Friday, 25 June 2010

Men behaving culturally??

I am in Dubai. 

Kiri, our daughter, is coming for a visit  It's her first trip to the Northern hemisphere.  We decided to meet Kiri in Dubai and accompany her to Riyadh.

Kiri has been in Dubai a day and has already noted the strange practice that some, not all, but enough to be catergorized, Arab males have of staring at women.

I know separation of the sexes is very strictly adhered to in Saudi Arabia and I believe the UAE also follows similar rules, though they are more lenient regarding westerners.  I've lived in Saudi long enough to figure out that gender segregation has an interesting effect on youth which tends to be more noticeable in the younger male populace.

Young males stare at women. 

According to Islam the eyes are meant to be averted from the opposite sex at all times. (I checked this out with my taxi driver. Yes mam, that is correct).  Oh please!  Our eyes were created to look at the world around us.  That includes looking at people walking by.  It's one of the ways we assess our surroundings.  It's one of the ways we communicate our intentions - and I'm not talking sexual intentions either which, it appears to me, is what the law creators here seem to think gender mixing is all about.  I mean, I'm communicating my intention to not cause my fellow human any trouble, to just say hi, I acknowledge you, I'm a nice person, I see you are too and just walk by.  All  this is said in a casual glance without staring and with a smile.  Smiling is another wonderful attribute we were created with and, sadly, is rarely seen, especially in Saudi, in public.

It amazes me that the powers that be in this part of the world have difficulty accepting the human being was actually designed to be social, not just same sex social, which is what segregation here forces on people, but mixed gender social.  By suppressing mixing on a social level of both sexes, they are creating a young population bursting at the seams wanting to get to know each other.  That drive to do what comes naturally, get to know another human of the opposite gender, is normal, but the rules cause behavior that is down right weird.

By creating a rule that says 'do not look', you're actually encouraging people to break that rule, because every one knows unnatural, irrational rules are meant to be broken.  And everyone also knows whenever you break a rule you go overboard doing it.  So, the young men stare. 

I have not noticed the young women staring.  They look, yes, quickly under their lashes, I've seen the girls do that, but not the blatant staring.  I'm guessing that in Saudi the all covering veil is a great way for the female half of the population to be able to stare without being seen doing so.

The older, or more mature men, behave differently again.  I've noticed many of them have a furtiveness about them (is that a word, furtiveness .  Anyway, they have this nervous aversion of the eyes thing which almost says, 'Oh god, my eyes fell on her, I must look away or I'll not make it to the other side'.  The older women do this as well, but for some reason women tend to make this glance seem more relaxed than furtive.

Either way, the staring from frustration or the nervous flick of the eye from fear of eternal damnation, does not strike me as a good way to exist in the world.

Kiri also had her first encounter with the other weird behavior of some Arab men.  Stalking. 

I have read on other blogs about women being stalked by Arab men - stalked, butt squeezed and so on.  And not just western women, this is Saudi women completely abaya and niqab covered.  Since I've  never had anything like that happen to me in the 6 months I've been here I couldn't really relate to how affronted these women felt.

Glenn says I'm so oblivious to this sort of stuff I wouldn't notice a stalker anyway.  I'm more practical - I'm too bloody old to be stalked.  I have had one guy walk smack into a closed glass door he was so busy watching me walk by, but I'm sure he was wondering why an Arab looking woman was shopping with an American looking man.  And another circled the block slowly in his car 4 times before pulling over to hand me his phone number - very risky behavior   But no stalking.  (I handed his number back with a 'sorry, married' in my very best learner Arabic).

I now know how upset stalked women feel.  We got followed, or rather she got followed, I just happened to be with her, I really don't think this guy even computed that I was there, and if he did compute it he obviously didn't give a shit, in the Dubai Mall.  Followed up stairs, around the aquarium, along the shop fronts.  He'd stare.  He'd stop when we did.  He'd position himself so he could stare long and hard as we walked by.  It freaked her out a little. 

I have to wonder what causes a man, and this was not a teenage guy this was a man, to so blatantly stalk a young woman walking in the mall with her mother.  Raging hormones is not really a suitable excuse because behavior like this doesn't happen so frequently and openly in other parts of the world where hormones still rage.   And besides, he was too old to be a hormone ridden youth.

Maybe it's a cultural thing.  How does a culture create male stalkers?  By telling them to stay away from women?  Why would a man so publicly stalk?  Possibly desperation?  Or to make an impression?  I understand the mother in Saudi families has a big part to play in deciding who makes good marriage partners for their girls. Is the UAE the same?  Maybe that guy was hoping to make an impression on mother as well?  (I gotta say, he didn't). 

I really don't know the answers.  And I'm not allowed to talk to any men so I can try to understand the Arab male mentality.  Mind you, at times I don't really understand Glenn's mentality so I don't know why I might expect to get a grip on any other male thought processes.
I admit, I do, at times, miss the presence of males at the Saudi homes I've been to.  Males can, at times, add a balance that seems right - or maybe I've just got used to mixed gender get together s over the years and am starting to miss them.  Or maybe I'm past the honeymoon stage of moving to a new country and am now being more critical of the rules and cultural practices in this region.  (I read somewhere that there are stages of adjustment when moving countries.  It had never occurred to me before that people study this stuff, but now I know differently - it's possible to learn something new every day, isn't it!)

I reckon any culture that creates men who stare to such an extent the recipient becomes uncomfortable and stalk so publicly it's scary and a culture that tries so hard to suppress normal,  human behaviour has got to be unbalanced somewhere.

But that's just my opinion.
And there is more to Dubai, a lot more, than men who stare and stalk....but that's on another blog.

1 comment:

  1. sigh...i live here in Dubai too. I wear a abaya, which you would think would send the message i do not want you staring at me across very clearly..but alas it does not. It's such a frustrating thing to feel, and it makes me feel cheap and low. I honestly cannot comprehend why arab men do that sort of thing. i mean when they give out thier number, do they honestly expect the girl to call them? when they put down the window and try to flirt in thier greasy way, do they expect me to actually hop into the car with them? i just dont get it! it's killing me!


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