Tuesday November 29, 2016
By: Alexandra Kinias
From behind her computer screen, thousands of miles away from Egypt, 32-years old Latifa G., created and administers Taboo*, a Facebook group for women. True to its name, Taboo, a modern day advice column, encourages women to freely share and discuss personal, sensitive and social issues that have been kept off limits for too long.
Latifa, a half Swedish/Irish and half Egyptian, lives in Sweden with her family. She grew up and studied in both Sweden and London, but also keeps deep roots in Egypt. She lived for three years in Cairo, before moving back to Sweden with her husband and children.
Her diverse background and exposure to different cultures was instrumental in enriching her life experiences, enhancing her understanding of human character, and accepting and respecting the difference in others, without judging. After two masters and a PhD in molecular biology, Latifa realized her passion in exploring human relations. She believes the root for many of today’s social problems lie in the total lack of, or failure in communication between couples. She hopes Taboo, a none-judgmental advocacy platform, may help women live a happier and more fulfilling life.
WOE: Explain to us what Taboo is about and what is its objective?
Latifa G.: Taboo was created as a platform to discuss anything and everything people like to hush! The main topics we discuss fall under the umbrella of relationships. However, we are not just confined within the normal monogamous or marital heterosexual relationships. Taboo’s topics are rather hot on the group, with many members often leaving in protest. Members send their problems anonymously and admins post them. Anonymous comments are also an option. Anonymity allows women to share private experiences of infidelity, for example, and its consequences on their lives, a subject no one would ever publicly admit or discuss.
WOE: What motivated you to create the group?
LG: I was [a member] in a similar group but left because of censorship. I wanted to create a safe place for women to say whatever they wanted without being censored or judged!
WOE: As an admin to the group, what do you think is the major setback for women in Egypt?
LG: Shushing women! Our society has been molded for women to look down and nod in obedience; gladly accepting whatever little is offered. One of the major setbacks is gender-roles in relationships, a lot of confusion between social and cultural expectations and the harsh reality couples face today. An overworked and totally drained mother gets blamed when her husband cheats because she “ignored” his needs. Instead of helping her with the child he made or helps with house chores so she could catch her breath, he strays. This literally makes my blood boil! There is a drastic imbalance between couples in terms of being heard in relationships. Many men think having the Y-chromosome entitles them to boss their women around, unwilling to compromise or give up their man-time, oblivious to the daily struggle moms go through.
WOE: How do you separate yourself emotionally as an admin and as a woman when you read or respond to these problems?
LG: It is difficult sometimes as I feel the pain and suffering of others. I try to channel this energy into helping them as much as possible, which means a lot of hours spent talking or chatting privately. I also take comfort in being happily married, God bless. It can get difficult otherwise. We also share happy posts to balance the general atmosphere and give hope to everyone.
WOE: What are the main problems women ask the group to help them with?
LG: Sexual incompatibility due to ignorance or lack of communication, and infidelity are common. It is easier to blame divorce and cheating on other problems rather than sexual frustration. Many women are too shy to communicate and men too proud to seek help, the perfect recipe for sexual dysfunction. Contraception, basic anatomy, virginity and hymen-restoration are also common. Women are harshly judged, compared to men in those aspects, and many girls resort to extreme measures to avoid disgracing their families. Understandable in our society, yet still sad seeing men just easily “get away with it”. Religion aside of course since it’s the same sin for both.
WOE: What is the greatest challenge you face administering the group?
LG: Censorship!! Many expect us to censor posts and judge us admins for posting [them]. We fiercely defend everyone’s right to express their views in a respectful way. Many cannot distinguish between freedom of speech and condoning an act. It is annoying when some members parent us and others try to censor the discussions because it’s “inappropriate”. Taboo is +18 group. We are all adults and members should understand that not every advice or idea they read suits them.
At first, it upset me when I was personally attacked for “exposing women” to uncensored discussions. But as Taboo grew in number, two more very-like minded amazing women are helping me to administer it, and we just laugh things off, although the attacks still get personal sometimes, but we have each other and our devoted members who support us.
WOE: With over eight thousand members in the group, how do you control this number of women who come from all walks of life and with diverse beliefs, education and back grounds?
LG: We don’t control, we monitor. Everyone, regardless of background or religion can share their opinions, if they do so without offending others. We also allow debates, for everyone to get a full picture.
WOE: Is there a follow up or an indicator to monitor if women in fact listened to the advice, and benefited from them?
LG: Many members send feedback. I have myself asked anonymously and gotten a lot of help. I have also followed up with some members who inbox me to make sure things have worked out for them.
WOE: What has the group added to you?
LG: I have grown so much as a person in the past couple of years and have learnt never to judge a fellow human being! It is easy to point fingers and feel superior, but at the end of the day, we are all the same, really. It has enriched my life with meaningful discussions within my social network.
WOE: What are your future plans for the group? What do you wish the group to accomplish?
LG: I have no plans to benefit financially from the group. I want to give women a safe environment to speak without being judged, mocked, labelled, belittled or insulted in any way for being “diverse”. I want to empower women to take charge of themselves and to respect each other regardless of their choices. “Live and let live”; as long as no one is getting hurt, then who are you to judge. Easier said than done though. We are also considering creating a parallel group for both genders, as it is important to hear the other side’s views, but we are still weighing the pros and cons of such step.
*The name of the group was altered for the privacy of the members