toward learning.  The ancient Jews used to perform circumcision late and in mass ceremonies then they decided to have it the 8-day for the newly born.

My personal hypothesis is that during the captivity in Babylon or other dire circumstances that prohibited mass celebrations this act was transformed and made more confined in secrecy early on.  Thus, a more public ceremony consisted on the cutting of the hair at the age of three when the boys are taught the Torah and the religious doctrines. Since a woman should be kept close to her natural state and uncut, thus impure, then the boys should have something cut off, like pruning or grafting trees, so that they grow better, more knowledgeable and productive.

It appears that productivity is purely in terms of procreation since the male spend their life studying the religious doctrines and most of the work is done by the women, even earning the daily bread.

The haircutting ritual of Jewish boys at the age of three “halaka” as pronounced in Arabic was adopted from the Muslim rituals when families visited holy shrines; the Palestinian Jews (musta3rbim) spread this ritual which was primarily a Sephardic or Middle Eastern custom and the Kabala adopted it in the sixteenth century until it became widespread among the Jews in Israel.

Miron is a town near Safed where the shrine of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai is the target of the pilgrimage; the ear-locks are left intact and the rest of the head is shaved; time for the boys to start going to religious pre-schools “heyder”, wear the four-cornered undergarment, recite the Jewish statement of faith (Shema Yisrael) and accompany his father to the synagogue.

Theoretically, the boy who looked like a girl with curly hair now looks like his father “tsurat yehoudi“; the boy is now completely attached to his father, separated from the female sex, and oriented to acquiring the religious wisdom and knowledge.  It appears that during the early crusades in Medieval Europe the Jews were under pressure to convert to Christianity; the early indoctrination to Torah of the Jewish children was a counter response to inoculate the Jews from later pressures.

Chapter on Turkish manhod: “Our Bulen is now a Commando: Military service and manhood in Turkey” by Emma Sinclair-Webb is a chapter concerned with the military service rituals into manhood. Military service is another form of masculine initiation to manhood; in the poor counties the families and communities gather to celebrate the joining of the recruits in the military.  While the poor recruits might obtain advantages from military service in the form of health check ups, dental care and better nutrition, as well as an opportunity to get away from their restricted locality and in some cases to learn to read and write, the extension of the military service to over a year and a half has very negative impact.

The first few months are pure trauma of experiencing constant curses, contempt and punishments designed to erase any residual personality or individuality, to empty the mind and feelings, shaping the recruits into the single mould prepared by the militaristic dogma.  The recruits are made to lose their self-confidence by encouraging alienation and mistrust among themselves and that they cannot do anything correctly without the superior commander direction and control.

The recruits are given names that express their insignificance in most armies such as “Tommy soldiers” or “Mehmetcik” (Little Mehmet); the connotations are that the recruits are uncomplicated “chap” from the lower orders in the social structure constituted by the officers, ready to “perform any act of self-sacrifice without bating an eyelid”.

The recruits are invariably schooled at feeling infantile or at best children, forming the backbone of the army but nevertheless much less than the heroic “real men” or soldiers or officers.  In most countries, in addition to prison terms, dodgers of the military service are ostracized from society; they cannot find a job, or vote, or obtain passports or leave the country; in many instance they cannot marry because of the taboo attached to their lack of masculinity or responsibility to care for a family.

In wars, over 40% of the recruits are sent to the riskiest zones to fight internal or external enemies; if a recruit dies he is labeled a martyr or “shahid” and if he is crippled or traumatized then he receives much less health care than what a regular soldier receives in hospital facilities or psychiatric treatment.

            I will try to summarize a chapter in “Imagined masculinities” titled “Male gender and rituals of resistance in the Palestinian Intifada a cultural politics of violence” by Julie Petite.  Of the four years of the first Intifada beginning in December 1987 through 1990, an estimated 106,000 Palestinians were injured.  If we count the beatings this estimate could reach the number of over 200,000 or 10% of the total population of the Palestinians living under the Zionist occupation.

Most of these injured Palestinians are youth under the age of twelve or more than 60% of the youth passed through beatings and methodical investigation and incarceration.  Anton Shammas wrote in 1988: “For twenty years now, officially there has been no childhood in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  A 10-year-old child shot by the Israeli military forces is reported to be a young man of ten'”

            The Palestinians consider the Israeli soldiers as cowards and devoid of any sense of honor and for good reason. When you challenge someone you pick the one able to taking up the challenge; otherwise there is no honor in the challenge.  When the Israeli soldiers challenge the unarmed Palestinian youth the repost do not take place, there is no challenge and the encounter degenerates into mere aggression.  Such aggression deprives the Israeli practitioners to claims of honor and morality; the Israeli soldier is thus considered as lacking in the emotional and moral quality of manhood.

            Most of the incarcerated youth return home and supplant their fathers in the family hierarchy and are called on the mediate disputes and lead the neighborhood politically and organizationally.  The unconcerned and apathetic youth is transformed after the beating and interrogations into an active underground member and who had the opportunity to receive education during his prison term by the educated Palestinian prisoners.

It is normal that family violence increases after the release of the Palestinian prisoners and the females take the brunt of the outburst, especially lately when the Israelis reverted into focusing on the sexual maltreatment of prisoners with the adverse consequences on the prisoners and his family after his release.

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