Saturday, August 22, 2009

walnuts and harassment

I’ve been following Kinzi’s talk about sexual harassment, and the JO article that makes a big deal of a small sex tourism market and glosses over the gross treatment of women.
I was talking with a friend today. She said weekly, if not daily, she has a man say to her under his breath, but loud enough for her to hear, “ma ahla ilbzaaz” which roughly translates to “how attractive are your breasts” although it's actually more crude than that. Mind you this is an Arab woman who is pregnant, dressed moderately, and in West Amman. She has considered breast reduction surgery simply to avoid the harassment of Jordanian men.
I was at Safeway the other day and treated very poorly by several employees. I asked in clear Arabic where I could find walnuts. No, they were not in the aisle with the almonds, peanuts, and pistachios. The man I asked kept telling me I was looking for coconut juice. The word for coconut ‘jawz ilhind’ has the same first word as walnut ‘jawz’. Then he joked with the other employee next to him and refused to help me find any walnuts. As my Arabic is quite good, I could tell they were trying to confuse me and tease me because the Arabic word for husband is ‘zawj’. I was certainly not looking for a husband, and any Western woman I know who seriously considers dating an Arab man gets quite a talk from me!
I’m quite fed up with having to arrange so many errands and tasks of daily life around times when my husband can be around to protect me from the stares, leers, and harassment. Enough is enough. I hope these men, while they go about their fasting and prayers, take some time to consider the treatment of women in this society. Please, let Ramadan be Kareem (generous) to the women as well.

~ Um Tulip


Sharon M said...

Hmm, I would have (probably) found a female employee and ask her who the manager was... it doesn't always work, but sometimes the manager can be helpful in situations such as these.

Also, is there an Arabic phrase/retort equivalent to "Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?"

Anonymous said...

So, so sorry. Isn't it sad you can't even go to the store without this kind of innuendo.

Thx for following my JO issue. It's continuing, I just don't know where to go from here, drop it or press on.