I just wrote about the scholarly book "For Better, for Worse: The Marriage Crisis that Made Modern Egypt" for Foreign Policy. Here's the intro:
In 1932, Fikri Abaza, a young Egyptian editor and lawyer from a prominent family, gave a lecture at the American University in Cairo in which he announced his intention of remaining a bachelor. He had proposed to four women, he said, and four fathers had rejected his proposals on financial grounds.
The next day, the young man's lecture was the "talk of the town," American University in Cairo professor Hanan Kholoussy tells us in her book For Better, For Worse: The Marriage Crisis That Made Modern Egypt. Yet Abaza's complaint was hardly unprecedented. As Kholoussy documents, it was emblematic of a debate that raged in early 20th-century Egypt around the supposed increase in bachelors. That debate has striking parallels with one going on today in Egypt, where another "marriage crisis" is supposedly looming -- one in which it is the rising number of "spinsters" that most troubles observers.
I say supposedly because in both cases, "crisis" may be an overstatement. The "marriage crisis" of today, like the one back then, might have more to do with public anxiety over sweeping societal changes than any catastrophic threat to the institution of marriage.
Reading about the earlier crisis immediately put me in mind of the current one, and of the hit blog-turned-book عايزة اتجوز ("I Want To Get Married"), which I've reviewed before. Of course, my point isn't too deny that there aren't serious obstacles to marriage and serious consequences to delayed marriage. But is a phenomenon that dates back a hundred years a "crisis"? And today, is the concern over the allegedly rising number of unmarried women really warranted?
Back when I was reviewing "I Want to Get Married," I spent a lot of time on various Facebook groups established by women to fight the stigma of being "a spinster," or just discuss the options and preoccupations of single women. I translated some exchanges (very roughly) because I thought they were pretty interesting. I'm posting them after the jump.