From the other side of the globe

I’m fifteen, and I live all the way in Amman, Jordan. I do get a lot of, “Jordan? Is that, like, behind California?” but that’s not the point. Jordan is a Middle-Eastern country—“Wow. Do you ride camels there?”—and has a population that is predominantly Muslim.

As such, it’s not the best place to be a feminist, or a female, for that matter. Surprisingly (or not), the prospect of female empowerment is suppressed not only by religious extremism, but by pop culture.

I know, I know. That happens everywhere. But the thing is, there just doesn’t seem to be a middle-ground, per se. It’s either oppression in the name of religion, with work, and covering up, and honor killings (which I have quite a rant on), or fake empowerment--you know, as seen on T.V… Let’s wear skimpy clothing and swoon a lot! Self-respecting, empowered female? I think not. Exploring individual sexuality and not the mass-marketable kind in the media or the abstinence-until-marriage version from tradition? No way. Sex and politics remain rather taboo subjects over here.

That lack of “middle-ground” makes it, to say the least, irritating, because neither side of the spectrum seems appealing to you, and you don’t seem appealing to either side of the spectrum, either. Naturally, it gets frustrating if you try and fit in with one of the two groups (I’m making wide generalizations here, but for simplicity’s sake, bear with me). One group will chastise you for your more liberated views towards taboo subjects, rejecting them, and dubbing you and your opinions Westernized (the horror!). The other will call you a prude for refusing to act like a slut.

So, yes. It is hard being a feminist here, as I’m sure it is everywhere. I don’t mean to exaggerate: we’re not forced by law to cover our heads, we are employed in a range of careers, and the “Sex sells” attitude is frowned upon by the majority of people here. Still, a progressive Jordan is refusing to let go of demeaning, oppressing, and in some cases, brutal traditions—from arranged marriages, and the stereotype of child-bearer and house-cleaner, to honor killings and other gender-based crimes. A progressive Jordan remains exceedingly patriarchal, and sadly, no one acknowledges that something must be done. The devout Muslims are allegedly comfortable where they are, and the younger generation of women thinks it’s empowered and liberated by worshipping sex symbols and fretting about the newest style of skinny jeans and lip-gloss.

Do either of them know better?

More articles in WMC FBomb by Category: Feminism, International
More articles in WMC FBomb by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Middle East and North Africa



Helen H
Sign up for our Newsletter

Learn more about topics like these by signing up for Women’s Media Center’s newsletter.