Written by Layla Elabed
Disclaimer: While this may not be true for all individuals and families, this was my experience and the experience of many young women I have talked to.
What happens when we call our daughters “aroosas”?
“Aroosa” translates to bride in Arabic, but is often used has a term of endearment towards little girls.
“Awe, look at the aroosa! She’s so cute:”
Like marriage is not shoved down our throats enough, let’s start putting the pressure on when you’re just a little girl.
Let me explain why this can be harmful to girls in our culture: It sends the message at an early age that, as a female, becoming a bride is their only expectation – especially in this context, when “aroosa” is often used as an exclamation of cuteness and beauty. This can be interpreted by little girls growing up into young women that to be appealing and beautiful to others, you must eventually become a bride.
Our girls do not need any more negative body image or negative self-worth messages that tell them they need to always be pretty and attractive to be considered relationship material.
This type of messaging also perpetuates the culture we have around marriage. We tend to encourage marriage at young ages, more so for women then for men.
According to the International Center for Research for Women, studies have shown that girls married at younger ages are five times more likely to be in violent relationships, more likely to live in poverty, and suffer from health problems. We seriously don’t want our beautiful daughters to be placed in situations like that, do we?
Another problem with early marriage is girls are less likely to attend or complete higher education. The World Bank Report investigated this phenomenon and found that education plays a significant role in a women’s personal and sexual autonomy. Her risk of domestic violence lowers with the completion of secondary education.
So please, do not use marriage as a protective factor. Educate our girls and support them in higher education to protect them.
My virginity does not equal my value
A lot of times, early marriages are to preserve that innocence and purity associated with you when you are young. This is especially true when the cultural norm around family honor and reputation is linked to a girl’s virginity. Equating virginity and value together has even more detrimental costs to a young woman’s life.
When the social norms associate virginity to worth, then what does that tell our victims and survivors of sexual assault? The Center for Disease Control (CDC) published a report stating nearly 1 in 5 adult women reported experiencing rape at some time in their lives.
What does that tell women who divorce, especially when they want to remarry? What does that tell our girls at all? If they accomplish amazing feats, is it nothing in value in comparison to their virginity?!
We should not be limiting our girls and young women to a label that means “bride” and the heavy connotations attached to it, like marriage and being someone’s wife. We should not be teaching our daughters that their greatest achievement will be marriage. We need to empower our girls with the message that they can be more than what a man can make them. We need to give our girls the power to be their own person. We need to support their goals and encourage their dreams.
When we can do this for our girls and young women, we insure that they have safe relationships, and healthy and fulfilled lives.
Being a bride can be a magical experience, and marriage can be a beautiful life experience when you’re marrying the person you love, but no girl needs to be thinking about that in grade school.
Layla Elabed is a Domestic Violence Advocate at ACCESS working on primary prevention in Dearborn MI.