Mama’s golden boy is the rare specimen of perfection, immune from family rules and omnipotent in fulfillment. Compared to his siblings (especially those without a penis) he receives more freedom, food, money and love from his mother.
This may sound similar to the golden child concept of many dysfunctional families, but in Egypt and throughout the Middle East it bears inherent misogyny because the golden boy is always male. Women, loving mothers perpetuate this sexist favoritism so entrenched in middle eastern societies.
Although they cast it as past practice and deny its current existence, the golden boy remains the hidden shame of many middle eastern families. It is difficult to argue which is more destructive: The presence of gender favoritism among all social classes; or its ingrained, covert root in societal values.
Golden boy damage reaches a girl via the subliminal messages she receives throughout her life. Although she has legal rights and may enjoy privileges, such as using social media, at home a girl stands always below her brothers. Evolutionarily, her position within the family structure does not allow her to claim full rights. She misses equal respect, benefits and love. On the other hand the golden boy is revered. No self respecting Egyptian mother yells at her son. In contrast, one may hear her shrieking “Incompetent!" and "Lazy!” toward her daughters throughout cities of rich and poor economy.
In middle eastern cultures, a daughter must abandon all tasks to help her mother set the table before meals. It matters not that she is a student with the same amount of homework as the golden boy in the house (and possibly cares more about completing it than he does). When the time comes for the task, it is irrelevant whether the golden boy sits idly next to his father reading the newspaper. Even if the mother resented these female chores during adolescence, her main goal now is to ensure the happiness and contentment of her golden boy—which ultimately manifests in the form of a kiss on her cheek or a comforting hug.
The need for love and comfort is the reason why mothers select only boys for golden treatment. In gratitude, their sons provide the unconditional love the mothers missed in their formative years. Such bond also allows a certain degree of control to mothers, namely the ability to influence a male in society. Some mothers exercise this power fully by showing extra generosity to sons, such as increasing their allowance without their father's knowledge. Together, mother and son form an unspoken alliance: I will favor you if you symbolize the prince charming missing in my life.
If you doubt this scenario, please visit an Egyptian home and observe the interaction between the mother and her favorite boy in the house. It usually goes like this: Boy charms mother, mother yields and surrenders with a smile; mother then turns to daughters with derisive and incisive remarks accompanied by prohibitive dictations. Meanwhile the mother's distant, hazy past holds a girl with stolen dreams. Now all that matters is the golden boy. She must respect him, worship his dreams, admire his authority.
Many middle eastern homes suppress girls' dreams and invalidate their talents. These girls yearn for a chance in the familial spotlight. They dream of the day when they become mothers so they may restore justice. But sadly many come to repeat a familiar tune to their children—a folksong that lingers in the consciousness of middle eastern women: When I heard my baby was a boy, I stood proud and tall; when I heard it was a girl, my house tumbled and the roof fell.
Amira Aly prepared this text with assistance from e-feminist staff.