Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Little Closer Now - SLAP: On how to take care of yourself on the streets of Amman

So, I'm overdue on the post I promised on ideas and behaviors that Western women should leave in the west. Well, I got an excellent reminder today in form of a post by Shalabieh. This is a must read for all women in Jordan. Shalabieh is a local gal who has transformed herself from denial to empowerment in the face of harassment by men. And, it gives rise to the post I wanted to write about we Western women and our politeness...

We have a friend who comments on blogs who came for a visit to Jordan with her mom. Like me, she is blond and obviously American. They were on a visit downtown looking at the shops and such when a man touched her bottom. In her very American way she huffed at him in a very offended tone. Yes, that's right, she huffed at him. Well, he took her lack of response as an invitation and turned around to come back fro another swipe. The second time he pinched her.

Recently I posted about the experience that I had near Wild Jordan Cafe with El 3atal's cousin from Sweden. Some young government school hooligan in a pack of friends touched her hair. Now, for Westerners, it's a bit creepy, but not a big deal exactly. But here, I take it as a very big deal. I shouted like a London fish-wife at the fellow and his compatriots. And, then I gave a lecture to El 3atal's cousin. And, I'm going to give you the highlights of my advice.

When confronted with harassment, here's the MommaBean recommended approach. Shalabieh talks about the first step as well.
  1. Shame and embarrass the offender by shouting, loudly, about what he is doing. If you don't speak Arabic, shout in English. If you speak even broken Arabic, use it. And, have the word 3ayb be the first thing that comes to mind and lips. This is like haram but worse. You need to make it clear that you are angry and offended. Really. And do this when you are being stared at or if someone dares to touch you and then gets far enough that you can't whack them.
  2. If close enough and you are touched, whack them. Really, reach out and hit them. Slaps in every language mean the same thing. If they are uncouth enough to touch you, hit them.

This is my two step recommendation. Our Western sense that we shouldn't "make a scene" is dead wrong here. We need to make scenes. We need to make them ashamed of the behavior. Call them on it. As I had to with the shabab that were bothering us near Wild Jordan. I shouted at them and called them animals because they clearly weren't behaving like people. They took it as funny. But, it was that embarrassed kind of laughter. And, I suspect on day 2 when El 3atal yelled at a couple of them, they thought it was less funny. Given their scurrying dash away after being called to task for ogling, they weren't laughing at all.

You will find that there are two distinct groups here. Ones who will be offended by these stories and ones who will imply that it is somehow your fault. You know, by not covering your hair or by walking on the street without a man, or by some other means you brought this on yourself. As I mentioned in my post about SwedeBean, the same boys who bothered us went up four blocks and harassed a group of ladies in hijab and jilbab. When people who explain away the behavior as being somehow understandable because of the actions of they victim, they are saying the behavior is alright. This is what we have to fight against. This is what mothers must teach their sons AND daughters. It is NEVER okay. Never. Because, if it is okay for your son to harass a woman who is not veiled on the streets of Amman, then it is also okay for a young man to harass a covered Muslim on the streets of London. And, simply, it is NEVER okay... *~coming down off my high horse now. ~*

Oh, and before I go too far. While there are far too many men who display this behavior (I encounter one ogling or cat calling a day it seems), it is not all men. Many men are respectful and perfectly behaved. However, it is necessary to protect yourself, ensure that you use your voice, and know that others are also doing the same. As we all continue to make it clear that the behavior is unacceptable, the message will get through. I truly believe it. We've got a ways to go, but we're going...

Happy Western Sensibilities!


At 2:57 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came here through Qwaider's Planet, I liked your post very much, in addition to Shalabieh's.
You mentioned the 2 groups in your post. Let me say that there must be some "7al ma3qool"..
y3ni, a girl wanna go without Hijab? lets say Ok!! T-shirt ?? Ok... but let this be in a suitable case in order for the people not to blame you..
But I do not think that when a girl goes out with a tight or transparent shirt, with tight trousers or a short skirt and then wait the guys (who reached almost 40 without being able to afforce marriage expenses) to keep silent.

Let me quot this from Shalabieh's “Shu hal ibizaz”
I am shy to say it again here but when a guy says such a statement, then he must have seen something overdose

At 4:10 AM , Blogger Haitham Seelawi said...

You know what, I am not with shouting or yelling at them, am completely with slapping the hell out of anyone who even looks at a girl in a lusty way!

If each and everyone of those was hit with a shoe (specially a high heel shoe, those can be very painful) then most of the them will think twice before doing this next time!

At 6:24 AM , Anonymous kinzi said...

Anon, I would say you fit neatly into the second of MommaBean's groups.

Haithim, of course, throw a shoe! I never thought to apply that insult in this context. May have to get some stilettos for that (except then I couldn't walk)

Well said, MommaBean. As usual.

At 6:54 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kinzi, I may be in the second group.
but I am sorry to say that the girls' wear in Amman (esp. Rainbow, Swafiyyeh, Abdoon,...) is getting worse and worse...
I never thought I'll see girls in Amman wearing semi-transparent shiffon* white tshirts with nothing under it!!!

10 years old, one never though Amman will have night clubs..

What I mean that I am totally with this post and totally agree that girls should not keep silent, one scream will be efficient for a guy to "yakol hawa", kol el sha3eb 3ndhom na5weh mashalla :)
But also, balash el girls yzeedooha

*I do not know how it's written in English"

At 10:28 AM , Blogger Haitham Seelawi said...

haha Kinzi, no need to throw it! Slap him with it!

At 1:50 PM , Anonymous kinzi said...

Anon, just so you know, I agree that clothing styles are getting more and more tight and transparent.

I don't see inappropriate clothing as just cause for harassment. I think ignoring girls dressed like that would work better...

At 11:24 PM , Blogger abu 'n um tulip said...

Any advice for teaching boys respect for women in a classroom setting? I'm teaching all boys grades 4-5-6 and need a plan for the fall. I'm determined to teach these boys character, not only English!

At 4:12 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Somehow my previous comment got lost. Anon, I understand where you're coming from but am with Kinzi on this one. Look away. Sadly, most young men here were apparently never taught that it's rude to stare - much less ogle. And we need to learn the lessn that what we make acceptable on our home, we can't complain about in others'...

Im Tulip, le me think some on this topic. It's a tough one, but is a necessary set of lessons.

At 11:58 AM , Blogger Samartime said...

I don't think anyone has a right to stare at someone because of what they choose to wear. Yes, clothing has become less and less in Amman but that doesn't give a guy the right to stare, touch or comment about it. I agree with Kinzi, look away!

It's insane how much our culture blames women for things when they should be teaching the men better manners.

Great post!

At 7:59 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mommabean,
I just read this post. I, too, have been enjoying a Southern summer in Charleston, SC. If you want to venture here, we'd love to have you and the Beans!
Was the blondie in your example me? If it was, I can say in response to the comment about clothing styles, I had on loose pants and a white, long sleeved cardigan sweater. My ankles weren't even showing. So, the guy who touched me could not even use that as an excuse for his devilish behavior. Now I know, though, next time I'm in Amman I will wear spikey shoes and this former soccer girl will kick him as hard as I can and scream bloody murder!


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