Last Updated: Wed Jul 13, 2011 22:51 pm (KSA) 19:51 pm (GMT)

Angela Shah: Women striving for excellence, in any venue, is not contrary to nature

Soccer has allowed a lot of little girls to grow up to be strong and fearless women. (File Photo)
Soccer has allowed a lot of little girls to grow up to be strong and fearless women. (File Photo)

Watching the US women’s national soccer team refusing to lose against Brazil on Sunday evening was a powerful experience. Bad calls against them, down by a player, it didn’t matter. They just played hard. No faking or delay-of-game tactics like those employed by the Brazilian women. The match was a pure lesson in staying strong, staying focused and seeing your hard work pay off.

And I can’t imagine the sense of pride and accomplishment the Americans now feel.

Who wouldn’t want all of our women to feel this way?

Well, some in the Gulf have a problem with this. This time it's a Kuwaiti member of Parliament, who says:

“Women playing football is unacceptable and contrary to human nature and good customs,” Waleed Al Tabtabai said in the Kuwaiti daily Al Wasat, according to the Dubai-based Gulf News.

There were no photographs with the story, but I’m pretty sure these Kuwaiti women were playing in full track bottoms, a long-sleeved shirt and hijab, as is custom here in the Gulf. My opinion on such gender-biased clothing requirements aside, I just cannot wrap my mind around why women playing soccer is so wrong. Contrary to human nature? I believe it is contrary to human nature to force half of humanity to essentially live under house arrest, with no say in their own lives.

I’m to understand that this is their culture and that it’s not my business to approve or disapprove. You know, it’s worth noting that you don’t see many Khaleeji women calling for this. Maybe it’s because, as women, their voices aren’t important enough to quote. Or maybe it’s because the soft bigotry of gender discrimination has been so ingrained into them − I can imagine how hard it would be to go against social mores you’ve been instructed in your entire life − that they can only protest meekly.

The thing is: I am from an Eastern culture. My father grew up in the most traditional of households. Yet, I have no bigger champion. I would not have traveled the world, would not have followed my heart to be a writer, if not for his unwavering support. He sees the difference between tradition and closed-mindedness, between providing a moral compass and stunting the potential of my life. I don’t know if that Kuwaiti MP has daughters, but I sure wish he would find a spot on the bleachers to cheer them on instead of keeping them out of the game.

(Angela Shah is a freelance journalist based in Dubai whose work has appeared in Time magazine, The New York Times, and other publications. This blog entry originally appeared on the website http://angelashah.wordpress.com/ Find her on Twitter: @angelashah)

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