Superman is an Arab: The Rants and Solutions to the Problems

One of my inner passions is thinking about feminism in the world constellation. I was really passionate about it back when I was in the university as to why I decided to work on this subject as my last assignment. What made me so intimate with the subject? Was it just a trend or emotional fluctuation? None of them, it was started when I thought about the society where I live in. As we know it, Asian culture lies in patriarchy, and as a matter of fact (yes, it is debatable, particularly) this cultural method put us women as second-class human in society.

Following illustrations depict the idea of how my brain works on this matter :p

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Is it pathetic?

I used to have many questions I couldn’t find the answer. The more I read books, the angrier I became. I read many articles that were not giving the satisfying answer to my questions. Even the Holy book. The latter is probably because I lack the knowledge of Arabic language, the language in which the Holy book is written, and I do not have enough bravery or trust to put my assessment on someone else’s interpretation. Is it too much? Probably yes, but I came to know that I needed to be able to transliterate the literature myself. From that thoughts, I promised myself to learn Arabic, so that I can understand clearly what’s inside the Holy book, by literal and contextual meaning. That was me, 10 years ago.

Years went by, all those idealism lied beneath the thin surface of my consciousness. But recently, the desire to learn Arabic has returned when I started to read articles about women issues again. The reasons were still the same, I needed to know what the holy book tells us about women. Transliterating verses must be tough, but at least I need to understand the literal meaning, word-by-word translation. That’s why I decided to join an online learning group, studying Arabic. I will talk about it in another post.

Back to the idealism, I used to embrace (funny face here), feminism as I knew it. This thought has brought me a level of understanding about the patriarchy based society with anger, hatred, and disagreement, I never thought about marriage for so many reasons, one of them is that marriage is a legal institution that will oppress women even further.

‘tell me about it, you are now married, nevertheless’

Yes, I am married with a kid now. How come? Long story short, I found someone who shares the same vision as mine.

Here is the rather long story about it. One day, this man came to me and show me that the world is not as cruel as I see it. The society may always haunt you with its high expectation you can’t fulfill, but when there is someone willing to face this cruel world together, I thought that it’s a good deal. (Apart from those chemical reaction nobody can explain, of course, he he he)


That was the moment when I stopped from being curious, life is so different from my imagination. I feel that I am happy with my life, quite busy living a little family, watching my daughter grows every day. What could I ask more than a husband who helps me doing domestic chores and taking care of the kid together without pointing out: that’s your job, not mine, I’m so tired because I’ve been working all day. He supports me for whatever I want to be (be it working mom or homemaker) as long as it doesn’t harm the family.

Almost every week we go to the public library nearby, we borrow books for children, about art, history, crafts, etc. Last month, I suddenly thought about reading anything about feminism without any specific reason, I just thought that it will be fun reminiscing about the old times. There I found this book: Superman is an Arab. I found a quote from Virginia Woolf (read here), one of my favorite writers, on the first page and that’s more than enough to attract me to take the book home.

I prepared myself to be stressed by the facts written in the book. I knew it is not a nice essay. It will consume my emotions. But hey, let’s back to the old passion.



Superman is an Arab is written by Joumanna Haddad. According to her Wikipedia page, she is is a Lebanese poet, translator, journalist and women rights activist.

She’s also on the Board of Directors of DOT Lebanon (an NGO targeting the economic empowerment of women in rural areas through ICT/ information and communication technology literacy), as well as on the Board of Advisors of MARCH Lebanon (an NGO fighting censorship and raising awareness about the right of free expression).

Superman is an Arab was published in 2012 and has been translated into 5 languages. In this book, she tells us about many polemics on patriarchy in the Arab world. At first, I found it boring. I’ve read so many articles about women issues and they all are angry words. They sometimes put the blame on the men. They blame the society. I had enough of those reasons. But when I read it even further, my curiosity awakens. I want to know what is her insight on this matter. What should we do as a woman to stand on our own in this patriarchy world, without offending the system that has been built in a hundred years?



Jaddad said she likes Superman. Superman is a timid, clumsy, honest, sweet, mild-mannered man. But every time he ripped off his clothes and fly away to save the day, she felt a kind of discomfort and distress. She doesn’t know why. Then it suddenly hit her one day: this world (and women in it) doesn’t need manufactured ‘men of steel’. It needs real men with all their clumsiness, timidity, flaws, slips and weak spots.

Real men, who:

  • Don’t have secret identities.
  • Don’t think they can see further than you, run faster than you and worst of all, think better than you.
  • Aren’t afraid to show their vulnerable sides.
  • Don’t feel embarrassed to solicit help when they need it.
  • Don’t define themselves by their sexual performance and/or bank accounts.
  • Discuss what’s best for both of you, with you, instead of arrogantly saying ‘leave up to me’.
  • Consider you a partner, not a victim/mission/trophy.


I totally agree. I don’t know what is actually happening in the Arab world, I read some news, some journals about the Arab world but I am not living there, right? But I have to agree to the above statements that she describes. A woman doesn’t need a Superman. She needs a man who will walk with her side by side. A woman needs a man who is not (always) feeling superior and pretending that they are perfect thus they have to hide their weak personalities. Yes, men are actually so weak that they always blame us for anything wrong that they do. (please don’t get mad at me because I confront men, here. Keep reading and you’ll find the answer :p)

I don’t like the situation where men think they are better than women and/or they buy/sell women and treat her like a piece of meat. And when it happens, the society will blame women and accuse her as a wh*re. Jaddad tells us in the book, in the Arab world there is no kind of single mom. It’s either a mom or a wh*re. A mom for mother with a legitimate husband, while a wh*re for a mom without a husband. That’s how the society looks at it.

Or this one, some men who value women’s vulnerability will tell her: We love you just the way you are, don’t change a thing. we adore every detail of your natural beauty. But when this natural woman sneaks out, men will leave and choose the women who are ‘unnatural’: women who are happy to be dolls and accessories. Women who don’t mind always saying ‘yes’. Women who never argue or challenge the men. You do what I say because that’s the way it is”. The Superman chooses the woman who will do everything as he says. I am sure that we are very familiar with this concept, everywhere from social to religious thoughts.

I completely disagree with a man (or society, norm) that suggest women should cover ourselves so that men can’t see our body. Just because when they see our body, they will be provoked and turn into a hungry animal that will eat the woman alive. I am pretty sure we are familiar with this phrase: “Oh, no wonder she got raped because she wears a mini skirt!”

The question is: who is weak here? The one who wears a mini skirt or the one who is afraid of the mini skirt because they can’t handle their own lust?

I am mad at and completely disagree with women who will do everything her husband says even when it doesn’t fit her. I am mad with women who keep silence when their husband beats her, for whatever reasons. Even sometimes husband beats his wife because of very simple reason, because he thinks his wife is doing wrong according to him, or sometimes they did it just because they can, as a stress reliever!

I am mad with our society who uses women as a product. You can see pictures of women showing her body to attract tourist, you can see how our media has set the standard of women, that their tummy must be slim, the boobs must be big, the hair is black and long and so on and so forth. Exhausting.

I am mad with men who think sex is only for men’s pleasure. And women who think the same. Come on! It’s not only for men. Sex should be mutuals. Don’t say that you do sex because your husband asked for it and that you have to fulfill it.

I am mad at men who think they can do everything they want when they have money. And women who intentionally seek for a husband with money that they transform their figure to be a product. The product that the men buy.

I am mad with the corporate who doesn’t allow us to work (and/or give us smaller salaries) just because we are women.

I am mad with everything related to gender inequalities.

Haddad tells a lot about gender issues in many aspects. In the relationship with God ( I don’t want to write about this because my knowledge in religion is as thin as kulit lumpia, so yeah..), in the marriage world, the battle of the sexes. All of her arguments make me think that she’s angry, she rants about all the inequality she received and/or witnessed. Just like me. I am angry.


The second-wave feminism promoted the eternal dialectical struggle between two sexes, portraying women uniformly as impotent as victims and men as a merciless tyrant. But we know that put the women on the victim’s side and demonizing men, is a vicious circle. It will never stop. And we should know that the men domination is not the only culprit in the problems. There is also a lack of will by some women to assert their autonomy and/or to leave their ‘tortures’ before they completely destruct their self-esteem. And women have proven on many occasions to be their worst enemies.

So, it’s not working. The two sexes will continuously in battle and blame each other.

And now comes the third-wave feminism. It began in the early 90’s and its continuing to the present day persuaded me because it highlighted the variety of women in the world and their uniqueness. It embraces diversity and change. It redefined women as assertive, powerful and in control of their own sexuality. It fought against typecast portrayals of them in media as well as the language that had been used to label them.

Being a true feminist essentially means aiming at being EQUAL to men (NOT similar to them). We don’t have to treat men as our enemies. Both women and men have to make an effort to avoid impasse and total alienation from the other sex. (Haddad, page 91)

This is the best part of the book. I finally found the answer.


It is so hard to change the society that has been built for a hundred years. Haddad has made her statement. Destroy it. Destroy the system and build the new one.

But how?

It is ‘easy’ for me because I have a family now. I will start with my family, my 3.5 y0 daughter. We will raise her with life values that we believe. I will make a new generation that we’ve been dreaming of. The generation that will not tell ‘you’re a boy/you’re a girl you can/can’t do xxx’, the generation that will respect each other doesn’t matter where are you coming from, what is your religion, the generation that will not do mistakes that have been told earlier.

It is an ideal life. It is hard to achieve but we can always start with the smallest group of people in our society, mine is my family. The mother inside me is talking here, hehe.

Now I can say, the fck with society, I’ll build my own world where are the men and the women will stand side by side achieving dreams that they build together. If women are actually the second class of society, be it! I am tired to against it. All the religions exist in the world show that women is actually the second class human in society. See the image below, I capture it from the book.

photo (1)

Now that I become more realistic (and tired of debating), I will just lay back and watch the world going round and round. I don’t say that women issues are not attracting me anymore.

I think the better phrase is: I am at peace 🙂




p.s: it feels good to be back again 🙂

  1. SazkiaGhazi 16/07/2014 at 11:29 pm

    Once I got to a moslem feminism class, told me, the patriarchy system always hide behind surah An-Nissa:34. Actually in Quran, there’re a lot of explanation about the equality between man and woman.

    Jadi menurut pelajaran yang aku dapat, di surat An-Nissa ini penyebutan kata Men and Women konteksnya gender bukan biologis. Wanita dimasukkan dalam kata kaum yang lemah.

    Penjelasan soal kesetaraan dalam hal mencari nafkah misalnya, ada di surat An-Nahl, dimana penyebutan kata laki dan perempuan memang jelas, laki dengan sebutan mereka yang memilki buah dzakar dan sebutan biologis jenis kelamin perempuan yang aku lupa (hehe mind me). An-Nahl, 97, Allah SWT berfirman “We shall invest whosoever works for good, whether Man or Woman, with a pleasant life, adn reward them in accordance with the best of what they have done.”

    Itu salah satunya. Lain lagi soal term Adam dan Hawa. Ini juga nggak ada di Al-Quran. I quote this from

    “In the Qur’an, “Adam” represents humanity, not just a male person. It is important to note that there is no “Eve” in the Qur’an.According to the Qur’an, God created woman and man simultaneously, of like substance, and in like manner. Several verses state that God created man and women from a single life-cell or being. Both man and women have male and female components [Surah 49:Al-Hujurat:13], and both together form the human species. It is a clear teaching of the Qur’an that man and woman are equal in the sight of God, and the Qur’an uses both feminine and masculine terms and imagery to describe the creation of humanity from a single source.”

    Wah, panjang! hahaha, intinya, mbak, aku mau berbagi aja, bahwa ternyata si surat An-Nissa 34 ini sering banget jadi senjata untuk bikin perempuan ada di kelas dua. Padahal ada penjelasan yang lain soal kesetaraan ini di An-Nahl (97), Ali-Imran (195) dan lainnya. 😀

    *nyontek catetan pas kuliah*

    1. misskepik 17/07/2014 at 2:39 am

      Jawaban kayak gini ini yang kemaren bikin semangat banget seriusin kelas Arab. Soalnya dari dulu kalo nyari jawaban soal isu tersebut, kalo dari buku isinya marah2 dan nyalahin, kalo nanya yang ahli tafsir dikasihnya surat An-Nisa doang. Yang kalo diterjemahin ya isinya emang gak terlalu ‘enak’ di dengar. Mungkin juga karena nyari jawaban dari sumber yang salah. Gak nemu sumber yang berimbang. Beberapa feminist justru bilang feminisme dan agama itu sesuatu yang kontradiktif. Capek banget bacain hal kayak gitu.

      Maaciiih Ibu Menik! Jadi semangat ikut kelasnya. Nanti kalo udah selesai kelas, bisa ngulik lagi surat-surat di atas hihihi

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