I have always struggled with messages about national, racial or gender identity.. even when it comes to trivial messages like “eat French”, “buy iron from our American companies” or the question “What does your husband do?”
It generates a visceral reaction in me … that sometimes distorts the rational message I would like to convey, and my natural ability to argue the point.
I am a woman who many around me would describe as strong, even stubborn and sometimes irritating … my Tunisian Muslim father, my French Catholic mother .. a childhood between the two countries … the two religions .. My tastes in reading, my passion for independent films, my contradictory nature are all resolutely French… my intensity, my preference for the collective, the “being together” is resolutely Middle Eastern …
I have a job with great responsibility in a multinational company, a husband at home, and two beautiful teenage daughters .. It is always my husband who manages the household, the cooking, appointments with teachers, or doctors’ visits ..
So, very naturally, I became “me” because I could not identify completely with any one label. “In between”.. between two countries .. a woman, but with the job responsibilities of “a man.”
I have rarely been sent back to my status as “just a woman” .. but one moment is viscerally anchored in my being… at the burial of my father who had died suddenly and was buried according to the Muslim tradition in Tunisia, even though he was not devout .. I was told that because I was a woman, I could not participate in my father’s burial. To my grief, they added contempt and humiliation.. my aunts, devout Muslims, came to the cemetery with me, and discreetly we were placed a few meters from the procession and finally participated in the burial: “The prophet would have nothing to criticize about that,” my aunts told me …
The slap of the reminder of the “in between” has been hard .. This “in between”, often comfortable, a source of distinction and pride, sometimes sends you back into the world as it really exists … but in return… the kindness, the ingenuity, the openness to which it exposes you is of unimagined richness …
… so let’s continue the community of “in between”, the exchange of the richness of mixes and mixtures, of non-labels, .. for us women in particular, it is an opportunity beyond measure ..
This translation from the original French into English was approved by the author. If you would like to read the post in French, click here.