Miss you all! Hope all is well. It’s been a rainy few days in Amman, something the city is not used to. Even some of the fanciest buildings are leaking. The rain has given me a great landmark by which to give taxi cab drivers directions to my place: left a the circle, left into the second small alleyway, and right at the newly formed lake.
Candice Haddad, a former WGS portfolio student, just got to Jordan a couple days ago. We are talking feminism and site seeing.
I wanted to share something I recently wrote about my time in Jordan with you all.
Shoot me a few lines when you get a chance. I can’t wait to see you all when I get back to Texas.
Hope all is well,
Picking a Wedgie in the Middle East
The matter couldn’t be ignored, not a moment longer. There I stood, facing Queen Rania Street in front of the University of Jordan, contemplating what seemed like a critical decision: to pick or not to pick?
My underwear had ridden up into an uncomfortable bunch, commonly known as awedgie. “To pick” would mean to break serious cultural norms, drawing unwanted attention and criticism. “Not to pick,” would mean discomfort at the very least, and felt a little like defeat for a feminist. I took a few urgent steps towards a secluded corner, looking to escape men’s eyes that followed me like a kitten’s eyes follow string. When that didn’t work, I walked into a bookshop, hoping I could find just 5 seconds of privacy. I became angrier and angrier with each disagreeable stride at the realization that I had nowhere to go and that at any given moment there was at least one pair of eyes studying my every move. The hunt for a perfect spot lasted for what felt like ten minutes, that’s ages inwedgie time. Eventually, I surrendered to scrutiny.
It was at that moment that I truly realized I am living in a foreign country. I would be faced with this recurring dilemma, metaphorically speaking, for the rest of my stay in the Middle East. Understanding the implications of the public and private sphere go beyond quintessential examples of employment opportunities and household chores. Although I am able to function in the public sphere (ie shop at stores, study at the university, eat at restaurants), I always feel like a visitor. As a “guest” in the public sphere my dress, my walk, my gaze, the words that come out of my mouth, my laugh, everything that makes me who I am, is monitored. I am not deprived of “real” opportunities, so to speak, but I am deprived of feeling comfortable in my own skin and experiencing the simplicity of day-to-day scenarios. Imagine feeling the pressure of a job interview every time you ran to the supermarket to grab some water, or picked up something to eat on the way home from school.
I was amazed at how quickly I adjusted. I became keenly aware of the sound my shoes make when I walk, my neck and clavicle when my hair was in a ponytail, conversations on my cell phone—things about my life I never would have let strangers on the street take a part in shaping. I moved to the Middle East with an appreciation for Arab customs and an expectation to adjust to varying, if not opposing, norms. As an Arab American woman, I believed that the transition would be cushioned by my knowledge of the language, familiarity with the culture, and acceptance of an alternate way of life. I soon discovered that my experience abroad would be characterized by three all encompassing themes: gender, time, and space.