Daddy, I want a career: pop music sexism (Issa Edward Boursheh)

Lebanese pop star Haifa Wehbe
Lebanese pop star Haifa Wehbe

I admire classical Arabic music, performed by musicians like Wadih El Safi, Sabah Fakhri or Umm Kulthum, but I try to avoid listening to contemporary Arabic pop music. Video killed the Arabic radio stars, and music in general. I prefer watching Umm Kulthum on a stage over Rubby shaking it on my television. Contemporary pop music (and not just in the Arab world) is completely lacking in sophistication or musical finesse. It seems as though all the Arab world cares about is a good looking Haifa Wehbe, dancing on stage while background music is played. I don’t want to get carried away and proclaim that all contemporary Arabic music is like that, but there are endless examples to prove my point.

Last night at my cousin’s place, for example,  I heard a pop song called “Joumhoureyet Alby.” The Lebanese singer is called Mohamed Eskandar, which is a beautiful combination of Muslim and Christian names. The song is a dialogue between a young woman who just graduated from university and her father. At first, the song seems like a charming little story of a father trying to indulge his daughter with all the luxuries of life. Later he uses absurd reasoning as he tries to persuade his daughter against having a career. He starts with the dullest declaration that “our daughters don’t work.” He continues with, “better take that thought out of your brain, why bring trouble to your life?” and “Let’s assume you find a job; what shall we do with your beauty?”

No commentary necessary.

Another assumption of the father’s is “Tomorrow your manager will have [romantic] feelings for you, and naturally I will come down and break the office on his head.” In the video, you can see the boss touching the young girl’s body when she enters his office and latter the father pulling a gun on the manager and cracking a box over his head. No doubt, all managers in the modern world harass their female recruits and it is totally legit for the father to come down and break his head.

Eventually, after “convincing” the average listener, the singer mentions “Women’s rights are extremely important” in an Arabic cynical way, “But how about taking my feelings into consideration, your presence is my strength and this is elementary.” After watching the video, I noticed there were more than half a million views for that video. That is truly sad for such a chauvinist song, with its shallow arguments regarding women’s integration in today’s workforce. The video features many more elements I did not discuss  – like the nanny hitting the career woman’s infant while she’s out at work. It’s worth watching.


‎‫كلّ ما قلبي عم ينبض و بعزّي‬
‎‫بتبقي ملكة و ما بقبل تنهزّي‬
‎‫شغلي و سهري و تعبي عشانك‬
‎‫عندي فيهن لذّة‬
‎‫نحنا ما عنّا بنات تتوظّف بشهادتها‬
‎‫عنّا البنت بتدلّل كلّ شي بيجي لخدمتها‬
‎‫شغلك قلبي و عاطفتي و حناني‬
‎‫مش رح تفضي لَ أيّ شي تاني‬
‎‫بيكفّي إنّك رئيسة جمهوريّة قلبي‬
‎‫شيلي الفكرة من بالك أحلالك‬
‎‫ليش بتجيبي المشاكل لحالك‬
‎‫تَ نفرض بقبل تشتغلي‬
‎‫شو منعمل بجمالك‬
‎‫بكرا المدير بيعشق و بيتحرّك إحساسو‬
‎‫و طبيعي إنّي إنزل هدّ الشّركة عَ راسو‬
‎‫شغلك قلبي و عاطفتي و حناني‬
‎‫مش رح تفضي لَ أيّ شي تاني‬
‎‫بيكفّي إنّك رئيسة جمهوريّة قلبي‬
‎‫حقوق المرأة عَ عيني و عَ راسي‬
‎‫بس يا ريتك بتراعي إحساسي‬
‎‫وجودك حدّي بيقوّيني‬
‎‫و هيدا شي أساسي‬
‎‫شو هالوظيفة اللّي بدّا تفرّقنا بيني و بينك‬
‎‫يلعن بي المصاري بحرقها كرامة عينك‬
‎‫شغلك قلبي و عاطفتي و حناني‬
‎‫مش رح تفضي لَ أيّ شي تاني‬
‎‫بيكفّي إنّك رئيسة جمهوريّة قلبي‬

Originally published on 20to9 blog.