Posted by: j | December 27, 2008

Girls vs. Boys

October 2008

After participating in two organized study abroad programs in Egypt and Oman, I’ve come to understand that there is a significant difference between the young women who study abroad in the Middle East and the young men who do the same.

Generally, I’ve found that girls who study Arabic in the Middle East are more outgoing and socially adept than their male counterparts. I noticed on both of my study abroad programs that the female participants were typically well rounded; they had equally prosperous academic and social lives. When I looked at the guys, I couldn’t draw the same conclusion. That’s not to say that all of the men were incapable of social function; there were plenty of guys who were just as gregarious as the girls. It’s just a generalization.

I think that this male-dorkiness/female-awesomeness must be due to the Middle East’s social environment. I think I can safely say that living here is much harder for foreign women that it is for foreign men. Think about it for a second. In Egypt, foreign women (as well as Egyptian women) are constantly harassed on the streets, groped, and followed by uncouth men. Getting into a taxi or asking an officer for directions even presents challenges.

I know that when I first moved here last year, getting used to the never ending verbal sexual harassment was the toughest th

ing I dealt with. I can handle it now; I almost feel like I’ve developed an immunity to it. I rarely notice it anymore. But I don’t think that everyone could do the same. It takes a strong individual to let disgusting, inapproriate remarks and actions roll of her back.

Men just don’t have to deal with these things. They aren’t bothered when they walk down the street. They don’t have to lower their eyes and pick up their pace when they walk by a group of Egyptian men. They never have to deal with the embarrassing and humiliating treatment that is accorded to foreign women here. They can get in a taxi without immediately being asked if they are married. They can ask for directions without being leered at. No one assumes that they are promiscuous. They aren’t catcalled, no one makes obscene gestures at them, because they aren’t sexualized the way that women are here. I feel like no matter how I dress, I can’t prevent people from perceiving me as a sex object.

That being said, I really believe that women face difficult and troublesome challenges when traveling here. Girls who live and study in the Middle East are stronger than men who study there because they have to be. Otherwise they just couldn’t make it.

Me and one of my incredible friends, who I met on my trip to Oman.


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