In the Arab world, marriage seems like the mandatory end goal required from every woman, regardless of her personal preferences and aspirations.

As soon as an Arab female is deemed ready for marriage - which might mean as early as her teenage years - she is regularly bombarded with questions regarding her relationship status.

It usually comes in the form of questions along the lines of "Emten 7a nefra7 mennek?" (When will you make us happy?) and "3a2balek" (May you be next), which are repeated on almost every occasion, whether she is graduating, attending a wedding, or simply serving guests some coffee.

Relatives start putting in their best effort to find her a partner, disregarding her say on the matter and taking offense if she rejects their attempts.

All this serves one main purpose: To avoid an Arab family's worst nightmare, so-called "spinsterhood."

"Yes, I am a free, independent women who does not derive the validity of her existence by belonging to the marriage institution. If that's what you mean by calling me a spinster, then yes, I am a spinster and proud, my dear." Source: Facebook/comicskilljoy

Late last month, Lebanese social media went abuzz after media reports suggested Lebanon has the highest rate of "spinsterhood" in the Arab world.

Citing "the latest studies by Western media outlets," Turkey's Anadolu Agency had published a piece stating 85 percent of people in Lebanon are unmarried and referring to "spinsterhood" as a "nightmare."

The piece was widely shared online, with various Arab outlets publishing articles in reference to it.

Arab publications repeatedly used the term 3anes (spinster), which is officially defined as "any woman (and not man) over 30 who is not yet married," according to the New Arab. The latter also pointed out that the Arabic word also means "a branch that withers and becomes useless."

The New Arab actually reached out to several prominent academics researching marriage trends in the Middle East, all of whom agreed that the figures in the trending report were false and majorly inflated.

But, statistics aside, the latest frenzy shed light on the Arab world's flawed perception of unmarried women and the negative connotation linked to the term "spinster."

Young Arab women are constantly pressured to tie the knot

Arab women are constantly treated like they represent an extension of some man - be it a father, brother, or a husband - and subsequently regarded as incomplete until they get married. 

Their academic and professional achievements are regularly undermined, and they are pressured into feeling like they can only fulfill their lives' purpose by getting married. 

Because God forbid they become "3anes"

The term is constantly used to remind women of how disappointing it would be if they do not get married. 

Remaining single is frowned upon to the extent that some families would rather marry off their daughters to unsuitable husbands than risk having unmarried daughters.

"Have you seen the personal status law?"

"People are sharing the news about 'Lebanon has the highest spinsterhood rate' as if it's a tragedy, as if  marriage is an achievement. Have you seen the personal status laws? Of course the woman has to think 1,000 times before tying the knot."

Arab women are regularly encouraged to get married, when in reality, marriage can be quite the burden on wives. On one hand, they are often required to abide by stereotypical gender roles

Plus, in cases of unsuccessful relationships, women face an array of legal obstacles to obtain their rights under sexist personal status laws present in many Arab countries.

Double standards are in full force

While it is no secret that Arab men are also encouraged to get married, they are not pressured into it as intensely as their female counterparts. Plus, men do not face the negative associations linked with being unmarried.

Why are we still using "3anes" as an insult?

An unmarried Arab woman is often looked upon with pity, and her relationship status seems to be her identifying label, with phrases such as "Haram she hasn't gotten married yet" often being used whenever she is the topic of any conversation.

Her achievements seem to go out the window, and she is assumed to be unhappy due to her relationship status.

Most importantly, she is treated like she is unmarried by force, and not by choice, because society cannot see why a woman would voluntarily choose to remain unmarried. This means she is expected to constantly be on the lookout for a husband. 

"'Spinster' is a rude cuss word we should all condemn. Patriarchal individuals made it up to force women to abide by their preordained lifestyle. Any woman who refuses that lifestyle frustrates them and their fragile, undeserved power, so they use this word to convince her that she is incomplete."

Well, newsflash: Not every woman prioritizes marriage.

Some women do not feel ready to become wives, others have anti-marriage views for various reasons, while others simply have not found the right person to settle down with. But regardless of why a woman may remain unmarried, society is not entitled to meddle with her personal life. 

It's high time we stop obsessing over marriage and reducing a woman's value to her relationship status, and start regarding marriage as a mere life event rather than an individual's ultimate purpose. And of course, it's high time we ditch derogatory terms like 3anes.