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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.