I’ve been meaning to write a bit about how women dress here for a while. A common thought in the west is that men force women to wear what they wear here. I’m sure that there’s a lot of that going on, but I get the distinct feeling that most women here prefer wearing the balto/hijab/veil. Forcing them to not wear them would be like making a woman in the west take off her pants. Walking around in your underwear isn’t exactly scandalous, but it sure would be embarrassing to go to the supermarket like that. Wearing the whole getup is considered modest here, going without one of the items of clothing would be horrifying to most women here.
Having said that, if a (local) woman doesn’t want to wear some of those things, she’s in for a very hard time. Her family (male and female) will give her a very hard time and the men on the street will def. give her a hard time. Many women simply can’t choose what to wear because of their husband and/or family. As you might imagine, this upsets me considerably…
Then there is today’s Yemen Times. I’ll put the first couple of paragraphs up here…
“Fatima, 30, of Sana’a, who asked that her whole name not be revealed, was married and has three kids. Until recently, she was living happily with her family. Then, she was invited to a wedding party in her area. She prepared by putting on makeup and dressing up in a fancy dress to attend the party.
At the wedding party, she spent a lovely time with the other women there. A short time later, her husband was at work, when a friend said to him, “if you want to see hot pictures, turn on your Bluetooth.” Bluetooth technology allows users to send information wirelessly from one device to another, say from phone to phone or computer to computer. Fatima’s husband was excited when he received the pictures, but when he saw them, he was surprised and angered in the same time, because he saw his wife in these pictures.
He immediately went back to his home and asked his wife how her photographs got out. She did not know that some girls took pictures of her at the wedding party, and then sent them by Bluetooth to every mobile nearby. The husband did not believe her, however, and so he divorced her and the lovely family collapsed. Fatima is just one of the victim’s of the downside of new technology. While Bluetooth can be an excellent tool for working and communicating, it can also create serious problems when used irresponsibly.”
See the rest of the article here.
OK, there are so many problems with this I don’t even know where to begin. How about the husband’s hypocrisy? What if someone had spied on her while she was dressing/undressing? If the pictures he saw were of her in some sort of state of undress, he probably would have killed her. No exaggeration, I would expect it, and I’m sure that most locals would too.
At some point, someone has to say that it isn’t a crime to want to see a woman’s face, that it isn’t unnatural to want to see her hair. In addition, it isn’t any sort of moral failing, and it does not reflect badly on a woman if she wants to show her face. There are rumblings along those lines here, but that’s in the big city. In the villages, especially further north towards Saudi, this type of talk is not tolerated.
Just when I am about to give this culture the benefit of the doubt, something stupid like this comes up. I don’t bother discussing it with the locals, it would only piss me off. Today is one of those days that I wonder why this society isn’t even worse off than it is. It is shocking to see how low an opinion the men have of women here, it’s also shocking that they lay all of the supposed faults with sex drive at the woman’s feet. I have read two introductions to Islam for westerners and both have explained the balto/hijab/veil in terms of rape avoidance. According to Islamic thought (and I don’t think that this is supported by the Koran but an interpretation from bedouin circles) women are raped because of their beauty. There it is, it is their fault. Make no mistake, if a guy is caught raping a woman, he is going to die. But frequently, the woman is killed to “preserve their honor.” So called honor crimes are on the decline, but they are still prevalent.
Abdul Summit told me that Yemen is like America in the 70’s. Maybe the 1870’s, but then again, I don’t think we were ever as backwards as they are with women right now…