Op-ed: The flawed world of ‘eib’
BY REHAM BARAKAT
I never forgot that story. It reminds me of a term that is used ad nauseam in our society — that fascinating word “eib.” People deploy this curt and harsh term when trying to convince someone that what they are doing is wrong and should not be repeated. What lingers behind its meaning is unspoken and unclear social mores to trigger fear and a sense of shame for an act of wrongdoing. More often than not, the term is utilised to hinder what is construed as negative behavior without the provision of any explanation as to why this behavior might be detrimental to the individual. In short, it’s a conversation stopper at a point when a major scientific and informed conversation is necessary for a clear understanding of the situation.
I abhor that term.
I find it to be completely destructive and meaningless and the linguistic creator of the sense of taboo that in many cases governs our society. Most importantly though, the lack of explanation for any situation stunts one’s growth and ability to think creatively, freely, rationally or intuitively. It’s a recipe for disaster if we yearn for progress in our country. I can only imagine that very warped, frightened and misinformed individuals would be the result of the heavy use of the term eib that defines nothing. Logically, if I don’t know what is wrong with that I have done, why would I not do it again?
That said, there is nothing wrong with instilling ethics in people; in fact it seems that if there is anything Egyptians agree on, it is the sense that ethically, the country is in major decline. Every conversation today rotates around the fact that we have become inconsiderate, lack work ethics, are dishonest and are rarely well-mannered. Strange, especially that most of us have grown up with the term eib and yet in essence the sense of social mores to most minds does not seem to exist.
This is most evident following the shameful sexual harassment stories that took place during Eid in the zoo and other public places. The pictures were horrific. It’s shameful that the harassment took place and it is more shameful that someone just snapped a photo instead of trying to protect and help the victimized girls. Where was the sense of eib then? Or has the term altogether died or so over-exhausted that it has proven its failure?
If, as a society we are going to insist on using that term, then it is about time we do so correctly and effectively. If we are to continue acknowledging that notion, then a major “eib movement” needs to be created to hinder the decline in social mores overtaking this country.
In the case of sexual harassment, I’m curious to know what happened to the public defense of women when men would have their hair shaved off if they’re caught merely speaking inappropriately to a woman? What happened to the public fighting for eib to maintain the stature and dignity of women who are being harassed? In fact it seems that what we need now in Egypt is a very strict law against harassment in all its forms that goes beyond the mere term eib so that this societal plague diminishes.
As for the poor child who asked an innocent and quite common question, it’s time that educational reformers start thinking out of the box thinking to find a way to slowly and logically explain concepts in a way that helps nurture children’s growth. They are the ones who will one day carry the country forward if they are given a chance and the ones who should have rationally clarified social mores instilled in them, not a mere snappy word such as eib which does not lead to any constructive thought.
We must not be afraid to open Pandora’s Box when it comes to taboo issues. This fear can only grow into underground, repressed and perverted thoughts and actions that lead to the kind of thinking that justifies the harassment of woman in public with no shame.
Reham Barakat is a Cairo-based commentator and creative writer.