Algerian women serve no purpose


A few days ago I read an article written by Natalya Vince in the Journal of North African Studies (Natalya Vince (2013): Saintly grandmothers: youth reception and
reinterpretation of the national past in contemporary Algeria, The Journal of North
African Studies, 18:1, 32-52). The researcher carried out a survey on 95 ENS students (history, philosophy, Arabic literature, French and English trainee teachers) to understand how Algerian youth interpreted national history (official and non-official versions) and “explore what image students have of the mujahidat and how this image is formed through the filters of school textbooks, family stories, films, books and current affairs.” The article is interesting because of the empirical method used in the research and because it doesn’t look at the different versions Algerians get from their political elites but concentrates on how these versions are perceived/mixed in the Algerian mind. It is also interesting because, unlike many so-called experts, the analyses Natalya Vince makes are not clueless.

I had planned to write my comments on the article but realised that this would mean to dedicate several longish posts to the many aspects it raised. So, lazy as I can be and seeing that today is IWD, I decided to take a little further the answer one of the surveyed people gave during Vince’s study. The question wasDo [you] think that the mujahida is a role model for women today?” and the man, from whom I borrowed this post’s title, answered negatively and explained that “There is a big difference between women who participated in the revolution and women today. Women today serve no purpose, only to destroy society, apart from a minority who are God fearing“.

I wrote here that many Algerians have a clear definition of what an Algerian is or should be. The big confusion on our identity (read this article by Prof. Chitour) paradoxically created some certitudes such as the ones I mentioned in my two comments. And some of the certitudes Algerians have concern the glorious freedom fighters. This blog’s readers must know that Algerians hold these fighters in the utmost respect, especially those who died during the war. And as if respect wasn’t enough, these men and women are idealised and perhaps even sacralized, just like the revolution itself. And when it comes to female fighters, Natalya Vince rightly writes that “they [female combatants] have already been sanctified in both the sense of glorified consecration and moral purification. The notion of purity seems particularly important because these are women – in the written questionnaires there was often a very strong sense that women were expected to be sexually ‘pure’, unadorned – the ideal, constructed, example of the ‘pious ancestors’.” And looking at things from a perspective similar to Hocine Bellaoufi’s here, she adds, “for many students, it is simply beyond the realms of imagination that there might have been people in the independence struggle who were not practising Muslims, even less non-Muslim. The moral righteousness and legitimacy of combatants is measured in their
presumed levels of religiosity. The mujahida in particular is reinvented as a saintly grandmother to admonish younger generations who are perceived to be wayward, but who in many cases are more ostentatious in their religious practices than older generations.”

The above excerpt alone calls for different posts but let us look at why Algerian women would serve no purpose.
Algerian women are considered to be materialistic and shallow at the same time. They spend waste most of their free time watching Turkish, Korean, Mexican and what not TV soaps, and when they are not sitting before the telly they gather to comment on the previous episode and exercise their neurons on trying to guess (the obvious) content of the next one. Watching these series is a way for them to escape their lives and responsibilities which tells a lot about how they handle difficulties. The only real life issue they care about is how to get married, which they think of 24h/day since high-school.
Many Algerian women do work, which means fewer jobs left for Algerian men. And where do you think their gatherings I mentioned above take place? At their workplace of course. One can forget about the soaps analyses but nobody can neglect the time they spend exchanging recipes, etc. especially during Ramadhan. That is to say their efficiency at work is close to zero. The money they make is all spent on useless stuff and shoes (which means there’s no woman serving a purpose on earth). Them being active means they spend less time at home, they are therefore unable to take care of their families and correctly raise their children.
The only books Algerian women read are about cooking or… dreams interpretation. They also read stupid magazines and spend too much time on Facebook. Their interest in serious matters such as national/international politics is null. They actually care very little about Algeria and they are not proud of being Algerian: Don’t we see them switch to middle-eastern accents whenever they meet an Arab (I read this recently in a blog post on Ahlam Mosteghanemi)?!

The above is just a small part of a longer list of the “issues” one can read/hear from fellow Algerians. And when anyone compares a woman with the above characteristics to the way Algerians picture female freedom fighters (such as Hassiba Ben Bouali, Ourida Meddad, Fathma N’Soumer or Djamila Bouhired), there is no doubt today’s women serve no purpose.

But let’s look at things from a different perspective.

It is common in most countries to hear older people complain about younger generations; Algerians often say “djil takher zaman“. But in Algeria, such criticism, also mentioned by Natalya Vince, also comes from the younger generation, from men and women alike targeting their peers. I believe the men said women serve no purpose only because the question was about yesterday’s women vs. today’s women. I am quiet confident the man would have said the same about today’s men had the question been about comparing men such as Larbi Ben Mhidi, Emir Abdelkader or Mustapha Benboulaid to today’s men.

And this is where the problem resides. Back in 1954 and even before, young men and women had ideals and dreams and they fought hard to achieve them. Today, the young generation seems to be… just living, dully. Many, including the young generation itself, feel it is not capable of take up challenges and achieve important things. The people have been put into a sort of degenerative state which is difficult to leave. And it is the same state most Arab, Muslim and Southern countries are. The latter being tightly related to the former.

Algerian women may serve no purpose but then so do Algerian men.

[Update 13/03/2013]: Read this blog by Prof. Chitour on some of these “saintly grandmothers”.

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14 thoughts on “Algerian women serve no purpose

  1. Well, it depends what you mean by ‘purpose’ though doesn’t it?
    If we define purpose as ‘chatting’ then Algerian women do serve the purpose quite perfectly 😛

  2. If there is one purpose to the Algerian woman, it ought to be to motivate Algerian men to get a job and prove they’re not as useless as they seem…but all that receipe reading, dream interpreting, cooking, working, driving, raising the children, doing the shopping, spending and attending to his needs gets in the way of what her soul purpose should be: staying at home so he can get the job by default.

  3. Interesting perspective. I like your blog, it’s like a window into a completely different culture and one I am very interested in exploring 🙂
    Thanks also for the like and for stopping by my blog!

  4. Its a real same that anyone’s purpose in life no matter how great or small is judged or critized or generalised by anyone other than God. I also hope that anyone in the greater world doesn’t read this and think that this is what a majority of Algerian men young or old think about Algerian Women today. It would serve any purpose for Algerian men to be inaccurately seen as not having a very high level of respect for women by talking about them in this manner.

    Algerian women are amazing. They step up and work were it is necessary, look after everyone in the family and the house, treat the men as though they are kings and a zillion other duties.

    I feel sorry for men or other women who think of women as not serving a valuable purpose because it must be their own sense of purpose which they are questioning. I guess some men and women attempt to make themselves look and feel more important by making others look and feel as though they have no purpose which is why I feel sorry for them.

    Its important for people to know that that getting married and giving life, raising a family and contibuting to being a part of a community and society serves a very high purpose and women should always be written about an portrayed in such an esteem so that a select few dont get confused about this.

    • It’s funny that we always get these two opposite views: They serve no purpose and they are amazing. As usual, the truth, if any, must be somewhere in between. Just to be sure I am not misunderstood, the same applies to Algerian men.

      The examples I gave above say Algerian women serve no purpose partly because they do not do what you wrote in your last paragraph any more. Anyway, I guess each of us have an idea of what a great purpose would be (fighting the colonizer is an example), and living, eating, partying then dying without leaving any trace might therefore look useless. Not everyone agrees and each are entitled to their opinion.

  5. tell me do you know us all?
    i don’t watch television like the rest of my friends, nor do i read magazines, cooking books etc…..
    i do not have facebook etc
    you make a lot of assumptions and generalizations and it is easy to do so.
    let’s talk about algerian men: they do not succeed in their studies if we compare them to women, they are lazy , impolite, they spend their time holding walls, watching and criticizing girls if they don’t harrass them. they watch stupid american movies or football, they do not read as well, they are incultivated , ignorant and shallow.
    the dream of the algerian male is to have: big house/ big and expensive car/ a blonde wife
    and perhaps a second wife or a mistress if it’s not possible to take a second one XD as you can see the algerian man is materialistic.
    oh sure the algerian of today has nothing to do with a hero like abane ramdane or ferhat abbas
    yeah sure the algerian of today has no purpose , no aim, no dream, no ambition
    the algerian male lack of everything ^^

    • It looks like you haven’t read the last two paragraphs of my post and you’re responding to some generalizations (which are given here as such) with other generalizations? 🙂

      Anyway, welcome imen and thanks for commenting.

  6. but since when they sole “purpose” of girls is to SERVE men (cooking cleaning taking care of their families). the Algerian society is teaching girls since they r kids that their sole purpose in life is to be a “good” wife, daughter and sister to their male relatives and husbands and to do that they should neglect their studies because “no matter how much u succeed in life u will end up in the kitchen” mentality, girls are not allowed to enjoy life, to practice sports and to play anything mildly “dangerous” because u know, their bodies do not belong to them so it needs o be preserved for their “future husbands”. whatever girls accomplish in life they would still considered inferior to men (this is a fact). they teach girls that they shouldn’t ever EVER talk about politic or “important’ things because they r not smart enough to engage in such topics and it’s “big boys talk” that they should never try to even know about it. the first question most of Algerians ask girls is “are u married” not “what did u do in life” which shows that the most important thing girls can accomplish is to get married, and they shame them if they dun get married before the age of 25. this society even shames girls and blames them for BEING RAPED so they need to be careful all the time and worry a lot because “everyone is a potential rapist” so they stay at home because the outside world was said to be “scary” and “dangerous” by their families. so u r basically teaching girls that their sole purpose in life is to get married , learn how to cook and clean and be completely submissive (even in a sexual way) to men, that they should leave important topics and decisions to men “cuz men know better”, that their looks are the most important things about them so they care too much, that they should always be “safe” even when watching television (thats why they tend to watch shows which r considered “safe” such as Turkish drama) then u complain how “useless” they r , NO girls r not useless , they r able to walk out of all this pressure society puts on them and they r struggling every single day to survive , a struggle Algerian men will NEVER experience and yet they r able to put up with the pressure, live and survive and raise the next generation and find joy and happiness in small things that Algerian men r considering “useless”

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