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| by Nada Allam

Fustany Talks: Unintentional Abuse Is a Thing You Could Be Doing!

New to ‘Fustany Talks’? This is our latest series of articles where we have real conversations about topics that people are yet to open up about and discuss freely. Each of the Fustany Team members discusses it from their own personal experiences. Follow our #FustanyTalks for the latest content and join the conversation. You can also suggest our next topic here. 

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In honor of women abuse prevention month I think it is of great importance to shed light on all kinds of abuse not just the physical or verbal abuse. Which brings me to my topic; unintentional abuse. 

Just to set a disclaimer from the very beginning, I am in no way defending abuse, I am merely trying to shed light on how some people may have no idea that they could be abusing others and I'm only  hoping that people start to take more notice of their actions. 

So, unintentional abuse, it’s quite self-explanatory, but in my opinion it can have quite severe effects on other people. The thing about unintentional abuse, is that usually the intention is for the better, however the actions end up having a reverse effect on the person. For example, the parents who push their kids to always get good grades. When a child gets a bad grade, the most common reaction is usually shame and disappointment, right? Or even if it’s not a bad grade if it’s an average grade but not up to the standards of the parents. At the end of the day this grade was done through a student putting in the effort to study and trying their best to answer correctly. Doesn’t that deserve acknowledgement? Unintentional abuse is when the parents reaction is anger, punishment and basically sending the message to child that their efforts were not good enough. 

The grades example is one I chose just to a picture, but the parents reaction is the main thing I am trying to shed light on. From their perspective, their reaction was done in hope to push their kids to do better, or to create a consequence for the child, so they can associate bad grades with repercussions. But, what about the child’s perspective, how do they feel? Is the shame transferred, and carried within them for some time? What if they try even harder in the next math exam but still seem to get an average of a grade because math is not their thing, whereas art is? Do they end up judging themselves as not good enough because their parents unintentionally sent that message? 

Let me give you another example. Curly hair in the Arab world. I would like to stress again, I am not stating that all Arabs do this, but the incidents have become quite common lately. If you don’t know what incidents I am talking about, let me tell you about it, I am referencing the schools who tells girls with curly hair that they look ‘messy’ and should do something about their look. Or the woman with curly hair who is told, "you should straighten your hair for the wedding or event you have." Or even the woman who straightened her hair just for the sake of change but is told, "You look so much nicer with straight hair, do it more often."

While I know that these sentences were probably said with the purest of intentions, just wanting more 'presentable' students, or even with the intention of complimenting the woman’s straight hairstyle...Let me draw you the picture from the other perspective. For the girl who was told to contain her hair, the message she received is along the lines of, "You don’t look presentable enough for the school's standards." How would that girl feel? How about the woman who was told her curly hair was not in keeping with society’s standards and that she should change it? Doesn’t that send the message that they way she is, her natural self is not good enough, or even worse... not accepted?

I must stress that the unintentional sending of that message is one that carries a lot of consequences. Whether it’s for a girl in school who is still trying to embrace herself and start the path of womanhood, or the woman in her 20’s who is trying to find the right path to take. The after effect is tough, leading them to question their looks and acceptance in the eyes of others. It can even go as deep as for them reaching a point where they are not proud of the way they look, which is the beginning of a tough personal path that they are put on. 

These are just two examples, but there are so much more incidents that happen on a daily basis that people are not even aware of. The point I am trying to send across is that we all must take it upon ourselves to be extremely aware and thoughtful of what we say to others, because unintentional abuse is a thing that we must shed light on. 

Whether you are a parent, friend, teacher, boss or employee, be mindful of your comments and your words, because words stick to people and stay with them on their path. So imagine if your words were kind and positive...what a beautiful effect that could have. More importantly you will certainly help minimize and avoid adding to the problems that person is already dealing with, because let’s face it we all have our issues and we're all trying to work through them. The last thing we need are words to set off, off course. 

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Tags: Fighting violence against women  Violence against women  Abuse  Curly hair  Mental health  Self-love  Confidence