Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

On cockroaches, perception, and (believe it or not) gender!


So umm this is kind of a joking reflection on roaches…

Why on earth are we scared of them? They can’t do us much harm, and we can kill them with some spray (squatting them is harder, remember they’ve survived on this earth as a species much longer than we have, resilient little rascals).

Hubby and I just killed one after, um, lots of screaming πŸ™‚ funny enough, when I am with a child or a weaker person in the room, I manage not to scream at roaches, I even manage to kill them. I do. But when my dad or mom or husband are around, I really can’t.

Well, today, we split the task: he sprayed the hell put of it till it died. We shut the bathroom door. Then we argued for about half an hour about who should pick it up and flush it, and how. We joked that our toddler was probably the only one in the house still brave enough to actually hold the thing (too bad she was asleep right? Lucky she didn’t wake up from our screaming, more like). Then I finally managed to do it, in oh, about 8 steps or so? Using the same “tool” three ways πŸ™‚ Because every time I would convince myself it was just a roach, it was DEAD, harmless…somehow, images of it returning from the dead and moving its antenna ominously kept invading my peace. The hubby sound effects didn’t help either.

But here is the thing. Butterflies and ladybirds are insects, too. We love them. I once wrote on facebook that I am an insect-racist: when I find a ladybird in my house, I let it out. When I find a beetle or roach, I’ll kill it.

Funny enough, I hear the English do not consider spiders unclean. To this day, I cannot understand why they don’t mind spiders. Sure, they’re arachnids not insects, but seriously? You don’t mind having one around? Would you like one to talk right by you? Or is it coz they are usually walking up walls rather than on the floor like a roach?

Then again, rationally, I don’t get why we are scared of roaches in the first place, so maybe the English have a point about spiders, then? Itsy bitsy spider and all that. But there is no itsy bitsy roach or anything, so this one must be universal.

On a high note, the Raid insecticide spray bottle has Arabic instructions on it. Arabic is a highly gendered language, but you can use the masculine form to refer to both sexes, so most instructions on items are written addressing the masculine. Huh. Not so on Raid insecticide! The instructions explicitly address a female user! Go figure! Feminist roach-killers…(or #Β£^€*Β₯€#) … Your choice

It was a fun way to end the evening, nevertheless and I wanted to share the fun πŸ™‚


  1. A very funny post, Maha. As you know, I lived in Cairo for an academic year in the 90s and I can still remember my shock at seeing my first cockroach in my flat in Dokki. It was enormous! Primitive alpha male instincts took over between me and my two male housemates πŸ™‚ I squashed the thing with my booted foot (no easy task considering it was on the coffee table at the time) but we watched in amazement as it reassembled itself like Robocop and went on walking. So I squashed it harder. Then (here’s a tip) I picked it up with a magazine and tossed it out the window.

    I don’t have any problems with spiders and I’m English, so you might have a point there, though it’s the first time I’ve heard that the English don’t mind spiders. My wife hates spiders but she won’t kill one. I trap it under a glass and throw it outdoors. Live and let live, say I… just don’t live in my house πŸ™‚

  2. Which gender did the spray can assign to the roaches? California roaches are pretty small but the ones we found in Hawaii were about the size of a smart phone and quite exotic looking. We had “potato bugs” in my Grandmother’s rose garden. If Barbie had a scaled to size hairless bull dog the potato bugs would be just right for her to take to the dog show. They came in dark and light tan stripes and looked damp all the time like they were wearing too much moisturizer. I think they fought with snails and avoided slugs. If you put a potato bug down my sister’s blouse she would say things we were not supposed to say (even my uncle agreed on this).

    • Haha the can assigned it to women, the sadists. This roach was pretty big. I would exaggerate it in memory of course, but a big one. Very shiny brown. Would be a nice hair color πŸ™‚ So glad to have you back online, Scott πŸ™‚

  3. Maybe Raid is generalizing Sursar (m) to Hashara (f)? On a lighter side, perhaps Tawfiq al-Hakim’s play, Masiir Sursar may be performed in celebration of the inauguration of newly minted Egyptian president – who must have at least a 30 year shelf life, from the look of him the other day on TV.

    • Haha Mark, the raid can was addressing the person, giving instructions for use. I meant the instructions were targeting a female user: “roshi” not “rosh” (to spray) – that’s what i was taking issue with…

      • Well, that’s just weird. Default imperative voice is always masculine. Let me check my Raid… Nope.. well, I have Pif Paf Mortein (sounds deadly). It says iHfadh … masculine imperative. My only explanation is that since men never read directions, the Raid manufacturer is assuming that the reading audience is entirely female.

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