Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Women's Problems

Since the post is anonymous, I can't reply by name, but you are absolutely correct about all the things that you mention in your comment. All of these things are problems that women in various parts of Egypt face. Many of them are faced by women in other parts of the world as well. I'm well past the age of being groped in a crowd but I do remember being shocked at comments as I walked down streets in Mexico, even though I was warned that this was customary. I also recall having a policeman in Guadalajara trying to pick me up despite the children I had in each hand. Hmmmm. I also remember hating to walk past a certain construction site at college because of the catcalls and shouts of the construction workers. Insensitive male misbehaviour is not an Egyptian prerogative, but I will grant you that an awful lot of young men have abysmal manners. These days if I hear something that I'd rather not, I usually sternly turn to the youngster in question and ask him in Arabic if he would like someone speaking in such a way to HIS mother. With the appropriate "mother voice" it usually stops them cold.

Female circumcision is a problem to be sure, but did you have to undergo it? I believe that it is usually restricted to the villagers and the urban poor. I don't know of any of the families that I've either been related to or any of our friends who felt that it was even a reasonable idea.

Divorce is becoming extremely common in Cairo and while divorced women are still rather disapproved of, they are not much of a rarity. Likewise, there is the assumption that young girls should marry, it's astounding the number of parents who are bemused at their career-oriented daughters who seem to have no interest in marriage. The fact is that single women pose a quandry for Egyptian men and they aren't very comfortable dealing with them, or even women in general. But as one Egyptian woman spoke up one day when a group of local women were complaining about men that they'd had to deal with or be married to, "When we can honestly say that we've raised our sons to be different, then we have the right to complain. Most of us don't like the way our men of Egypt behave at times, but who has been responsible for teaching them to respect women's rights?" I think that she has a point, but as a mother of a young man I can also vouch for the fact that it isn't always easy to get the results that you want. Just have to keep working at it.

17 comments:

B J Cowe said...

Great blog. I was so excited when you got the Internet at home, because I was really enjoying your true account of your life in Egypt. Very nicely written. And now we can comment too :) Looking forward to more. -Brenda

Deby said...

I understand that living in Egypt is a wonderful thing for you, and that you got out of the US to fulfill your life, but don't say that the United States of America is a bad place to live. I have to agree with the Italian about there being such a diverse culture in one place on the face of the Earth. Maybe we're not all that everyone expects us to be, but it has gotten so much better with time. The poverty stricken in the US is still here and so are the tormentors of other cultures, but that is anywhere you go. At least here, your not executed by a whole culture because of what you believe in. Don't think about what has been in the past in the US, its in the past. It's in the present and the future of other countries.

Jillian said...

I concur with all of what Deby is saying. Beautifully written, I also live in the United States of America, and I can certainly assure you that it has gotten a lot better than by what you have seen and heard of.

Although, my dream is also to live in another country when I get a bit older; I have always wanted this. I'm not going to go around bashing USA (Of course I'm not saying that you are doing that...), but maybe some people are meant to live outside of the United States...

Boredom on a Stick
http://boredomonastick.blogspot.com

Konstantin Rabinovich said...

Great blog, I'm glad people like you are opening the eyes of people about non-western cultures and society. If it wasn't for the internet and truthful people like you, all we would have is the media to believe. I am from Israel and the media portrays it so much worse that it really is.

Great website!
Lates,

http://konny.blueshite.com

Dino said...

Hi there,
This is my first time commenting on a blog. I am unfirmiliar with the proper format, so please forgive me.
My question is: Do you feel your children would have been better off growing up in a western society or is the Egyptian way of life the better one?

jerusalemgypsy said...

Hi, Congratulations on becoming a Blogger of Note. I'm enjoying reading your blog. As you say in Arabic "nachnu giran" - I hope I said it right. We are neighbors. Plus I also lived in Toronto (and before that New York) before I moved to Jerusalem. I'm looking at your link to Castle Ziman in Sinai and it looks like that the perfect place to spend a weekend in October or November.

Melly Durham said...

Hello there! I clicked on your link from the Blogger's main page. Very interesting site! Part of what drew me is also my desire to live in other countries (France or West Africa). This entry caught my eye cause I recently wrote about the same problem that happens to me here in the US. Its my Thursday, July 08, 2004 "Morning" post if you want to read it. While the subtleties make it not as obvious, the same disrespecting objectifying behavior exists in America towards women. Then again, in a smaller scale, we do it to men as well, though usually not vocally (i.e. teen bopper posters of young male movie stars). Makes you wonder what or who it would take to stop/change the cycle.

shellie said...

Hello! I clicked on your link on the main page....

I live in the US and guys have stared and honked at me and my friends before; it's really annoying. One salesman actually stared at my chest the entire time he was trying to pitch his product. I think I'd just go off and punch them if they said such things though! I never realized that other places had simular problems, especially a place like Egypt. Makes you think.

Damamadame said...

Maryanne,

Seeing your blog listed under Blogs of Note, I was curious about the title. After reading a few entries, I've found that you could apply so many of your observations to my situation. I'm an American married to a Dominican and we live in the Dominican Republic with our three children and I do not regret my choice at all. I get a lot of the same questions about male chauvinism, cleanliness, food, driving, etc etc etc and agree with you on all counts. I'd choose living here 100 times over the US. It has many problems as many poorer countries do, but the weather is wonderful, the food is natural and cheap, the people are friendly, etc, etc, etc. The US is great to visit or for vacation, but it's not the place for me to live and raise my family. People talk about how children are being raised in other countries, but in the US there is no discipline with children. I could go on for ages, but I believe if I look further, you've probably covered most of everything I could say in previous entries. I look forward to reading more about your life. Take care!

Anonymous said...

Hey Shelli.. I bet what Maryanne is talking about is not what you're having in the USA with guys honking at you, in Egypt they can do more and can harass you in the street because there are no clear laws against that and it is hard to prosecute a male for it; no luxury laws like you have in the US: no Egyptian can sue McDonald's for a coffee-spill, we even eat food full of insecticides!

Besides, why blame the salesman.. maybe you chest is worth staring at; don't you stare at a beautiful tree!! It's all natural!

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous,

Luxury laws? Since when did justice and doing what's right become a negotiable luxury? As for the weak philosophy of using the correlation of staring at a tree, when does it stop?

[warning: next sentence not to be taken literally] Hey, we kill animals for food, if countries are starving because of overpopulation, just let them hack each other up to get food and get ride of the whole problem! [disclaimer: last sentence was to prove a point, not be acted upon or taken seriously]

Now that's an extreme example of the kind of philosophy you're implying to use as an excuse for guys to demean, objectify, and let their lustful eyes (or more) do whatever they want. Maybe the guy's balls are worth being kicked, hey, its just her natural reaction!

Anonymous said...

From Anonymous 1 to Anonymous 2, You're nuts!
First, I was talking to Shellie -who had guys staring at her chest- not to you.
Second, I was obviously joking, any open-minded person will understand I was joking with Shellie, who provided unnecessary information about her chest, without mentioning how big it was, and what she was wearing so that salesman kept staring at her. If I follow on your sick analysis of jokes, I would tell you: maybe she's ugly so he avoided her face, maybe she's paranoid, maybe she thinks everybody loves her chest, can you tell that !!!! I bet you can't.

Third, Yes. You have luxury laws in the USA. If you're debating the death penalty in this country but killing daily 10s of Iraqis based on "flawed" intelligence, is in't that luxury! (checkout http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com)
If in the USA you can sue McDonalds for coffee spill, but you dump your depleted Uranium in other countries, and you devastate the amazon forests to eat cheap banana, isn't this luxury?
You're living in a closed world, ruled by a monkey-president, enjoying luxury, and keeping the rest of the world poor to maintain your "lifestyle", and then you tell me about eating people in Egypt to solve hunger and high population problems: it's not a joke! The "democratic government of the west of the Atlantic" is indeed doing that. Eating some people to maintain the prosperity of its own. Isn't that nuts Mr or Ms Nuts?

Cracked Chancla said...

The first couple of replies on this thread say that conditions in the U.S. have gotten better than they use to be.

I have to add my two cents. Who has it gotten better for? Not for everyone. Its amazing at how much injustice exists in this country.

However the irony and the beauty of living in this country is the right to question or even criticize it if you wish to without being prosecuted.

Kooky Little Cookie said...

*is a little nervous* Hi! I just wanted to say that I'm so glad to get to read your blog. I live in the USA, but I love foreign cultures and languages. I want to learn as many as I can, and hearing your first-person account is really inspiring! ^_^ I think your children are so lucky to have been exposed to so many things at such a young age; it's easiest to learn a language when you're young. Don't get me wrong, I love my country, but I love others as well! *smiles* So thanks for giving me the oppourtunity to travel (if only in the space it took to read your posts) to Egypt. Keep up the good work!

~Cookie

Queeny said...

Hello Maryanne...
How I love to read your blogs....
my name is Liza Hamisi and I live in the Netherlands..
I've just created my own blog, and yours is the first I read. I've been sitting here for hours now...reading and reading, can't get enough of it.
According to you..Eqypt must be a very nice place to live..I've never been there...and not to forget to mention about your horses..what a beauties they are. I think maybe someday...Inshallah..I'll come and visit Al-Masir and Al-kahira..not to forget to take a look over the Gulf of Aqaba..etc.
Keep on writing dear Maryanne..and May God Bless Your Heart.

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jomy said...

hey ,I totally agree...
I am from a country where female infanticide still takes place.....a very bad but true fact of life here in india.
Leave alone catcalls and other stuff that a normal girl or woman in india has to face , the physical abuse part is really shameful.....
ever heard of 75-80 yr olds being raped by young men....
But ,what I dont understand is, the same men want their mothers and sisters to be safe.....how is that?