ThysdrusRoman Coliseum of El-Jem

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Location: Tunis, Tunisia, Tunisia

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Is This Woman Really Aware Of Her Platitudes??

A Question of Rights in Tunisia
Kathryn Crighton
Issue date: 3/12/07
Section: Abroad

As an independent American woman, I have never felt inferior because of my gender. I have never been treated as less of a person than the man standing next to me, until I went on vacation to Northern Africa. As a tourist in Tunisia, I was exposed to much more than beautiful beaches, warm weather, and bustling markets. The male-dominated, largely Muslim population opened my eyes to gender inequality we have all heard so much about. I will admit the issue never seemed very critical to me until I was forced into the situation. It began as an innocent joke when, upon arriving at the resort, we met the manager of the gift store. After speaking for a while, he proceeded to jokingly offer Tim and Jean-Michel four hundred camels if they would agree to leave Taru and me. We all laughed and thought little of it at the time, but it is this mentality that made it difficult for the girls to leave the resort without having a boy escort us. Little did we know this was not the only offer the boys would receive. On our first trip into the city for some shopping, the girls went toward the market and the boys toward the food. Walking through a gauntlet of shops with Tunisian men yelling vulgar and intensely sexual remarks, we quickly turned around to find the restaurant our boys had stopped at. Finally coming to the street they had turned down, we encountered a similar situation. However, on the return trip, accompanied by two boys, no one said a word as we passed back by. At this point it became obvious that, for the first time in our lives, we needed boys. The deeper we went into the culture of the country, the more we noticed about the gender inequality. It was not uncommon for us to be the only women walking down a street at any given time. Native women we met in the shops were reserved and seemed to tiptoe around the men. They always seemed to be watching them to make sure they didn't overstep their boundaries. Their quiet uncertainty seemed awkward to four girls coming from the "free world." Women here were clearly not free; they were possessions who could be bought and sold at a man's whim, jokingly or not. This feeling of being a possession was imposed on us in a shop in Hammamet. Following the two boys into a small store, the owner stopped his conversation to look at me. Then, turning to Jean-Michel he said, "C'est � toi?" (It's yours?) I stood there for a moment, stunned. I had seen this mind-set, but had never expected to be included in it. With this single question the man had stripped me of any power or individuality in his mind. I was not a person, I belonged to someone else. In a similar experience a couple of days later, a man in a marketplace was trying to get the boys to look in his shop. We were running late for a bus and insisted we didn't have time. He immediately looked at the objecting girls and promptly told them, "Shut up." Then, he turned to Tim and attempted to strike a deal. Seeing it was futile to get him into his store, he quickly offered his sister. We didn't stay around long enough to see if he was joking or not, but the shock of such an arrangement still remains with us. As privileged men and women, it is difficult for us to comprehend this sort of culture. We listen to stories in class and in the news and are disgusted, but it never sinks in. Being thrown into this situation was an eye-opening experience. The women's rights issue is a global problem. I feel blessed to be able to walk down the street without fear of being sexually harassed. As uncomfortable as my situation was in Tunisia, I am lucky enough to return to an equal and free community. My heart goes out to those who are not so fortunate.

Found this article via this link

3 Comments:

Blogger cerebrator said...

Just because she felt opressed, she immediately thought all women there shared her sentiments.

The biggest problem with the writer's sentiments and those who share her views, is that she thinks the so called "culture of freedom" or is superior to any other culture.

What right do anyone has to say that their culture is superior than any others?

6:29 AM  
Blogger samsoum said...

She can't be describing Hammamet, right? She is confused about the country or what? This can't be true

5:54 PM  
Blogger mrschaieb said...

I can believe that some comments were made to the women when they were alone, but I've never experienced that level of offensiveness which I find astounding as Tunisians are generally, very polite and welcoming people. Tunisian women are not the downtrodden, passive creatures she seems to think they are. The more time I spend in Tunisia, the more the 'freedoms' of the west seem not to be freedom at all. In Tunisia, children are allowed to be children and not little adults. Modesty in dress and behaviour is important for both men and women. Yes, there are problems with freedom of speech and wider political freedoms, but given recent scandals in the west, I don't think we have room to criticise.

6:10 AM  

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