Saturday, July 2, 2011

Jordanian Men

During my time in Jordan, I began to feel sympathy for Jordanian men.  They are often blamed for oppressing women within the country, but I really believe the men are victims as well.  They perform a masculinity that is expected of them.  There is sadness mixed with an arrogance one senses when interacting with the country's men.

The oldest males in any family are favored.  In fact, once a male is born the father loses his name and is know as "father of ______" and the mother becomes "mother of ________."  This doesn't happen when a daughter is born, even if she is the eldest.  One of our tour guides told of us of men who never had sons, so they just made up a name of a son so they could have the nickname as well.

I witnessed the favoritism of eldest sons many times during my time in Jordan.  When I was leaving Amman, an Arab man and his two sons were on my flight to London.  The father spoke directly to his eldest son many times, virtually ignoring the younger son.  He also kissed the child on the lips multiple times and checked on him constantly while the boy was sleeping on the plane.

There was another Arab man on the plane; he had two daughters and a son.  The son was the middle child.  Again, all of his attention was on the son.  These sons are treated like kings and waited on hand and foot by their parents and the rest of their families.  They can't help but grow up with a sense of entitlement.  (Speaking of kings, it is law that the successor to the Jordanian throne must be a male). 

One of our speakers during our seminar spoke about some research she had done on invisible girls in Jordan.  Basically, she was concerned about how girls were rarely seen in public.  (You may remember that I commented on an early blog post how I rarely ever saw young girls in Amman).  The researcher found that people believed girls should be in the private sphere while boys can be in the public sphere.  It all boils down to how the people interpret modesty in Islamic Law.  Many people believe that keeping girls in their houses protects them.  (An expert on Islamic Law told us that this is a misinterpretation of the law.  They said that this is a cultural practice not dictated by religion).

Unrelated boys and girls rarely interact with each other in Arab parts of the world.  They are schooled separately, girls are rarely in the public sphere, and everyone is pretty much banned from coed interaction.  As a result, boys become young men without any unrelated girl friends.  The young ladies at the University of Jordan told us about all of the catcalls they get on the streets.  They believe this has a lot to do with men being sexually oppressed.  Women are a mystery to these catcallers; the men feel no personal connections to the women as human beings with feelings.

These boys make all the calls in their houses when it comes to their sisters and mothers and female cousins, so they feel that every women should be bossed around by them.  The men are behaving the way they've been taught.  There are expectations on Jordanian men and they're just trying their best not to disappoint their families and their tribes.

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