|Photo Credit: http://becomingkindred.com/blog/2013/6/9/a-letter-to-the-designers-of-this-seasons-childs-bathing-suits|
|Pink Overalls!Source: http://www.belk.com/products/oshkosh-baby-clothes.jsp|
|My infamous high school kilt|
Living in Saudi Arabia has clarified even more about how the way women dress influences how men respond to women. I have been shocked at how men behave EVEN WHEN WOMEN ARE literally COVERED FROM HEAD TO TOE. One day, I decided to go for a nice evening walk when the weather wasn't too hot at a walking area here in Jeddah. My husband waited in the car and I was enjoying myself and the evening breeze. I was wearing my abaya (long black cloak that covers the whole body), a headscarf (according to local laws I have to cover. Fine. I knew that when I moved here and I cover willingly as a sign of respect for the culture). I was also COVERING MY FACE just to be sure I wasn't going to attract too much attention. (NB: I am the only white woman I've ever seen in my neighbourhood, and every other woman covers her face, so I wanted to blend in when I was alone outside.) After about 20 minutes, 2 cars had honked at me. Another had made a cat call. What??? ALL YOU COULD SEE WERE MY EYES!!!! After 30 minutes, a guy was walking right behind me, trying to chat me up. I was shocked. Was the design on my abaya too attractive? No! I had to stop thinking this way. It was suddenly clear that the cat calls and the chatting up were, at least in this context, not about me. It was about men.
|Walking Area in Jeddah|
As I prepare for my move back to Canada (I fly out in less than a month on July 12th!), I'm mulling over all these ideas. I'm not sure how I'll be comfortable dressing now that I've been in a conservative country for two years. I'm not used to being around men. I work in an all-female environment and rarely come into contact with guys apart from drivers and, of course, DH.
I've learned that even though some men may be rude, others respect me. Despite the story I shared about my walk in Jeddah, I can honestly say that in other contexts, men here can be very respectful, polite, and dignified. In my apartment building, any time I come in and a man is waiting for the elevator, he moves away and lowers his gaze. I've always felt very comfortable in my building and most places that I go.
|The cable guy... a little too friendly?|
At the end of the day, we have to teach men how to treat us. Our attitude, the way we carry ourselves, and, as part of this package, the way we dress, can be some of the many tools we use to convey this. And we must insist--over and over again--how we, dignified, self-respecting women, deserve to be treated. It is only then that, if we're lucky, men will step up to the challenge.
|How we all deserve to be treated!|