Breaking The Norm: Curfew

This exercise was done for a university paper.

            I’ve always gone home past my curfew but I’ve never left the house after it. For this assignment, I decided to do just that. I planned on taking my sister on a short cruise after midnight because god forbid I face the consequences of my actions alone. After dedicating hours to convince her to break curfew with me, we hopped into my car.

My sister and I were terrified for the first 5 minutes of cruising around, we could barely enjoy ourselves, but as time passed by and we assessed the level of anger we were receiving from my mother, we began to enjoy ourselves. My sister was mostly happy because she’s never been in a car that moved more than 80km/hr. The experience was liberating; the empty road, the speed, the music and our laughter offered a type of excitement that no party can provide. My sister talked about it for days. She was overwhelmed with happiness although all we did was sit in a moving car. I think we felt that way because it was something we both longed to do. That night, we were in a getaway car driving ourselves back to sanity. The fact that it was “rebellious” in some way played a role, but for the most part, I think it was just a craving that needs to be satisfied every now and then.

Curfew

             In addition to regulating who they can and cannot to go out with, many Emirati women have a curfew to follow, which is the norm. Seeing women out late, especially Emirati women has a lot of negative connotations that no one wants to be associated with. A homemaker, Hamida Sharmin, told Khaleej Times “In our society, we believe that only young women who are up to no good stay out late. I don’t want my child to be mistaken for a bad person.”

Despite arguments that the world is unsafe, even for men, in most cases, curfew is only applied to women. For instance, when my friend was only 19-years-old, he was not even expected to show up home; however, his working sister who was 26 at the time was expected to be home before 10 p.m. This is the case for many women, who are no longer children but are monitored as one. They watch their younger siblings and relatives live while they are confined within the borders of time.

In my university campus, formally, the curfew is midnight during weekdays for both genders; however, depending on the supervisors the boys have, they can get away with coming back at 3 a.m., which is impossible for girls, unless they want to be taken to judicial affairs and face further consequences.

I think having a curfew is another way for families to “control their women” because no one wants their daughter to become one of “Banat Jumeirah” or Jumeirah girls, who are known to stay out late with boys and sometimes perform sexual favors. These double standards root from sexist beliefs. In this region, the female carries the burden of being her family’s honor, thus, she must avoid bringing shame to the family. Due to honor being associated with the woman’s body, more specifically, her virginity, women face a lot of regulations and restrictions. For many young women, it comes in the form of curfew, etc.

When girls go out past curfew they face informal sanctions from their parents. In some cases, where their parents complain about them to the authorities for misbehavior, they may face formal sanctions where they have to sign a “Ta’ahud” (a pledge) at the police station. When I think of informal sanctions, I remember a rebellious friend I had when I was 16-years-old. I’ve never met an Emirati girl quite like that before and I was not sure if she was brave or suicidal. She used to sneak out all the time, sometimes with boys and other times to get McDonald’s from the gas station nearby. She always got caught and she would often get locked up, have her phone confiscated, or beaten up by her father. This is the kind of consequences a lot of women face, especially young girls, while their brothers do not come back until the late a.m. and still have their beds made-up for them.

As for me, breaking the norm was followed by a negative outburst from my mother. She was furious. Fortunately, I had my sister to share that with and lucky for us, our sharp tongues got us out of any real trouble. While we were cruising around and listening to my sister’s horrible music, mom sent us numerous messages telling us that it’s out of ill manner to leave at a late hour, we are daughters of well-known families, and that we must keep in mind what people will think of us. Once we got home, there were a lot of negative exchanges about the unfair double standard we have to deal with. Meaning, my mother and my sister argued as I watched from the corner of the room with a smirk on face.

A long conversation with both of them showed me the polarized opinions regarding this argument. I was hoping to see some color; however, all I received was black and white. My sister furiously discussed the double standard and how restricting women only leads to more deviance; “I do a lot of crazy stuff but I don’t regret it because I need to breathe. If they just let us live normally without guilt-tripping us for every small detail, we won’t have as many problems and open secrets as we do now.” To her, gender is a factor that suffocates a woman until she breaks free in ways that are culturally inappropriate. As for my mother, she spoke about the importance of maintaining a woman’s honor and the family’s reputation. She showed a great concern to people’s hearsay as well as the risk of getting harassed or raped. When told that boys can also fall victims to rape she simply said, “Yes, but a man can defend himself. A man is a man and a woman is a woman.”

Having a curfew is important for children; however, it should not be implemented to young adults. I find the factors surrounding curfew degrading and the obsession to regulate women’s actions bizarre. In addition, I think the extreme regulations, especially within the Emirati society, do not allow young adults to learn responsibility, decision-making, and self-discipline, as they should. For instance, when I enrolled into university and was able to stay out late under the pretense of studying, I barely stayed home and it took me a while to learn how to bring myself to balance going-out and studying.


30 thoughts on “Breaking The Norm: Curfew

  1. Your post reminds me of when I was in college, taking Gender in Literature, and how the class involved reading A 1000 Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. It touched briefly upon the culture of Afghanistan and how it treated women. I recall how one of the characters in the novel had to chew gravel, and shatter her teeth because she offended her husband too many times. This, honor culture, is something I’ll admitting say, “I don’t understand”. Mainly because it’s not a worldview I live in, and tellingly I don’t understand my own culture sometimes either. Although that’s beside the point.

    Regardless, kudos to you for being yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment. Woah, I’m adding that to my reading list. I don’t understand it myself and a lot of people don’t, even those who try to make sense of it.

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  2. Driving at midnight is indeed great. However, if you live in Hong Kong, you’ll find that even at 3 AM, there are still many people and cars on the street 😀

    Every time I visit another country, I like to drive at late night on empty roads. In certain countries, some people warned me of the dangers but perhaps, due to being young and foolish, I wasn’t really that concerned…

    Anyway, I agree with you that young adults shouldn’t be regulated with curfews.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s nice. I love a busy city.

      The city I live in is alive past midnight but compared to day traffic, it’s a blessing. I love driving on highways at night and trying to outsmart the speed radars.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. In some places in Hong Kong, there is barely any difference between day and late night.

      There was a time in HK when you can “acquire” laser jammers or similar devices which mess up speed cameras if you know the right people. But when it became quite popular, the police did a massive crackdown. Now, anyone caught with this device will have his driver’s license revoked permanently.

      When I was in the Philippines, I would sometimes drive off the road when I was approaching near the speed camera to avoid it. I don’t do it now though since I don’t wanna risk my International Driver’s License 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This reminds me of a time in my life. I had just graduated from high school and was about to enter college. I had just turned 19 years old, and I’d just bought a new car. Well, it was new to me for $700. A Fiat Bertone – it had a Targa convertible top and was the biggest piece of crap I’ve ever owned lol. But, it was a small, quick convertible, and therefore, by default, the most fun car I’ve ever owned.

    Anyway, I wanted to drive the car. It was after 2 am, but here – male or female – no one thinks you’re up to no good, unless you actually are up to no good. And, that fact can’t really be discerned right off. So, I drove – top out, radio cranked, and loving life. About this time, (I was a cigarette smoker then) I tossed a cig butt out the car. A cop came out of nowhere and blue light’s me. I thought to myself, “maybe I shouldn’t have thrown that cig out!”

    He got to the car and I started before he did, “Sorry, sir. I can go back and pick up that cigarette butt.”

    “That’s not why I pulled you over. What are you doing out so late?”

    Well, I felt invaded. Like it’s any of his damn business? “I just got this car and I was just riding around.”

    He didn’t give me a ticket and that’s really now all I remember. I didn’t get any kind of warning for anything, I don’t think. But just the fact this pushy, Sargent-wannabe cop just figured he’d take it upon himself to get the lowdown on my plans for the night, like he was entitled, well, it still pisses me off.

    And, with the world getting smaller every day, I believe this type of control is just going to get worse. I know I didn’t and don’t experience the same cultural restrictions you do. I’m lucky. Or like to think I am. But really, there’s becoming a wave of undercurrents (in our society anyway) that police and authority figures can supposedly do no wrong. And that no matter what, you have to accept these norms or “face the music”.

    Personally, I’m tired of being threatened by “music”!

    Anyway, sorry for the rant. But I see where you’re coming from.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing that! If you enjoyed it, maybe it wasn’t a complete piece of crap.

      Yeah, I get what you’re saying. Ironically, as we progress we become more conservative or at least where I am from. My parents did not face the same cultural restrictions we do now. According to them, the increase of expats with the advancements in technology make them fear for us.

      Ah, authority. It scares me how much power some people have over others, especially officials. And now I can’t stop thinking of Eric Cartman..

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on richwrapper and commented:
    Illuminating and well-composed. Very well worth the read of this longer piece from a college student whose gender and the issues it raises – both humorously and seriously real – paint another picture of an important part of our world.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Your treatise – nay, intimate portrait – of curfew, gender and culture brings memories of my own rebellions involving time and later time and cars. I used to sneak out of the house in Central Florida in the 1950s and early 1960s prior to junior high school just to walk about my town of then-five thousand (now near 60,000) and I reveled in the night and the freedom and in some cases I would go into the woods near my home and disrobe and dance by myself under a full moon. I have never told anyone that until now. Later as a 17-year-old I would take the family car that was, virtually, assigned to me as I had as a high school senior a part time job as a sports writer at the local daily newspaper: dad drove an old pickup truck to work in Orlando and took my older brother to college with him each day – unfair for him and glorious for me! I would work late at the newspaper, filing my stories on an old fashioned hot-type press copy paper typed on an ancient manual typewriter that weighed 15 or more pounds (7 kilos) and then devote the rest of the darkness for racing about in the countryside long before it became filled with homes, developments, as it is now: I had a 68-mile long racetrack in which from 3 a.m. to just before 5 a.m. hardly any head- or tail-lights intruded on my passion to become a road-racer. I might kill an oak tree, a barbed wire fencepost enclosing sad-faced cattle or me, but no one else. When lights intruded on my game I slowed down to reasonable excess. I always was out of step.
    And my average – average height, average looks, average grades stood in stark contrast to my aptitude tests: one day my senior year I was told to report to my counselor’s office – I had a counselor? News to me? I shrugged my way out of Calculus – which I was forced to take because the federal government subsidized the classroom hours of the dependents of Naval personnel (dad was retired Navy and the old rules applied). The school got extra money for each full time equivalent hour I spent in academic class. I had gone to summer school at my own expense ever since I found out about the program in junior high and needed but Senior English to fulfill my graduation requirements. I wanted to stay at the newspaper all day and take that final hour I needed, but the powers that be said no. I rebelled in small ways. Made C’s instead of A’s. I had already been accepted to both Florida State University and The University of Florida based on my aptitude and statewide competitive senior test scores, so I had no idea why I was being called to the office. The principal and I were pals. But he was not at the gathering. The Vice principal – a no nonsense disciplinarian, a school psychologist with whom I would later clash most satisfyingly, and a counselor were present. So was my mother and her best friend whom I had known all my life. She drove mom to the meeting. The meetingwas about me. My grades. Why, J, the counselor asked, “did you make grades of A, F, A, F, B, D, with an A on the final test in Junior English?” Teacher jerked me and I jerked back, I replied. Same question several more times, same reply. Mom interrupted: “J, Dear, this came in the mail this morning for you.” She handed me an unopened envelope from the prestigious Florida Southern (Presbyterian) University in Lakeland – which boasts the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright-architectured buildings in the world. I opened the letter: watching the surprised eyes of the attendant vultures ringing the counselor’s desk (she didn’t read first the letter? It was plain on their faces). I handed the read letter to mom. She read. She smiled and looked at me: “May I show this letter to these good people?” Yes ma’am I signified. The letter: Based on your junior year college boards and your recently posted statewide senior’s test scores we would like to schedule for you an appointment to discuss attending Florida Southern on scholarship this coming September.” That makes three, now, mom: Florida, FSU and now Lakeland. Which one? The vice principal interjected: you already got acceptance from both UF and FSU? He was incredulous. Normally, he said mostly to himself, they do not begin sending out general acceptance letters for another two weeks, he mused. I smiled, looked up at the clock behind his head and noticed there were but 15 more minutes until the final bell.
    “Mom,” I asked. “May I be excused?” My owner was present – one of them anyway – and thus the school held no more sway.
    “Yes, J. Will you be home for dinner?”
    What’sit, I membled.
    Beef stew.
    You terrible, terrible woman: had I known I would have ditched class after lunch and helped you make – okay, eat – it!
    Sjhe laughed and as I was leaving the office I heard the vice principal ask: is he always like that?
    Mom smirked. “He fights even harder for his blames than he does his credits. Each of my sons is different. Each their own person. Their father and I intended – and got – just that.
    From this Celto-Scot-Irish/Ashkanazi rebel: my best wishes for your continued success as a recorder of what goes on inside your universe and the fond hopes to share sometimes in what you discover.
    J Kirk Richards

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for sharing that, J! It was interesting to read. You sound like a free spirit and your mother sounds amazing. I’m happy your parents sought individuality in you guys.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Rebellious then and now; mom accused me of being “just like your father,” and frightened me for years – decades later I realized he was my best friend and I couldn’t wait to get back to my hometown to go fishing with him – after I did the heavy chores for mom the day before – after they both grew aged and somewhat infirm. I was the one of my two other brothers who had the freedom and time so to do: when asked, I’d reply – you guys changed my diapers so it is my privilege to go buy your adult pampers when you start needing them! Slings and Arrows, time! Once, when asked by a close acquaintance I had not seen in years why I still lived in Sanford, the small town now grown large in which we both grew up: my parents are dead here – their reputabions are secure in their own right (dad once lined us boys up and said: we have no money and little property, but your mother and I have a a strong reputation and none of you three will do anything to change that {language cleaned up for public consumption}. The reason I stay here, although I do take trips to both New York, Washington, D.C., Colorado and California every few years, it is only here that shame keeps me behaving as if they both were still alive. I can not and will not ruin their so carefully wrought reputations. My brothers are near perfect at the behavior game: their wives see to that. I am by nature a libertine, a warrior, a run-amok-and-go-agog’er, and I sometimes cuss A Lot. Here, at home, I am careful who, how, where, when and why I act (it ain’t an act, as I told the teacher in elementary school who asked why I always wanted to act ‘smart?’ and so I have taken the cloak of moderation – or at least invisibility. Writing to you helps me figure this stuff out: I hope I have not imposed too far and too much. J

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  6. Hey Yazz, well I have to say all this is stinkingly familiar to me even in the U.K. being of South Asian descent. It IS cultural, not religious. I have had to pick my battles, but I have limited my own world too. It struck me that there was a central hypocrisy to all this gendered nonsense – if a man carries the family NAME, why does he get to renege on the RESPONSIBILITY of the family honour? Encoding these inequalities does not endear the sexes to one another, and actually, gender segregation only increases this apathy and lack of humanism. In University my parents half hoped I’d find a husband, but I was too busy studying – I also knew that any hearsay on campus about me linked to any man would be like social suicide. I related to this one!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for stopping by my little blog. Hopefully you liked it. I have been trying to make it more personal in order to provide a platform for others to relate to and speak openly about themselves without being scared of being judged. If you have any feedback for me then please do tell me. xxxx

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  8. Male freedom = male disposalibility on the other hand female restrictions = female protection. The feminists here in the united states wanted the freedom males have only to demand more laws that relieve women of the responsibilities that freedom demands.

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