How many times have you picked your nose? Would you pick someone else’s nose? Although we pick our noses while no one is watching, we feel disgusted if we see someone doing it. This is how I feel people look at each others’ culture setbacks. There is absolutely no culture that has it all.
Every culture has its setbacks. People who belong to the same culture usually acknowledge their problems, but get offended when someone from a different culture points out these setbacks. An Egyptian friend got offended when a Facebook friend, an American woman, mentioned in her comment on my Facebook status the sexual harassment incidents that happen in the streets of Egypt. He told me to inform her about the many sexual harassment incidents that happen on American campuses before she blames Egyptian men and to mind her own business.
Sexual harassment in some Arab countries is a big problem. Arabs are both aware and sick of it. But it seems most Arab men feel defensive when someone brings the issue up. I don’t know why, maybe because they feel shameful and helpless to change such epidemic.
I want to state here that sexual harassment in the Arab streets is mainly verbal and involve lots and lots of ogling. The reason I want to state this here is that many young Arab men consider these catcalling as flirtation. No doubt any behavior that makes women feel uncomfortable walking on the street is wrong. It is a real cultural problem in the Arab world that we yet to get rid of.
But is it only an Arab thing?
Once every week or two, we receive an email from the campus police about a sexual assault incident that took place on our campus. Time magazine calls it ‘Rape Culture.’ The latest Time magazine cover made me ponder how we spot other’s setbacks easier than we acknowledge ours.
“Rape-the crisis in higher education” is the latest cover issue of Time magazine. The article is an eye opening to a real crisis on American campuses. If you live in the United States you should read it.
“The truth is, for young women, America’s campuses are hazardous places. Recent research shows that 1 in 5 women is the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault during college.”
With all the advanced and sophisticated laws and policies the USA has, it is only in 2012 that it had to redefine rape. “The FBI now defines rape as ‘penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.’ Earlier language referred to sex inflicted ‘forcibly and against her will.’ The newer ‘without the consent’ language is meant to include victims who are incapacitated by alcohol or cannot otherwise give consent.”
The good news is Americans are acknowledging they have a problem. The bad news any suggestion to solve the problem is taken as negative solutions. Therefore, the only measures taken so far to limit such incidents are harsher punishment.
Most of the sexual harassment incidents that occur on American campuses happen during a party that involves the consumption of alcohol. Being foreign to the culture of alcohol consumption I would say alcohol is the problem. But then Europeans drink more alcohol than Americans at a younger age. I am not sure if their campuses suffer from sexual assaults like in the USA though. Is there any European reader here?
“But these women chose to work in a strip club” was what an American woman told me when I mentioned that American women working in strip clubs is one way to look at it as oppressing women. The discussion was over ‘hijab.’ She felt working in a strip club is a choice but considers women choosing to cover their body a type of oppression.
Every sports team in the USA has a mascot and a cheerleading team. I get the mascot, but fail to understand how women dancing and wearing skimpy skirts is not a sexual objectification of women. But then people from outside my circle fail to understand how women covering their bodies are not oppressed.
Culture is complicated. Even things that are considered normal in one culture are looked at as unimaginable in another culture. Try to convince a Yemeni that Khat or Qat is bad. Try to convince a Saudi man that there is nothing wrong with women driving cars. The biggest porn industry in the world is in the USA yet prostitution is illegal. Hollywood undermines Bollywood movies and consider these movies’ silly and with no valuable content. This is the same industry that made its money from superheroes and aliens attacking the earth movies.
I know many things I don’t like about the American culture the same as an American will find many things that he or she will not like about my culture. But also we both can find more things to love about other’s culture. Have you ever traveled to a different country and not felt happy? You know why? Because you broke the culture barrier. The more cultures you interact with the happier you will be.
I still remember when my mom’s friend advised her not to go to Turkey because she heard that thieves there will cut a woman’s hand to steal her ring or bracelet. This was back in the 80s and this woman had never been to Turkey when she said that.
There is no culture you will like and get used to more than the one you were raised by, but your culture becomes boring sometimes and for this you need to explore a different culture. We are so different and this is the beauty of life. When I was in Malaysia I lived one year with a Hindu Indian family and another with a Chinese family. It was a life time experience. I was planning to do the same when I come to the USA. I wanted to live with an American family. But then four months before my arrival to the USA, in September 2001, a group of people in my circle hated everything about the American culture.