Smart vs. chic [Archives:2008/1171/Community]

July 10 2008

By: Noorin Mohammed Hassan
Hurriedly eating breakfast while watching “BBC News,” reading local newspapers on the bus and searching the web before I go to bed has become my daily ritual.

These rituals have replaced other rituals such as standing in front of the mirror for an hour, polishing my nails in the bus station, reading about my seasonal colors on the bus and last but not least, my very own cucumber night mask.

Replacing these rituals was simply my way of retaliating for not being an aware or involved citizen over the past years or, to be more accurate, since my teen years, since at that time, I was never interested in any issue, whether global or local.

My friends and I simply disdained any form of media that discussed serious issues. In our dictionary, serious meant boring, “global issue” was a synonym for “none of my business,” politics was a word for the art of deception and news reports were, if I may say, the art of marketing lies. For those of us watching Al Jazeera or any other news channel, it was an extremely dramatic and monotonous reality show that would alter our mood.

Now, this doesn't mean that everything I perceive is necessarily true or that seeing injuries, starvation, earthquakes and human miseries doesn't bother me; rather, I simply realized that not knowing about these events won't make them disappear.

Just today, I was watching an interview with Mohamed ElBaradei (director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency) about Iran's true potential when it comes to owning weapons of mass destruction and how other rivals deal with it.

The old me would've thought watching a program like “Bisaraha Ahla” and discussing the colors of summer was more interesting.

However, when you watch such interviews, not only does your awareness bloom, but also other feelings, such as indignation, because while Iran is considered as an unpredictable threat that should be disarmed, Israel seems to have every right to own such destructive weapons.

Maybe this is why, along with numerous other reasons, determining one's seasonal colors seemed more appealing to me.

Every day, the news channels show excruciating images of starving people and homeless citizens. Once again, the old me would've preferred watching a reality show about spoiled rich kids living in Beverly Hills, depicting nothing other than their normal lives; a show where watching these brats get in style, party and drive around is as far as it goes.

It's not that women don't care about the world, nor is it that we're self-centered, although we sometimes can be superficial and think that just by avoiding exposure to such issues will make them better.

An entire episode of the show “Al-Wasta” hosted by Tareq Al-Suwaidan was devoted to discussing the phenomenon of lack of prominent women. However, for a brief moment, Al-Suwaidan reprimanded the women for being superficial, wondering how a makeup set could be more important to them than the Palestinian issue.

Now, looking back, I can't quite understand why a broken nail could ruin my day or why finding the perfectly suitable seasonal colors for me could lift my spirits so high. However, it's not – as Al-Suwaidan asserted – that we don't care; rather – and to our shame – such issues simply don't cross our minds, at least not for all women.

Following my awakening, as I like to call it, I've totally let myself go. My hair screams for help, my nails look miserable and I've developed what others call “panda eyes,” which are puffy eyes with dark blue circles around them.

And that's not to mention my style, which has transformed completely from wearing a stylish abaya to a plain one, from wearing high heels to flat boots and from carrying stylish brand-name bags to huge ones that look more like what old ladies take to shop for groceries.

While my friends have made numerous jokes about my transformation, it wasn't until they saw me at a party that they really rebuked me.

I guess I've created a weird link between stylish and stupid, smart and unstylish. Why can't women be smart and outgoing, yet stylish and sophisticated? Why is it that people's perceptions of stylishness are considered a warning sign of carelessness?

I say that we are women, so our concerns should be feminine. For instance, my current lifestyle now involves a one-hour facial mask while listening to the news, searching the web for new books while purchasing a set of makeup and joining activist groups while looking as good as I can.

The new me is aware, yet humble; trendy, yet modest. The new me knows that nothing is superficial and nothing should be overlooked completely. Finally, the new me admits that having a balanced amount of feminine concerns isn't wrong, so long as they're not my top priorities.