“Zwarat Khamees” was a popular Kuwaiti TV show that many people watched during Ramadan. Written by Hiba Hamada and starring many popular figures (Suad Abdullah, Mohammed Al Mansour, etc), it sparked a lot of controversy. Addressing several societal issues and depicting Kuwaiti men in an extremely negative manner, viewers were outraged and refused to believe that all those things would occur simultaneously within one home; cheating, neglect, stealing, lying, abuse, mistrust, paranoia, dysfunctional relationships/families.
It was assumed that the message the writer was trying to convey was that all men were liars, cheaters, and thieves; particularly Arab/Kuwaiti men. Several local magazines, newspapers, and even Facebook fan pages had reviews that came to the mutual conclusion that she was a sexist, bitter woman who had experienced bad incidents with men in the past, and used the show to express this resentment she felt towards them.
Thankfully, most people disagreed with the image she portrayed of their fathers and brothers. It is well-known that both sexes are equally capable of both loyalty and treachery in all its forms; the double-standard she set was unfair and failed to show all the redeeming qualities many men in our society possess.
Pondering over the double-standards and sexism highlighted in the show, I decided to ask the ‘public’ what their views were on men and their natural instincts of loyalty vs betrayal, and then compare Arabs’ views with Westerners’.
Five out of six high school students said that Zwarat Khamees did not provide an accurate image of Kuwaiti men’s lives, saying that only a small percentage of men were like that. A senior girl elaborated and said, “They only represented certain aspects of the mentality of some Kuwaiti men.”
When asked what their stands would be if their father cheated on their mother, nine out of twelve said they would stand against their father, with two saying they’d be neutral, and one saying he’d stand by him. Another interesting answer was a Middle-Eastern woman’s, who said that her father wouldn’t cheat on her mother, not because he loved her, but because he “has more logic than that; he would be concerned for his own public image and reputation.” A high school English teacher fell into the neutral category and said that he would “love both him and my mother”. A junior male said that he would side with his mother because the Prophet (PBUH) said: الام ثم الام. (your mother comes first.)
When inquiring about whether or not betrayal can ever be justified with love, the majority of the people asked said that betrayal can never be justified. A surprisingly slightly smaller number of people said that it would depend on the situation; and ironically, most of them were women. One Middle-Eastern woman had said that “as long as it’s real love, not purely physical attraction, then yes, it’s a good enough justification.” while a Middle-Eastern high school freshman said that cheating can always be justified for men, but never for women. A high school English teacher said that “it is never justified, but can be made to work for good in someone’s life. But this depends on many things.”
A Junior male said, “If you’re married you’ve loved, you can’t love twice,” and his friend, also a Junior, agreed with this point clarifying, “A man should only love once in his life.” A high school History teacher brought up the option of divorce, “It’s never justified. Even abuse and neglect are not grounds for cheating. For divorce, yes, but not for cheating. Do things in the right order.”
In Zwarat Khamees, the husband cheats on his wife of forty years. At some point he has a monologue in which he criticizes his wife’s physical appearance, and has an ‘awaking moment’ in which he realizes he is no longer attracted to her. Once again many media sources said that this was expected of a man. But after asking several men and women whether they thought relationships would enhance or dull after 40 years, the answers proved otherwise—that men were, in fact, capable of loyalty. Five men and women agreed that relationships would indeed dull after 40 years of marriage, but eleven people said the opposite—that it would enhance. “You go through a lot and you grow stronger”, “you’re more accustomed to one another”, “you know each other better” were some of the common responses. A 17 year old young man said, “When you say I love you, it’s a promise. You don’t cheat after that.”
A very positive answer was the History teacher’s, “It should enhance it. Yes, the butterflies, the carnal desire, the excitement won’t be what it was, but the layers of your relationship, the companionship should be sweeter.”
In conclusion, a relationship should be based on trust and commitment and total honesty. Men are not devils and women are not saints. Both genders are equally capable of loyalty and treachery alike. The only reason people think negatively of men is because of the negative ideals we are all fed by society. Well put by a Western high school English teacher, “Different standards of judgment for both men and women is one of sicknesses of our world. Let me know when it’s cured.”