Women and Men

14 07 2012

(Written while staying in Jordan for a few weeks.)

Stumbling, and frequently tripping, my way through the not-so-subtle-but-frequently-bent nuances of Arab male/female relations has been one of the biggest challenges the past couple of weeks. It’s up there in complexity and almost as mysterious and foreign to me as the arabic language.

In the US, I am friendly, outgoing, and as likely to hug a guy as a girl with, at minimum, a handshake for all.  I really don’t think much of it, unless the guy is married or the situation very formal.  Even then, a handshake is a very neutral, appropriate, and comfortable greeting.

That is all different here.  I’ve hugged when I shouldn’t have, extended my hand to have it refused or awkwardly, weakly shaken, and kept my hands by my side when one was surprisingly offered by someone in greeting.  The more I try to do what is “appropriate”, the more I seem to mess up.  The guard is down when it should be up and up when not needed.

At a public water park, there are women in all stages of non-nakedness: from full covering of head, arms, legs in layers of loose clothing to too-small bikinis.  Where do I fit into that? Why does responsibility for sexual control and restraint rest on the women? And what is protecting men from the lustful thoughts of women?  I understand the idea that wearing a covering is a way of preventing the sexual objectivation of women, but isn’t insisting on complete body covering removing her humanity to some extent as well?

I’m not criticizing, but genuinely don’t understand and just hope that I am forgiven for my many fumblings.  At least I have a good excuse and can hide behind my abundant Americanism (and, no, this American did NOT wear a bikini).

I guess that Marisol is going to have to have another of “those” discussions with me. 🙂