>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.
- 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.
- 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!