Single women in Oman have a torrid time. Nothing has changed from the days when the hot winds blew in the desert exposing male bigotry raising accusing eyebrows in the family tents. But women now are taking no nonsense attitude as they clearly make their actions felt instead of purely relying on their voices to be heard.
I visited my regional bank manager the other day to sort my financial needs and it happens the person in charge was a woman. She controlled more than half of her bank's branches in Muscat. Her success, I later learned after settling my dispute with the financial institution, contributed to the divorce with her former husband. Most men, it seems, cannot handle successful wives. Their ego does not suit having their women dashing to work attending high profile meetings. Such men, sadly enough, duck under the guise of wrongly interpreting religious reasons to hide their insecurity.
It is alright for women to fetch a much needed extra income as long as they have a minimum contact with men in their offices. But men wouldn't publicly make that statement knowing very well it would sound wrong. The banker's husband complained of neglect saying his wife was ignoring the need of the household. It gets worse when such women are promoted and begin to earn more money than their husbands. It hurts the men's pride. It also shatters the myth that men are the sole bread winners.
The bank manager had to tolerate constant abuses from her man just because he was not ready to share her success. She thought she would impress him by telling him the family would improve its fortunes if she could finance the construction of another house.
It was a mistake and it got worse rather than better. She finally walked out from the bad marriage and moved in her new house with her kids. This reminds of one of my friends who once told me to marry "a good cook" instead of "an educated woman." He added that high achieving women always try to prove a point on their husbands, although he failed to justify his argument.
Men's narrow-mindedness, when it comes to the career success of their wives, breaks up a lot of marriages. However, there are exceptions. But these exceptional men are not completely saints. Such men still complain behind the back of their "powerful wives." Just a month ago, a university lecturer packed his bags to fly to the United States to accompany his wife who was posted to the United Nation.
Before anybody could make any comment, he moaned that he was sometimes wondering who was wearing an abaya in his house. Perhaps he felt he was being stripped from the traditional position of being the "lion of the house," as my old uncle always say. But I would argue that lions do not need to flex their claws or snarl to protect their families.
I think the movement of women emotionally liberating themselves from egoistic men is gathering a momentum. And why not? Nothing in the pages of heritage suggests that men can call the shots to suppress women's ambitions. If the job of pitching a tent was not part of a woman's job in the past, it does not mean our wives cannot pay the mortgage now.
If given the encouragement, they can do more than that. Men who married successful ladies should be proud. Besides, in the financially tight environment we experience now, it is always handy to have two bread winners in one household. It might be the missing link from saving a lot of marriage breakdowns.