I May Be Haughty, But You, Sir, Are a Creep.
Trip Start Mar 04, 2007
20Trip End May 2009
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I have avoided ranting on this blog. Until now. 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned', so it's time to discuss things through a darker colored lens.
In Morocco, a repeated visual surfaces in my mind. I see myself in the middle of a rink with a spotlight shining on me. I am cowering under the light, but there isn't anywhere to go. There are darkened bleachers all around this rink, full of faces and people I can't see. I am constantly subject to scrutiny. Everywhere I go, people stare, make comments or follow me. Nothing provokes more anxiety in me than being the center of attention. I crave anonymity here so much. I just want to live, to go about my business. To greet a man without being unsure of whether or not I was supposed to. To raise my eyes without seeing someone stare at me. To not feel threatened
Occasionally an incident will occur here and I'll ask myself "Why did that happen to me?" Occasionally, the answer comes back as this "Because you are a female". I rarely perceive the world through my gender, but here, I have done so acutely. My mind felt like a watch that had been slowly wound, and after my most recent incident, began to tick. Then I felt the rage, the anger that comes with being aware of your own oppression. All of the insidious slights, and the outright denials of my right and ability to be, to be fully human. Being at a disadvantage, being oppressed, being a member of a marginalized group of people is akin to being shackled at the bottom of a well. You're in deep to being with, and there are a abundance of things in addition to your cardinal detriment which restrict your full humanity. How does one overcome that? How does a group of people overcome that?
There comes a time and a place where moral relativism doesn't't apply. And yes, thanks to my sensitized and liberal upbringing, I learned that all people do not behave in the same manner, nor should they. But acceptance doesn't't translate into giving a carte blanche to all behaviors, societal norms, or cultures for that matter. Just because a culture which you are not familiar with engages it puppy kicking, it doesn't't mean you should sit around and think up was to exempt that puppy kicking. It is wrong. No ifs, ands or buts.
Perhaps that has been one of the hardest things for me to grapple with here- knowing where to draw the lines, where to set the boundaries, and to stop employing exceptional-ism. A recent example of this is a woman that I know who is pregnant, S. S lives with one of my favorite friends in the village, an older woman who reminds me of a hobbit. She always has a twinkle in her eye, and is genuinely happy to see me every time we run into each other. Hers is one of the few houses where I feel comfortable and wanted (my village is nice, but not accessible, if that makes sense). I went over the other day to say hi, especially because I don't go over there near enough. I discovered that S was quite pregnant, almost 8 months along. I talked to her a little bit about the pregnancy, then decided I would return in a couple days. On Friday, I brought a book and we talked about danger signs of pregnancy, what happens during birth, cord-care and other matters. I asked her if she could go to the sbitar, just for the tetanus shot. She said no, her husband told her not to go. Absolutely not. I told her that I would take her there and sit in the room with her, if that would make a difference. It wouldn't't make a difference. Where is the husband? Working half-way across the country, not available for consultation. She stated that she knew there was medicine and injections which could help, and that she wanted to go to the sbitar. So here is the line in the sand. When you forbid your eighteen year old wife from going to the sbitar to receive even the most rudimentary information and/or treatments which will help her to have a safer pregnancy and birth, you. are. wrong.
So I return to the preliminary question. Where to draw that line? I once thought, "If it violates the Declaration of Human Rights, then I can know it's not okay". The immediate thought following that was "You are way too technical, and perhaps a little dumb". I can't pull out the Charter every time I'm pondering something. Just as former Supreme Court Justice Stewart Potter said, I can't tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it. Abstract indeed. But isn't it occasionally true that outside observers allow for a certain amount of clarity?
I am a human, I am a woman, I am a full being. And you can not serve me in restaurants, or say inappropriate things to me when I walk by, or even try to physically intimidate me. Or you can choose not to step up and defend me.
But every time you take those actions or say those words, you do not keep me in my place.
I am human, I am human, I am human.