UAE: Football, Feminism, and Raising Boys

UAE: Football, Feminism, and Raising Boys


The other day I went to my teenage son’s soccer tournament, and because his game was delayed, I watched a girls’ match finish on the other field. Actually, thanks to the British history in Abu Dhabi, I should say that I went to the “football fixture,” watched the girls play “on the other pitch,” and then at the end of the day took my son to the sports store so he could buy a new pair of “boots” (not cleats). Who knew when we moved here five years ago that one of the ways we would adapt is learning to speak a different version of our native tongue?

As I watched the girls’ match, two girls maneuvered the ball across the pitch, their teammates shrieking encouragement. One girl—a headscarf covering her hair, and leggings under her athletic shorts—passed the ball to her teammate, whose long ponytail was streaked light blue. They brought the ball down the pitch—passed left, passed right—and then Ponytail shot for the goal. The ball bounced off a goal post, looked like it was going to go wide, and then sank into the back of the net past the goalie’s outstretched hands.

“Nice shot,” murmured my son. “Really good pass, too.” Neither of us knew the girls who were playing, but his comment made me happy nevertheless. As the mother of sons, I collect “girl power” moments like this one to remind my sons that they do not have the market cornered on sports excellence. Now that he’d seen for himself, I wouldn’t have to risk being Tiresome Mom by pointing out that those were girls playing pretty kick-ass football.

It’s easy to see in this little episode a lesson about hijab not being the symbol of oppression that so many non-Muslims are quick to assume it is. This girl left her opponents in the dust as she raced down the field, and she pounded her thighs in elation when the ball went into the net. Her war whoop as she ran to the sidelines to celebrate with her teammates would be recognized anywhere as the screech of a happy athlete.

But that’s not really the point. The point has to do with the fact that my fifteen-year-old son didn’t notice the headscarf or the leggings—or the blue ponytail, for that matter—he noticed the football. He noticed what the girls were doing, not what they looked like. As my son moves closer to manhood, a process that seems to be unfolding faster and faster despite my attempts to keep him “my boy” as long as I can, I wonder if my feminist politics have rubbed off: will he become a man who sees what women can do rather than how they look or what they’re wearing?

Isn’t that the question we ask ourselves as our children—those firm little packages of flesh that seemed at one point soldered to our hips—move out into the world: we want to know if our lessons have sunk in, if they’ve been listening even as they seem glued to the Snapchat world in their phones. Does my darling son talk about girls as “hotties” when he’s with his buddies; does he chime in when the conversation turns to which girl has the best body and why?

I don’t know. All I can know is that the other day, what he saw was two people playing great football.

Who knows. Maybe if enough children grow up appreciating what people can do, rather than what they look like or what they do (or don’t) wear on their heads, the world might become a more level playing field pitch.

How do you create awareness about gender equality for your children?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Deborah Quinn, Mannahattamamma of the UAE. Photo credit to the author.

Mannahattamamma (UAE)

After twenty-plus years in Manhattan, Deborah Quinn and her family moved to Abu Dhabi (in the United Arab Emirates), where she spends a great deal of time driving her sons back and forth to soccer practice. She writes about travel, politics, feminism, education, and the absurdities of living in a place where temperatures regularly go above 110F.
Deborah can also be found on her blog, Mannahattamamma.

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TEXAS, USA: It’s Time

TEXAS, USA: It’s Time


I remember when we brought my son home, he had the squishiest face, the most delicious chin, the chubbiest thighs and the most beautiful brown eyes that had every looked at me. He was the most precious thing I had ever held, touched or seen.

I remember his “clingy” phase of not wanting anyone else but me. I was so exhausted, but he was so happy to just have me with him. I remember his first days of preschool and the crying fits he had when I left and repeated to him over and over, “Mommy always comes back.” It broke my heart to leave him, but I also knew that it was part of him growing up and that it was time.

It’s funny when you hear that phrase…It’s time. It always means that change is coming… (more…)

Meredith (USA)

Meredith finds it difficult to tell anyone where she is from exactly! She grew up in several states, but mainly Illinois. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana which is also where she met her husband. She taught kindergarten for seven years before she adopted her son from Guatemala and then gave birth to her daughter two years leter. She moved to Lagos, Nigeria with her husband and two children in July 2009 for her husband's work. She and her family moved back to the U.S.this summer(August 2012) and are adjusting to life back in the U.S. You can read more about her life in Lagos and her adjustment to being back on her blog: We Found Happiness.

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INDIA: Lukewarm For FIFA World Cup Compared to Cricket

INDIA: Lukewarm For FIFA World Cup Compared to Cricket

Every four years, a large part of the world’s attention descends on one nation – for World Cup Football. Tomorrow, the FIFA World Cup actually starts, and as you all know, the first match is in Sao Paulo, where Brazil takes on Croatia. I was on the phone with fellow World Moms Blog editor, Jennifer Burden, and she asked me if India is excited for the World Cup.

My own family has World Cup fever, inspired by my recent trip to Brazil to report on world poverty and environmental issues, but when I think of the whole of India excited about something sport-related, it is really only cricket that comes to mind!

People in India will watch the World Cup games, but it won’t compare to our country’s level of excitement over cricket.

When it comes to sports, India is a cricket-crazy nation.


Men, women and kids all watch and/or play and/or have favorites and/or conduct mass prayers and/or do just crazy things for the sake of cricket. There is really no end to it!

Sachin Tendulkar, a cricket player, is like a God to everyone in India. And there is absolutely no limits to what people would do for cricket. It is not just a game. Cricket has a very special life and a very special relationship with this country. It cannot even be explained, however, living in India during the cricket season would say it all.

Let me entertain you with a few crazy things that go on in India around cricket…

People color themselves with the tricolor Indian flag. The tricolor theme is not just clothes and caps, but you can find it also in the school premises, in apartments (flats) — theentire nation in is the colors of the Indian flag for the cricket. The celebrations are as intense, if not more, (ok, I have to be honest- it is the most celebrated event) than even Diwali or the Independence Day.

Check out this picture of a school in Western India where the school children are rooting for the Indian cricket team.

School children in a school in Ahmedabad dress up themselves and decorate their school building premises in the tricolor Indian flag to cheer for the Indian Cricket Team.

And then people just form throngs everywhere during the actual time the game is telecast. Office-goers, housewives, school-children, get together wherever there is a TV and watch. Homeless people watch cricket on the TV sitting on the streets across an electronics shop (or TV shop). No, they aren’t driven away. Because it is cricket season.

Shopkeepers let the customers watch the match from the shop indefinitely

Shopkeepers let the customers watch the match from the shop indefinitely

There are common TV viewing holes in villages like the local tea-stalls, community centers, even movie theaters at times, a common TV in the square of the slum. Oh, there is no end to this kind of thing. These pictures to do the job of explaining the craziness cricket causes for the people of India and the rest of sub-continent countries (Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh).

A tea stall hosting the TV viewing of the cricket match to a gathered crowd of the villagers

A tea stall hosting the TV viewing of the cricket match to a gathered crowd of the villagers

The slum dwellers watching the cricket match from a local TV-hole in the slums.

The slum dwellers watching the cricket match from a local TV-hole in the slums.

This is a mall in Kolkatta where the finals of the match between India and Sri Lanka is viewed.

This is a mall in Kolkatta where the finals of the match between India and Sri Lanka is viewed.

This is a movies theater in Karachi, Pakistan where cricket is telecast during the cricket season.

This is a movies theater in Karachi, Pakistan where cricket is telecast during the cricket season.

So, now coming back to the FIFA World Cup to be held in Brazil, all that I would say is that, the temperature is slightly lukewarm in comparison to the fever of the cricket playing nation.

Yes, we do talk a lot about it. But I guess that is about it. And, perhaps, some real football fans would watch it because they are really that – football fans.

By the way, did you catch Brazilian World Mom, Eco Ziva’s, post on the World Cup this week?

 So what happens in your country? Is it a football-crazy country too? Or does your country live for some other sport?

Photo credit to the author, The Daily Mail and The Atlantic.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog written by Purnima Ramakrishnan, our Senior Editor from India. 

Purnima Ramakrishnan

Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here . She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award . She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page . She also contributes to Huffington Post . Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!   This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.   She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.

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EYE ON CULTURE: Brazil and the World Cup

EYE ON CULTURE: Brazil and the World Cup

Kids and Brazil World Cup

Even if you have heard very little about Brazil, you probably know soccer is a big thing here. In fact, for a long time Brazil was known mostly for its soccer, its Carnaval (its version of Mardi Gras), its beautiful women and, perhaps, its forests. Unfortunately, considering that Brazil is a huge and extremely diverse country in so many senses, that is a very limited view of the country. However, as we are a few days away of the World Cup, today I want to speak about soccer. The World Cup is something that has always brought about an overall sense of excitement, regardless of whether one is or not a soccer lover. It is the time people bring out their flags and most everyone shows a tad of patriotism. Of all of the World Cups I have witnessed in my lifetime, three come to mind. The first is also the first World Cup I remember, held in Mexico, in 1986. I lived in a small town in northeastern Brazil, and I recall being enthralled by the big, spontaneous party in the streets after Brazil won one of the games. There were firecrackers and people parading and dancing in the town plaza.

Others drove up and down the cobblestone streets honking their horns, the vehicles full of people half out of the windows or even on top of the cars, shouting “Brazil, Brazil!”, while waving their flags.

Unfortunately, Brazil did not win that cup, and the heavy silence that followed was a big contrast to that party, even to myself, who barely knew about soccer then and didn’t really understand what was going on. Fast forward to the 1990s. 1994 was a big mark, of course, because Brazil won the cup for the fourth time. I was a teenager and much of the excitement was because so-and-so players were cute. The mother of a friend got a couple of autographs of the team captain for me and a friend of mine, which I still have. The upside was that I was visiting family in the United States, where we watched the games together and where the cup was actually happening (although I didn’t go to any games live). On the other hand, I remember being somewhat bummed because I was still travelling when the players returned to Brazil and paraded in one of the main streets of my city to commemorate the victory. And, of course, there was a big party that I missed. The third cup that I recall with fondness happened in 2006. One of my best childhood friends, who is from India and presently lives in Singapore, came over to visit, and we watched some games together. The World Cup always brings special memories of our friendship as she was a soccer enthusiast (she’s the friend who got the other autograph!), and we always saw the games together as teenagers. Unfortunately, that cup in 2006 was the last time we saw each other in person.

This year, the World Cup will be in Brazil. In fact, one of the games will be in a town neighboring mine. When one of the World Moms Blog editors suggested I write a post about the pre-cup climate here in Brazil it made me realize two things: 1) how detached I have been from this whole World Cup thing lately and how little excitement anticipation of the games have brought me this time 2) a sense that I might not be the only one feeling this way.

The last time the World Cup was held in Brazil was in 1970. Had a World Cup occurred here during my adolescent years, it would have been a big happening for my friends and I! Yet ,now, we have three kids, a demanding job and very little spare time; and what I really have been looking forward to are the days I will have off because of the games and how much overdue work I will get done while others watch the games.

Yes, in case you don’t know, everything stops here during the games that involve Brazil – stores close, companies send their employees home early or TVs get turned on in the companies themselves, and so on. Basically everyone stops to watch the game, no matter what day of the week.

That takes me to the second point. As I said, I have been a little detached from this whole World Cup reality, so I don’t know how accurate the following words will be, but the feeling I get is that the excitement is not as big as it would have been a few years ago, and it probably is a good sign. When it was first decided that the cup would be here in 2014, there truly was a sense of excitement, not only for the championship itself, but because of possible job, business opportunities and the like.

Yet, the years went by and people witnessed millions (billions?) spent on stadiums and other cup-related costs, while so many other essential areas need investment, notably education and health care.

To illustrate, here is a joke that has been going around these days. The parents take their newborn baby to the notary to get his birth certificate. When the notary asks what they are going to name the baby, the mother says: “World Cup Stadium – that way the government will surely invest in him!” As I said, I don’t know how accurate this perception of lesser excitement is, or if I am an anomaly, but if it is true, I take it as a good sign. It means that the population is maturing and that at least part of it won’t fall for the bread and circus trick any longer. Not that the World Cup, soccer or any kind of entertaining is bad in itself – but, as a country, there must be priorities.

Are you a Brazilian mother? If so, do you share the same sentiment?  And, for all the World Moms out there, who will you be supporting in the games? 

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by EcoZiva in Brazil. 

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog. Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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Saturday Sidebar: What’s your idea of a perfect Saturday?

This week’s question comes from World Moms Blog writer Multitasking Mumma.  She asks,

“What is your favorite way to spend a Saturday?”

Check out what some of our World Moms had to say…

Maggie Ellison of South Carolina, USA writes:
“My favorite Saturdays are the ones where we wake up slowly, have our coffee, make breakfast, head to the beach for the day, eat some seafood for dinner and have a few drinks. Sun kissed and happy!!” (more…)

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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