Maggie Nazer

Posts by Maggie Nazer

 
 
 

The Reign of Monogamy

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Durkheim and the reign of monogamy

I started practicing polyamory[1] three years ago in an attempt to free myself of the unbearable attachment, dependency and conditionality that came with monogamous relationships. Needy, shattered and incapable to fulfill my deep need for love and intimacy with others, I longed for change. I first heard about the tempting concept of “love without attachment” at a meditation retreat in Thailand. Soon after starting to open myself to the possibility that relationships may be built on mutual respect, love and appreciation instead of fear of losing the other, desire to dominate or fit social expectations, I was ready to embrace polyamory. The freedom and happiness it brought me inspired me to celebrate it, share it, spread it. I knew it was meant to be challenging, because of the normalcy associated with monogamy in society, yet I thought the status-quo was reversible and people only needed to learn about polyamory to at least give it a try, if not adopt it.

It didn’t take long to figure I was wrong. While I remain optimistic for the sake of not losing my energy as an agent of change in society, I now see the invisible strings that control it. “The practice of having a single sexual partner during a period of time”[2], or otherwise monogamy, fits Emile Durkheim’s concept for a social fact, introduced in The Rules of Sociological Method. Social facts are ways of thinking, acting or being which are normalized, generalized throughout society, constraining and external to the individuals who perform them.

One doesn’t need statistics to establish that monogamy reigns over Western Societies and is deemed “normal” and “normative”. Monogamous couples caress each other with lips, touch and public acknowledgement practically everywhere. Yet, expressions of intimacy between their “deviant” counterparts are not to be found in the daylight, out in the open. Non-monogamy is only allowed to exist in secret locations, particular subcultures and specialized online communities.

My personal experience with polyamory showed me that the influence of the social act lies in that “it asserts itself as soon as I try to resist” (Durkheim, 51). As long as I complied with monogamy, I was oblivious to its great coercive power. Once I dared to reject it and self- identify as polyamorous, I found I now had to deal with a number of negative stereotypes (polyamorists are “sluts” being one of them) and consequences (such as sexualization, shaming or being emotionally abused by partners because of my choice). Choosing to comply with the rules of monogamy seemed to be the only way to restore the violated social order and to bring myself and others peace. It seemed more like an ultimatum.

11004518_972925636058611_161370367_n My friends often tell me: “I get it, but I know I can’t (do polyamory)”. Monogamy, I am told, feels “innate”, it is our “nature” and therefore inalterable. But is it? Durkheim says that: “we are the victims of an illusion which leads us to believe we have ourselves produced what has been imposed on us externally” (Durkheim, 53). Children’s fairytale books, Hollywood movies, popular songs all project the images of idealized monogamous romance as the only way to experience love and happiness with another. As if nothing else exists. “All education consists of a continual effort to impose upon the child ways of seeing, thinking and acting which he himself would not have arrived at spontaneously” (Durkheim, 53)- Durkhaim claims, yet, how can the grown child perceive something as external to herself if it’s all she has seen and no alternatives have ever been presented?

Monogamy, as a social fact, perpetuates itself through a number of cultural tools, indoctrinates individuals and transforms them into blind followers who reproduce the very same devices which have been used to inculcate them. Furthermore, if monogamy was “natural to” and “inborn in” individuals than all human societies would be monogamous. According to George Murdock’s Ethnographic Atlas, however, globally: “of 1,231 societies noted, 186 were monogamous; 453 had occasional polygyny; 588 had more frequent polygyny; and 4 had polyandry”.

Coming to Middlebury, I expected an environment that was more receptive to polyamory due to its increased media coverage in the US, as well as the relative “abundance” of individuals and communities practicing polyamory compared to other places in the world. However, I was surprised to find that not only wasn’t this a “hippy school”, but even the largely popular “hook up culture” on campus served as a perpetuator of mono-normativity. Both hooking up and having multiple romantic and sexual partners are seen as profane alternatives to the sacred long-term, committed monogamous relationship. Yet, only the former is perceived as a legitimate substitute.

Hooking up allows busy, career-oriented, fun-loving students to “have a good time” without the commitments and effort involved in sustaining a committed relationship. An important aspect in being successful at hook ups is to make sure the person knows you are not actually having a relationship with them (also helping you to maintain position in the power game and remain desired). You don’t need to answer their every text. You don’t even have to be that nice to them. They are not your partner after all. Vulnerability and being real with each other are treasured as a domain held exclusively by one-on-one relationships. The hook up happy ending, thus, mirrors monogamy in that it requires the rejecting of others by choosing a preferred partner and coupling of.

512d9d9c8b780.image                 Social facts are hard to shake. Neither a single person, nor a small group of people can negate the overwhelming presence of social facts with their choice and actions. Whether or not I decide to be polyamorous instead of monogamous is irrelevant with regards to overcoming the stifling rule of the ideology of monogamy. Ironically, even when we reject the social fact, it influences us beyond our imagination. By allowing hooking up as a temporary alternative to monogamy, yet rejecting polyamorous relationships in which people build committed relationships with multiple partners, a paradoxical situation is created in which it is so hard to find a sole person to be with that monogamy is embraced again by lack of any other alternative. Practicing polyamory necessitates the presence of a diverse community of independent, mature individuals who value and seek relationships (whether monogamous or not). Within that arrangement one can hope and expect to meet and connect with a manifold of potential romantic and sexual partners with varying preferences for relationship styles. Yet, at places like Middlebury where relationships are feared, viewed as a hindrance to personal progress or otherwise rejected, if one “hits the jackpot” and finds someone willing to be with them, they would hardly risk the relationship by suggesting alternatives to the assumed monogamy.

[1] Defined as “the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time”, Marriam Webster Online Dictionary

[2] As defined in Collins English Dictionary

References:


Choose Love over Fear

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Today and every day, choose love over fear until it becomes your habit. Wayne Dyerdownload

Today I reminded myself of the time I was freer when I could Love without fear and find strength in vulnerability. In the past months I had grown fearful of hurting others and being hurt which naturally limited my ability to give my love without holding back and looking for reciprocity. It stopped me from being direct and honest to the degree I wanted to. (But if we are, indeed, destined to live our own separate realities, isn’t the only way to bridge the inherent gap between each other precisely direct, honest communication?!)
Ironically, I had put myself and others through a lot of pain simply by trying not to cause pain.
Back then when I lived life to its fullest intensity, I accepted pain as a normal part on the path of learning.
I have been hurt and I have, certainly, hurt others. But may be we shouldn’t villainize pain and strive to escape it.
One thing I had embraced before and forgotten recently is that pain and being hurt is a catalyst of change and transformation.
Being afraid of hurting others or being hurt petrifies us and leaves little space for the good stuff in life- like Love and Empathy. If we accept the possibility of occasionally getting hurt or hurting others (without it being intentional, of course!) as an inevitable part of life that we can nevertheless celebrate, we may find that in the end fear isn’t really worth it and that guardedness is much more dangerous than vulnerability.


Faces of Palestine

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

This is an excerpt from a Middle East Eye article I published in the summer reflecting on the social documentary project my dear friend Asala Salhab and I carried out on the West Bank, Palestine in the summer of 2014 :) 

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Despite the war in Gaza and the intense military operations carried out recently by Israeli soldiers throughout Hebron; the biggest city on the West Bank celebrated the holy month of Ramadan with fasting – and praying for peace and for change.

In times of great danger and insecurity, people reveal both their most raw and most humane faces. Ramadan, however, is a month dedicated to cherishing the community, the self and its relation to God.

Can religious and cultural traditions work to bring people together, sooth the disadvantaged and inspire good acts and brotherly love, even in times of war, injustice and death?

These questions and more drove my enthusiasm to be among the people in Hebron, in the midst of the happening, instead of hiding, as I entered into the second month of my student internship in Hebron.

When I first went out on the streets of Hebron (or “Khalil” as the Arabic name of the city reads) with a notebook, camera and a local friend in hand, I had no idea that the photos and interviews I would take would spark and exciting new project- and a social movement.

Three days after the discovery of the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli settlers in Halhul, just outside Hebron, sick of hearing about new clashes, dead and injured, my friend Asala Salhab and I went out after work to take some interviews.

Our task was to examine the pulse of the community, which was suffering through one of its most difficult times. In the beginning of both Ramadan and a new Israeli massacre in Gaza, was there any hope left? How were these contrasting events influencing each other?

Since the first afternoon we started to photograph and interview random passers-by at different locations around Hebron, including The Old City. People responded enthusiastically and we were able to capture the faces, stories and insights of Hebronites, which conveyed their hope, faith and integrity. The same evening, I started the “Khalil’s Faces of Ramadan” Facebook group to host the profiles of men and women, young and old. Every photo was accompanied by an English and Arabic translation, and in less than a week, the group received over 1,000 likes; the posts were shared and discussed both online and offline.

As we captured the faces of those who carry on their everyday lives, religious and spiritual practices, despite the dangers and insecurity that Hebron faces, media and community leaders shared their positive feedback about the project.

“This initiative is very important because it allows us to see the diversity of individuals and richness of points of view that we don’t often acknowledge otherwise,” Anas Sarabta, manager of the Hebron Youth Development Resource Center said.

Haya Abu Shkaidem, a student in Hebron sent a “thank you” message reading, “I really like this page. It reveals the pretty side of Hebron which people all around Palestine and all around the world should see. It is something I could share with my non-Hebronite friends to let them know more about Hebron.”

In the days to follow, the project gained momentum and was promoted by word of mouth: “I saw your page and I was hoping I could run into you.” Mustafa Abu Sbaih told us smilingly, calling us to visit his shoe stand from across the street.

As we walked through The Old City on a Friday afternoon after one of the major prayers, people were requesting that we take their photos and hear their stories. And, interestingly, they were not all about politics and war. Love, future plans and desire to make a change made some voices tremble with passion.

“We, Palestinians have always paid attention on the need to document our political struggle for freedom. There are many documents, articles and books written on that. But we have done almost nothing to document the social life, the individual, who may not be a martyr or a fighter, but who is still fighting in his own way- and that is not any less interesting.” Tareq Tamimi, founder of “Visit Hebron” told us in acknowledgement of the project’s impact on the community.

The project will continue beyond the month of Ramadan with the support of locals taking on the enjoyable task of unlocking secrets and capturing fellow Hebronites’ faces.

- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/photo-essay-memorable-ramadan-hebron-1657019404#sthash.o7UKZZVy.dpuf


Bulgarian media: Wave of online hatred in response to articles about Palestine (с БГ превод)

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Incredible to see what кind of responses an article based on my account about Palestine (which is btw more of an overview of the recent and older events of the conflict rather than straightforward criticism) can cause such a great wave of online hatred against me from fellow Bulgarians who are not only name-calling me, but also urging me to go back to Palestine, put a hijab and don’t dare to speak… (in a milder version).
This brings up two points: one is simply the observation how brainwashed many people in Bulgaria are and how we are thought to associate arabs with terrorism to the point where no logic plays a part.
Point two is, of all 5,000 readers of the piece, there are 20+ negative comments and over 100 likes of comments praising the death of Palestinians, while there is 1 positive comment produced by some critical thinking which by the way was written by my best friend
So what I want to say is this: how come we happen to raise our voice (even if it’s online) only when it is to critique (to put it nicely!) something/somebody? Where is the diversity in opinion? How come no one of all the people who probably resonated with something in the article or at least with the presence of an article that challenges what is usually shown on Bulgarian media in relation to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict cared to write one line of support?
Here’s a request: dare to support VISIBLY whatever you resonate with and want to see more of, because otherwise the much more inadequate but loud voices will control our common reality despite our unspoken dislike.
Маги Назер
Невероятно е да видя какви отговори предизвикаха статиите, публикувани от Актуално по разказа ми за скорошните събития в Палестина (които на всичкото отгоре са повече описание на събитията, отколкото директна критика)- а именно вълна от омраза. Сред коментарите имаше голям брой вургални обиди по мой адрес и призоваване да “си ходя обратно в Палестина”, да сложа хиджаб и да не се осмелявам да говоря/пиша.
Това ме навежда на две мисли:
от една страна това е доказателство до каква степен мозъците ни са промити и до колко сме заучили да асоциираме арабите с терористи, без дори да прилагаме в употреба каквато и да било логика и здрав разум.
Второ. макар всяка от статиите да е прочетена повече от 5,000 пъти, има 20+ негативни коментари и повече от 100 харесвания на изказвания от типа “смърт за арабите”. За сметка на това единственият положителен коментар е написан от най-добрият ми приятел
Това, което искам да кажа, е следното: защо се получава така, че се изказваме (пък макар и онлайн) само за да изкритикуваме (меко казано!) нещо или някой? Къде е богатството на мнения? Как така никой от хората, които са прочели статията и които хипотетично резонират с написаното или поне с това, че са налични статии, които се противопоставят на масовото представяне на конфликта, не си е направил труда да напише един ред в подкрепа?

И така, молбата ми е следната: имайте смелостта да подкрепяте ЯВНО тези неща, които ви допадат и от които искате да виждате/да има повече, защото иначе неадекватните, но напористи гласове ще контролират реалността, която споделямe, въпреки неизказаното ни недоволство.


No “Occupied Palestinian Territories”

Categories: Midd Blogosphere
Маги Назер и приятели на празненството по случай отбелязването на международния ден на Йерусалим

Маги Назер и приятели на празненството по случай отбелязването на международния ден на Йерусалим

Today I attended the Celebration of the International Day of Jerusalem in Sofia which featured talks by the Palestinian and Iranian Embassadors in Bulgaria and other high profile individuals related to the politics of the Middle East. The talks all revolved aroun the current situation in Gaza and on the West Bank, so at the end I asked to adress the public and was actually given the floor without being on the schedule or even knowing the organizers in advance.
I shortly shared my impressions as an intern who has returned from Palestine just 3 days ago and I emphasised on how engaged the Palestinian youth is and how much perseverance despite all I’ve seen in the Palestinian people.
During the event we were also told that today the Bulgarian parliament (?) has accepted a change in the official protocal and will no more use the terms “Occupied Teritorries” in any of the country’s official corespondence. This is a little act of support, but it’s well meant, so it’s appreciated.
So, dear fellow Bulgarians, please, never use the term “Occupied Palestinian Territories”. It’s Palestine. : )


Sofia today

Categories: Midd Blogosphere
Sofia in its Majesty Photo credit: Strahil Vasilev

Sofia in its Majesty Photo credit: Strahil Vasilev

(First day back home after 2 months in Palestine)

I don’t know if it’s because I was in the Middle East for the past two months, so my perception is distorted, but I saw disproportionally many people hugging and kissing or both in Sofia today.

Needless to say, I’m very hopefull about the future of my Country Bulgaria : )

Spread this LOVE. please : ) The world needs it. We all do.

Sofia Photo Credit: Strahil Vasilev


Don’t talk about Palestine

Categories: Midd Blogosphere
Jerusalem old city by Maggie Nazer

Jerusalem old city by Maggie Nazer

I have visited Jerusalem 6 times so far in the past 2 months: more than my Palestinian friends will be allowed to enter it in a lifetime.

For the first time so far the old city of Jerusalem was empty today. I walked alone and people stopped me and gave me gifts for simply being here.

It’s getting more and more dangerous and people are afraid to come. the danger is not only physical. It’s holistic. Your comfort is endangered. Your faith in humanity is endangered. Your ability to live life as you have before, to trust the news, respect your political leaders and rest in your ignorance are all endangered.

So, don’t come to Jerusalem if you can’T bear the truth about all the killed and all the oppressed. Don’t talk about Palestine from the position of a “first world” intellectual while all you know is what your country’s media has told you.

But be aware that you are not safe anywhere. Not anymore. Images will find their way to you, stories will be told even if you try to avoid them. Ignorance is not a choice when it’s responsible for the death of innocent. We will not keep silent.

The suffering of one nation is not limited by its boarders. My stolen childhood is my example. But there are many.

Where to now? Maggie Nazer at the closed Shuhada street in Hebron, west Bank

Where to now?
Maggie Nazer at the closed Shuhada street in Hebron, west Bank

My father didn’t know how to love us because he learned how to defend himself through the means of aggression before he could learn to love. He learned to throw stones before he learned to give roses, or hugs, or kisses. He didn’t feel worthy of love because he learned that as a Palestinian he could have either his life or his freedom and dignity. Never both.

Today I prayed on the grave of Jesus Christ that we will hear of no more death, no matter who’s on the receiving end. I prayed that all people’s dignity, mobility and rights will be respected.

See you soon, Jerusalem; Hebron, don’t forget what we shared; Palestine, we met at last and you are part of me.