Feminism | Posted by Helen H on 07/23/2009

From the other side of the globe

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

I’m fifteen, and I live all the way in Amman, Jordan. I do get a lot of, “Jordan? Is that, like, behind California?” but that’s not the point. Jordan is a Middle-Eastern country—“Wow. Do you ride camels there?”—and has a population that is predominantly Muslim.

As such, it’s not the best place to be a feminist, or a female, for that matter. Surprisingly (or not), the prospect of female empowerment is suppressed not only by religious extremism, but by pop culture.

I know, I know. That happens everywhere. But the thing is, there just doesn’t seem to be a middle-ground, per se. It’s either oppression in the name of religion, with work, and covering up, and honor killings (which I have quite a rant on), or fake empowerment–you know, as seen on T.V… Let’s wear skimpy clothing and swoon a lot! Self-respecting, empowered female? I think not. Exploring individual sexuality and not the mass-marketable kind in the media or the abstinence-until-marriage version from tradition? No way. Sex and politics remain rather taboo subjects over here.

That lack of “middle-ground” makes it, to say the least, irritating, because neither side of the spectrum seems appealing to you, and you don’t seem appealing to either side of the spectrum, either. Naturally, it gets frustrating if you try and fit in with one of the two groups (I’m making wide generalizations here, but for simplicity’s sake, bear with me). One group will chastise you for your more liberated views towards taboo subjects, rejecting them, and dubbing you and your opinions Westernized (the horror!). The other will call you a prude for refusing to act like a slut.

So, yes. It is hard being a feminist here, as I’m sure it is everywhere. I don’t mean to exaggerate: we’re not forced by law to cover our heads, we are employed in a range of careers, and the “Sex sells” attitude is frowned upon by the majority of people here. Still, a progressive Jordan is refusing to let go of demeaning, oppressing, and in some cases, brutal traditions—from arranged marriages, and the stereotype of child-bearer and house-cleaner, to honor killings and other gender-based crimes. A progressive Jordan remains exceedingly patriarchal, and sadly, no one acknowledges that something must be done. The devout Muslims are allegedly comfortable where they are, and the younger generation of women thinks it’s empowered and liberated by worshipping sex symbols and fretting about the newest style of skinny jeans and lip-gloss.

Do either of them know better?

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  • RebJ @ at 11:04 pm, July 23rd, 2009

    “Surprisingly (or not), the prospect of female empowerment is suppressed not only by religious extremism, but by pop culture.”

    Thank you for sharing, Helen! I really like this point that you made. Westerners complain of the dehumanizing opression women on the other side of the world face, but Western pop culture has long been a the main culprit in women’s oppression worldwide. It may even more harmful than religious extremism because of how fast it is spreading, and how most tend to justify it as “modernization”. There is nothing modern OR empowering OR liberating about women being ok with treating themselves AND each other like objects.

    It really hits the core of the problems between America and the Middle East–one is guilty of an extremist culture, the other is guilty of a deteriorating (or lack of) culture. As a result, both misunderstand and harm each other.

  • husam taha @ at 9:50 am, October 3rd, 2009

    Hey all,

    i really do not agree with more than half the stuff the writer mentions here. but that is really not the case… what impresses me the most, is that she is able to think so extensivly, at such a young age. impressive i must say, truly imprsseive… anywho..

    i refrain from commenting on the subject itself, =D sorry. cause such subjects are highly contreversial

    tc! :)

  • Patrick @ at 4:49 pm, October 6th, 2010

    Hi Helen

    to come to the point straightly:

    i would like to find people in Jordania who would want to set up an international (germany, palestine, jordania?) youth camp with us in Jordania.
    The camp should teach some lessons by something strange: be populated by both girls and boys and ruled by girls only!
    To start in summer of 2011 – just soon!

    Something for you? just mail me: aek-stiftung@aek-stiftung.de

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