The Forgetfully Submissive Woman

I have to start this with the disclaimer that I am no feminist, and I think the majority of feminists would have my head for what I have to say on the subject. I've found a lot of what I've read and heard in feminism to be self-defeating, but that's just my opinion. At the end of the day, the bottom line for me is that I have a keen aversion to the gross disrespect of any human being, for any reason. But I've just returned from the Middle East, and the topic of the status of women after returning from there is nearly unavoidable. This brings me to the only female tour guide that we had in Israel, and while I'd love to use her real name, and shower her with all the public praise I believe she deserves, this is the Middle East I'm writing about, and I will call her Pat.

Now, know that I have a difficult time keeping hatred straight, but the story goes a little like this. The Jews and Arabs are enemies apparently. My group stayed in Bethlehem, which is essentially one large refugee camp. Bethlehem is under Palestinian control, and thus a Jew may not even enter the city, up to the penalty of death. To counter, Arabs of Bethlehem may not leave Bethlehem without the risk of the same penalty. It's the jail of man's inhumanity to man. We were on a tour bus headed outside of Bethlehem, and I was in one of my usual reveries, listening to, no lie, 'Heal The World,' by Michael Jackson. Right around, 'make a little space, for a better place,' I look over to the aisle of the bus where there happened to be two men with machine guns hunting Palestinians. I could not time that. Needless to say the situation is volatile. And very sad.

Both of our Israeli tour guides were Jewish, the male tour guide always said his goodbyes at the entrance of Bethlehem at the end of the day, but Pat stayed defiantly with us, even in Bethlehem. She was more New York Jewish, then Israeli Jewish and I adored her minutes after meeting her. The media does a decent job of displaying the muted life of a Middle Eastern woman, and just to supplement what we've seen on tv, my thoughts are that they are pretty much like every other woman I know. It's clear that the second-class citizen thing, burkas aside, hasn't quite taken for some of those women, and are force with which to be reckoned.

Pat was friendly to Palestinians. For those who wanted to shop, she took us to places in Bethlehem where she knew the people could use the business. The staff at the hotel in Bethlehem greeted her warmly. There's just no way they didn't know she was Jewish, but they looked the other way. There was a clear, unspoken understanding between the staff and Pat. It was obvious to me that she'd been there before, perhaps many times. Pat spoke on the status of women in the Middle East. She stated the life of a Middle Eastern woman is still a tough one, even in the more progressive parts of the Middle East. Her personality was far more abrasive than my own, but she was a 'take no prisoners' kind of woman, and I liked that. I liked the rebel with a cause thing that she had going, and her cavalier dismissal of the societal rules that didn't suit her. She was considerate, genuine, and frankly, most of what she said was right.

Pat observed that most Middle Eastern woman were very successful in getting whatever they wanted from their men by playing the submission game. In the manner of, (and I'm taking my creative liberties here), "oh, submission? we're doing that today? I am lost without your greatness, oh great one, oh thou. All of my girl hormones must have caused me to forget how to clean this house today. Surely, you can do this, Lord, as you can do anything." Apparently these childish games are highly effective in certain marriages in the region, but Pat made it clear that she just wasn't up for that. She admired the effectiveness, but couldn't handle the idea for even one second, and always takes the blunt approach in her own marriage. She said her hat went off to the women with the stomach for it.

I loved Pat's take on nearly everything, she just hadn't read the Middle Eastern woman handbook, and it was hilarious. Personally, I consider myself an intermittently submissive woman, and just who am I trying to irritate more, feminists, or men who have arrived at the foolish conclusion that women are somehow beneath them? I have never, and would never tolerate anyone mistreating me, and I am bewildered by the women who do. There's also the fact that I consider egotism a dangerous weakness, and I won't hesitate to use someone's egotism against them if I feel I need to. I have more fight to me then most, but I am careful battle chooser. And there's the fact that I am a nurse, and the only nurses I know who haven't learned a little about ego management, including managing their own egos, are called 'nursing instructors.' Being the 'big picture' kind of woman that I am, if 'let's pretend it was your idea not to kill this patient, Doctor,' saves the patient, I'm game. That's really just way the way my mind works.

Comments 19 comments

ilmdamaily profile image

ilmdamaily 6 years ago from A forgotten corner of a dying empire. OK, it's Australia :-)

Finally, someone's had the guts to challenge the whole "oppressed women" angle on the middle east! While the region's not exactly a shining beacon of human rights, too many people oversimplify the issue of gender within traditional societies to a case of simple "oppression." I think you've struck a good balance here, SJ.

In a strange way, when people reduce the argument to an issue of "oppression", they inadvertently rob women of their agency. Whatever the realities of geneder roles in the middle east, to place women at the bottom of a victim-centred discourse is to eliminate even the intellectual avenues by which these issues can be addressed.

The sexual politics of the region are as complex - and occasionally just as volatile - as the cultural and geographical politics - it's great that you perceived that! And contrasting your observations of that with the example of your jewish friend is very original - people don't often have the ability to see the link, only the conflict. I like it:-)

Class, gender, religion, culture and nationalism all conflate to create an incredibly complicated - but beautiful - part of the world. Too often religion is cited (often by people with a generally anti-religion agenda) as the reason behind the problems of the middle east...but I think your perceptions here are right on the money: that the same complexity which makes the region so difficult to understand from the outside, also creates a quiet strength in diversity, as demonstrated by Pat's relationship with some of the Palestinian shopkeepers.

...and I love the picture at the top too - I can't help but imagine her famous smile beneath the veil, ironically underlining your point:-)

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 6 years ago Author

Whoa, Kristin, you got a lot of that, thanks. I deal well with complexity, and the Middle East is certainly no simple place--not the politics, not the religious studies, not gender roles, not any of it. And even in all of the ways it is misunderstood, their foundation pursuits are the same as everyone elses--happiness, love, something to belive in. There's a lot wrong with the situation, there's a lot familiar about the situation in varying degrees nearly everywhere. But a child playing in the street in every country always makes the loudest statement, and challenges the idea of human inhumanity in the most profound ways.

carrie450 profile image

carrie450 5 years ago from Winnipeg, Canada

This was a most interesting hub to read. I am so intrigued by the difference in cultures, especially the way that women are treated. Will there ever be peace.

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 5 years ago Author

Hi, Carrie! I had to re-read this hub to remember what I wrote. This trip was to Egypt and Israel, and it was an amazing experience. My particular faith is banned in Egypt because we won't fight in wars, but it was great being there. How women are treated there really is a problem. As crazy as I am, I wouldn't leave the hotels without a man with me when I was there. The sexual harassment, for instance, was so bad, the guys in our group were surrounding the girls in our grip when we went out. I was so sick of it.

Being in Israel was indescribable, it was a dream of mine. To be on the Sea of Galilee, tour Capernaum, visit Nazareth, and to really appreciate even the acoustics of how the Sermon on the Mount was delivered was an experience that will always be with me. It brought a life and breath to the scriptures I've always studied in such a powerful way. It was easy to see this as a land promised to a people because it is breath-taking. It really is a sight to behold. Watching the day to day of Israel is like watching history in the making, but also like watching a history that won't stop happening. Even during 'peace' the level of hatred, and unrest, and fear is audible, as if you're listening to something tick. Will there ever be peace? Yes. But scripturally, not by the work of man.

Thanks for reading, btw!

parrster profile image

parrster 5 years ago from Oz

What can I say, I'm coming to accept poignant writing whenever I see your hub-name.

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 5 years ago Author

Thanks, parrster, again. And you can see Kristin's input here also. He no longer writes on hubpages but the hubs he did write are excellent if you get a chance to read them.

Treasuresofheaven profile image

Treasuresofheaven 5 years ago from Michigan

You are a great writer and story-teller. I understand why you titled your hub - The Forgetfully - Submissive Woman. You kinda have to coach yourself into being submissive. Glad you had an opportunity to visit Bethlehem and share your thoughts and experience.

Nice to meet an awesome writer!

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 5 years ago Author

To be honest, I could have stayed in Israel for a month, it's wonderful. Everyone submits to something. I guess not losing yourself in whatever, or whomever you'd like to submit to is the point. When a person has lost all sense of themselves, followed quickly by all sense itself, it just gets weird for everyone. Thank you again for reading, and I'm looking forward to reading your work!

Janisse Baez 5 years ago

If you believe women should have the same rights as men, you’re a feminist.


Feminism is an ideology and a set of political movements, cultural and economic factors that are intended to equal rights between men and women. - Wikipedia

The theory of the Political, Economic, Social and Equality of the Sexes. - Merriam Webster

I am a feminist and everyone should be so.

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 5 years ago Author

Thanks for reading, Janisse Baez. I do believe and support gender equality--same job, same pay etc. But I've found some of the political movements in feminism almost merge the genders in a way that doesn't work for me personally.

cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US

my husband and i are both feminists. we both work outside the home. we both do housework. i think he does more. he thinks i do more. i waited a long time to find the right guy and it was worth it. of course there's a lot more - common interests, common religious and political beliefs. i'm decisive, but fair. he's agreeable, if cautious. i'm the smarter one. (most of the guys smarter than me have married trophy wives.)he's the social one. i'm not a typical woman. i need an unusual guy. we make a loving, happy couple.

i'm not a loud feminist, like the kind you don't want to be associated with. most folks are shocked when they find out i'm a feminist. i'm quietly and staunchly one. i could have married much earlier if i would have been content in an unequal stereotypical relationship. i would have ended up resenting the guy, as happens so often in any unequal relationship. (how many people want to hang out with their boss or as you mention: nursing instructors?)

i'm too honest to "forget" my responsibilities. (pardon me, my aspergers is showing.)if you have to lie to your husband, what does that do to intimacy, really knowing and being known and loved for who you are?

my only regret is that we're too old to have kids. we would have made great parents.

cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US

if you want a first-hand account of what it's like to be female in a muslim country, read "infidel" by ayaan hirsi ali.

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 5 years ago Author

Cathylynn! Great to hear from you as always, I'm so glad you read this. I'll do what I can to get a hold of piece you're suggesting. Sounds interesting.

I actually agree with a lot of what you're saying, and I think that my most opposition is to stereotypical feminism. I suppose what I'm aiming at is avoiding 'isms' if the fundamentals of all interpersonal relationships that you want to succeed are based squarely on the 'golden rule' concept, than your desire to be treated fairly, and to treat others fairly doesn't end up becoming a political stance. I think that's what I'm getting at. And I'm pretty flexible here on what constitutes feminism. It doesn't have to be a militant stand, and it isn't something that offends me either way.

epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

....well I have always loved and admired your honesty - you walk the walk and talk the talk - you provoke me to think and feel and that is a powerful communicative tool isn't it for any writer to have - and you certainly know how to use it - and you do it so very well.

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ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 5 years ago Author

Thank you kindly, epigramman, once again. Okay who said this, I forget, "life is a comedy for those who think, and a tragedy for those who feel?" I do both in excess, what does that quote make of people like me? I guess we write things :-). Thanks for taking the time to read this.

WD Curry 111 profile image

WD Curry 111 4 years ago from Space Coast

What a great eyewitness report. Some people are indomitable, and some are just stubborn. Where's that hat? It gave you a light (as opposed to dark) air of mystery and a powerful, avaunt guard look.

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 4 years ago Author

Thanks for reading, WD. I think where I went was a bit touristy to really know what's going on. I've come to that conclusion after doing more reading. No tourist comes to the "we beat our women daily" booth. What I saw was a watered-down version of the culture made palatable for tourists. It's been some time since I was there. And okay, with a sell like that, how I can I resist re-posting the hat picture. I'll do it. Thanks for stopping by!

WD Curry 111 profile image

WD Curry 111 4 years ago from Space Coast

I come from a military family. I have friends who lived in Turkey, Iran or Morocco, back in the day. They have stories about beatings they witnessed. The first bad one (along those lines) that I saw was in the wrong part of Louisville.

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 4 years ago Author

Ah, I see. Funny, in a morbid sort of way, as is life. Go read my hub on dads! I like that thing now, and I wrote it as a tribute to dads. I can't get any work done today between FB and HP!!! :-).

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