I did NOT want to move to Cairo, Egypt! I had already moved across the country with my three children to join my new husband in 1981. Virginia had become our home. Schools were wonderful, we all made new friends, and I was happy with my better-paying job. I was an equal contributor to our family finances. And after the death of my first husband, I had sued his estate to create a trust fund for our children’s future educational needs. But after a few years of marriage, my second husband wanted to join the State Department’s Foreign service- destination TBD! After working a couple years at the State Department in Washington, DC, he was finally given a three year foreign assignment in Cairo, beginning in August of 1987. We had magnificent arguments for months! Finally we agreed on a compromise. I agreed to interrupt my career and quit my job early enough to set up a study program as a student abroad. I had been taking evening classes at George Mason University (GMU) toward an anthropology degree for two years. Being a full time student for awhile again appealed to me. In return, my husband agreed our time overseas would be limited to three years, under any and all circumstances.
Over the nine months prior to our departure, I applied to and was accepted by the American University in Cairo (AUC.) I then secured an appointment with the Dean at GMU to propose my course of study at AUC. Because the two universities had no contract allowing credit transfer, I would have to do all the groundwork myself. I had to show courses at AUC were comparable to those required at GMU for my desired major. To do so, I must visit with the heads of all departments involved and get their formal written consent. Eight of the classes I needed must be taken only at GMU before I left. One of those was a senior class for which I would need special permission to take early. For the first time in my life, I worried there was insufficient time available to accomplish all the necessary requirements! Not to mention I would also have to pack up my household for a move halfway across the world! But I got through it all and the Dean finally gave his blessings to my proposal after I presented him with the formal consents from five department heads and the record of my six A’s and two B’s in the eight courses I’d completed!
We are sitting in the Dean’s office at AUC. On my left is Virginia Governor Gerald Baliles; on my right is the Dean of AUC; across from me is a woman who is from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, who has chosen a path similar to mine. Governor Baliles is greeting us: “We wanted to honor you both today for the work you’ve done in creating programs of study at AUC. You have shown courses at AUC are comparable to those at your respective home universities. In part due to the work you have done, we are prepared to create contracts with AUC so future students at public universities in both Virginia and the District Of Columbia may use AUC to pursue their studies abroad. They will be able to transfer their credits without having to do all the preparation you both have done.” (paraphrased by me from memory.) The Governor and Dean ask for further input from us. We converse for an hour then part with warm handshakes.
When we are able to define our own priorities and what we want in life; when we know we can create and direct our own path; when we are prepared to change course as necessary to enhance our path, life becomes more joyful! Don’t we all have the right to pursue our own destiny and experience the joy inherent in doing so?
Women can complain and manipulate. We can demand. We can argue and fight. We can join groups, march for what we want, what we believe. All will create societal change to a greater or lesser extent. All will be temporary . . . UNLESS OUR MINDSETS CHANGE ON A GRAND SCALE!
Patriarchy has defined civilization for at least 10,000 years. It is ingrained deeply in our minds, in our world view. It’s almost like the air we breathe; it just seems “normal.” But abuse and atrocities perpetrated by one group over any other is not normal. Claims of superiority by abusers are invalid and used by those who wish to enhance their own lives at the expense of anyone who gets in their way. Intellectually we all know this to be true. But until we become capable of feeling and believing we are all equal though different and instilling this same sense of worthiness into the minds of our children, we risk succumbing to those who claim to be “better than- .”
Let us stand together and reclaim the course of civilization for the benefit of all humanity.