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Palestinian Women in Proverbs

Contributed by Turathuna Bethlehem University on 15.12.2006:

The persecution of women through the ages had obliged them to use cunning and deceit to defend themselves to use cunning and deceit to defend themselves cleverly and indirectly. Some proverbs thus way: “Women’s cunning is stronger than men’s”, “Women’s tricks defeated those of the Ghoul’s”, or even “The Devil’s”, When we look at the antithesis and look for proverbs which dignify women, we find that these are very few, and the majority of which speak of the mother and the good housekeeper. The only aspect in which women are preferred to in these proverbs is motherhood, “Mother’s smell gather (children) together, which father’s smell separate them”. “Mothers make nests while fathers send children away”, “Their father eats them and their mother protects them” “If your mother dies, all who love die, too,”,” Life is a mother”. The good house- keeper who is dignified by the above-mentioned proverbs is the one who “patches” her family clothes and who is economical: “She who patches will never lack clothes and she who manages will never starve”, “God is with the husband of the frugal women”, Two proverbs emphasize the partnership between man and woman in household affairs: “Man obtains and woman (wife) builds”, “The husband provides the income and the wife keeps the house going”. These proverbs divide the work, while the husband works outside the house, the wife takes care of all the domestic affairs, and because of this she is required to be frugal. Wisdom and good thinking are expressed by to proverbs only: “A good mind is a jewel and she who doesn’t have it is sad”, this proverb sees more woman than her beautiful form. The second proverb has been quoted by Haifly in classical Arabic “A wise woman is like a treasure that never perishes”. There is also an emphasis on the decent woman’s ability to protect her honor against anyone who tries to defile it: “The honest woman is like a tiger and the man is a dog”, or “the honorable beautiful woman walks between two rows of men”, i.e. “unaffected”.

These proverbs, though few in number, emphasize the anti-thesis, and try to give women some of their rights. Yet they still consider men as superior, and do look at men and women as equal human beings.

When we talk about the revival of our folk heritage, we must uncover the points of weakness to be able o fight against the reactionary vision which discriminates against women. No society can find its freedom, while its half has not yet obtained its freedom.

Source: “Folk Heritage of Palestine” for Sharif Kanaana.

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