Thursday, March 13, 2014

That Small Feeling



A number of years ago I was crossing the lobby in a fancy hotel in Cairo, Egypt, to see if our reservation was ready.  It had been a rough airplane trip, a hot and sticky and dusty cab ride and I was already feeling jet lag.  I had almost approached the check-in desk with my last bit of energy when two tall men in white thobes covered by the traditional bisht trimmed in gold moved in front of me only inches from my face and called the clerk over.  They made no apology or even gave recognition that someone, a woman - me, had been brushed aside by their rude behavior.  They completely turned their broad backs to my face and began the check-in process.  I could have given them the benefit of the doubt, except I have been given the impression that Saudi men treat women as a much lower class and make all kinds of pretend excuses for the way the culture makes women behave and dress.  Clearly I was a level lower than their well-dressed women in my Western dress.  They wore shiny large watches and talked in firm voices and did not once look my way as they walked away to the elevators.  I could have been a potted plant.  They really did not see me!  How can you be rude to a potted plant?

A few years later my husband and I had been invited to a reception in the South Pacific to celebrate the completion of a large bridge.  There were drinks and hors d'oeuvres.  Hubby and I had our brief chat with one of the high chiefs and every single time I made a comment during the conversation I was totally ignored while the Chief turned to my husband to talk.  The third time that this happened I walked away and got more wine and perused the table until hubby was done.

A few years later my daughter and I had just finished a special tour of the catacombs and St. Peter's resting place beneath the Vatican (my daughter's MIL is Catholic and this tour was for her).  Once again I was tired from having been in an area with little oxygen and listening to rather dry history and having to stand for over an hour in close quarters.  We had walked up stairs into one of the many alcoves of St Peters church, and I was just turning to view but one more tomb of one more saint when two Cardinals dressed in crisp black robes and blood red sashes and red head cover walked right in front of me at a deliberate and slow saunter.  ONCE AGAIN I had become the potted plant.  The area was not filled with tourists and there was plenty of room for them to move away from me.  They walked so closely I lost my balance for just an instant and felt the robe of one against my ankle.  Not once did they apologize or act as if they had seen me.  They were deeply involved in some miraculous thought I am guessing, and when you are planning miracles how can you bother with a low level tourist.  If I had been Catholic I might have been forgiving and even a little honored, but because I have long had black issues with this church, I just frowned and turned away looking for fresh air and less gilded stuff.

I could list other times like this happening at work or at meetings.  I am a women and for some reason on this planet the other gender does try to keep us feeling small.  Well, times are changing all over, if ever so slowly both by men and women to a fairer world.

25 comments:

Stephen Hayes said...

It's a shame that women around the world are treated poorly, especially since sociologists now believe it was women who created language and culture in the first place while men were off hunting and coming home to the cave empty handed.

Olga said...

That touched a nerve!

Kerry said...

Great illustrations to go along with your writing, Tabor. *sigh* I have had similar experiences, sad to say. And not just by Arab men, either.

Anita said...

Sounds familiar, which is too bad. I've had similar situations. There is hope, though, as indicated by your 2nd image.

I take issue with many "women" who are happy to stay in the 2nd class position. There have been many conversations I've had where I tell someone that I am teaching my daughters certain specific things that let them know their brain power, leadership abilities, etc. and the (implied) responses I get from some "women" are incredulous. OMG, God forbid they can't hook a man. :)

I'm not trying to change my daughters to men or to take away their femininity, but stooping only adds to the superior attitude that some men have.

Martin Luther King said, "A man can't ride your back unless it is bent."

Like Olga said, that touched a nerve.

Hilary said...

It happens on large, cultural scales.. it also happens in small, more personal situation. Empowerment doesn't usually come easily.

Betsy Adams said...

Hi There, We are home from George's fabulous birthday trip. I will blog about it tomorrow. It was truly a trip we will be talking about for a VERY long time!!!!

Women in many places across the world are treated horribly. But--it's not always JUST the females. In many areas--people in general seem to have no worth. Killing or abusing another human being is not a problem at all in some cultures.

I have never traveled anywhere much out of this country ---so I haven't experienced this personally. BUT--I certainly have read about it happening... Very sad!

Hugs,
Betsy

Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

The world belongs to men.
The women are oppressed.

I am half way writing about this.

Mage said...

That happened to me once this week. They talked to G not to me. I noted this happened yet again, and I chose to ignore it. Yes, we are women, and we are equal.

And it is Woman's Month.

Linda Reeder said...

I have not had those experiences. Perhaps because I worked in a woman's world, elementary school teacher, I have had different experiences. Also, Seattle is not a "man's world" kind of place, and since my husband was also an elementary school teacher, he was not more "important".

Snaggle Tooth said...

Often I have felt the same. Taking women's issues studies in college made me really notice the state of Patriarchy n how women are often treated as property even in enlightened times. I've paid a heavy price for being female with lower wages. I always apply for men's jobs, n get systematically paid less, fewer raises, n not promoted.

If you are assertive you are a female dog, or not to be taken seriously. It's the disregard n disrespect that gets you tho-

It's such a sore pet peeve of mine. In your situations there, I might have loudly said something like "Excuse ME!"
Instead of letting it go.

messymimi said...

And if you stand up and say something, you are a B****. It's wrong, especially in churches.

Granny Annie said...

I attended many meetings and would voice a well thought out suggestion which would fall on deaf ears. Later a gentleman would express the exact same idea, thinking he had thought of it on his own. It would be well received and he would be applauded for coming up with such a good idea.

Once I was told by the company President, "This is a good idea but I will have to present it to the Board as my own if we're going to get it done, because you know they would never accept it coming from a woman."

This is the good old U.S. of
A. I'm not talking about the Middle East here folks.

We are so busy fighting for equality for everyone but ourselves.

colleen said...

Haha...love that statue at the end. I never trust people who look at Joe when they talk and act like I am invisible!

Hattie said...

I went back to college in the 80's and battled it out in the culture wars. This has made me pretty tough about all these matters. If a guy likes to make women small, he does not have much going for him.

Barb said...

Here's something I've noticed recently: if I'm walking on the sidewalk in the city, men walking abreast often don't yield to give me any room and "try" to force me off the pavement. Am I invisible? If I were a younger woman, would I be noticed and given my necessary space to pass by them? I've started to stand my ground on the sidewalk - I can brace myself for impact if I have to! Also, friends (of a certain age) and I have noticed that in sporting goods stores we're often not taken seriously and sometimes ignored. If that happens, I take my business elsewhere. I have the cash to buy and don't expect to beg for service. Goodness, you've fired me up with this post, Tabor!

Friko said...

You are obviously not young and sexy enough for men to notice you.

Women become more and more invisible as they age. Best thing to do is kick up a fuss and make a scene and insist on respect and fair play. Unless you find scenes distasteful. Then you’ve had it.

Anvilcloud said...

There is no good reason to be boorish and discourteous to other human beings. Having said that, I would have been tempted to step on a cardinal's robe ... and maybe a sheik's too.

Lonely Rivers said...

"Mr Cellophane " said it best, and he was a guy.

Freda said...

I wonder if it is ever going to change.. .

Blessings from Dalamory

Brian Miller said...

ugh...i am glad that it is getting better, but how sad the way we treat each other...and some cultures are a bit ahead of others....

KathyA said...

This makes me very, very angry. I'm not used to being overlooked or ignored and tend to be confrontational when this happens. You, however, were much more the lady than I. I probably would have created an international incident!

Brighid said...

I have found that for me, with men if I'm assured, confident, comfortable in my own skin, and respectful, they show the same respect to me. (wish I could say the same about some of the women I've dealt with). I have been exposed to men from other cultures, but I'm not a world traveler. Possibly it was the ranch environment I was raised in where women are as valued as men.

Peruby said...

It is funny how we can sit in our own little world and think how far we have come.

And then....

Rain Trueax said...

I live near a university community; so I have noticed a big difference in how men from various cultures treat women-- in public. I personally have never had anyone not see me, or talk to my husband not me, but have had men who will go through a door and virtually slam it behind them rather than hold it open for the next person-- male or female. I like to hold it open for women or men if I am there first. Men often give me a big, surprised smile as it's not what they are expecting ;)

Celia said...

I've had similar experiences sadly. I worked with customers from around the world at a large aerospace firm and some of our clients raised a stink having to deal with a woman. Fortunately my company backed me up. So did the utility I worked for at a younger age as a construction project manager. My management basically told then "get over it." Still it keeps happening. The phrase "woman is the 'n-word'" of the world" was coined by Yoko Ono in an interview with Nova magazine in 1969 and was quoted on the magazine's cover. The song describes women's subservience to men and male chauvinism across all cultures.