Jeans, Hookah, a Bike, My Rights?
If you are a Gazan woman and you have desperately sought to garner some media attentions and international support, you’d better start by adopting then declaring one of these statements: “I’m secular”; “I’m liberal”; “I’m oppressed with no rights”; or you could simply say “sorry, Hamas, I’m wearing Jeans”; I bet you’d be pleased with the outcomes. Some did and they are now well-known “respectable” ladies. The more defiant against the society’s norms a Gazan woman becomes, the more media attentions she will get. The much more westernized the woman looks, the much more welcomed she will be. “We are coming to Gaza to liberate the oppressed women,” they keep saying; “Thank you! I’m not oppressed,” I keep insisting. Shouldn’t I be, at least, a bit appreciative of their effort that they”re coming to help, however?
Recently, I have known many young well-educated, good-for-nothing-but-gaining media-attention ladies who introduce themselves as open-minded secularists. Going against the norms, trying to look different from others, meticulously seeking every single piece of forbidden fruit in our conservative culture and long-established traditions, these so-called secular ladies are simply calling for their “legitimate” rights. They must be called “The Rebels”, for they try their best to turn every traditional custom upside down, disowning their own out-dated culture and adopting other civilized western life-styles instead. I hear them say they are denied their rightful rights to bike, to smoke and to wear Jeans in the streets. They are the oppressed. Indeed!
As Hamas-led government keeps introducing restrictive new laws including a prohibition against women smoking “shisha” in public, some women started demanding to be treated on the same footing as men. So dedicated to struggling for women’s rights, with a strong sense of responsibility towards the subjugated Gaza women and in defiance of a prohibition against female bicycle-riding, a Palestinian feminist, accompanied by other three foreign activists, took the courage to be the first woman in Gaza to bike up the Gaza coastline. She struggled. She did. She won a prestigious Human Rights Watch Grant for her standing in the face of political persecution.
Now I can bike? Now I’m a woman with my first right fulfilled? Alright, she took off her scarf. She declared she is a secularist. She wore a pair of Jeans. Victoriously, She walked the streets with a bit of confidence and a bit of defiance. Her Jeans, in contrast to the headscarves and “tent-like” dresses worn by the vast majority of women in Gaza, gave her the feeling that she finally could set a typical example of a rebellious woman who succeeded in taking her second right, then an article with its catchy title “Sorry, Hamas, I’m wearing Jeans” published about her and her courage as if she was the only one who could wear jeans in Gaza streets, as if she was the only one who could liberate herself from these tent-like dresses, making out of herself a real fighter against the regime. She’s a role model, isn’t she?
In order not to be misinterpreted, I’m not belittling their demands of wearing Jeans, smoking hookah or riding a bike; these things might be essentials that some women badly need; I’m just wondering whether these are the real rights I’m, as a female living in Gaza, deprived of, and whether they are play australian pokies online worthy to be sought. In fact, I’ve never felt I wanted to bike but I couldn’t or I wanted to smoke but poor me it’s forbidden, not in the slightest. I’ve grown up in a society where I have to pay much respect to its culture whether I like it or not. I shouldn’t be ashamed of my own culture, wishing I was born somewhere else. The internationals should also realize that they have their own culture which we highly respect and we have our own culture which they must also highly respect back. We don’t need their help to change ours and adopt theirs. They should read more about culture differences before looking down on any culture that doesn’t fit them. They are welcome to Gaza so long as they don’t have any agendas to change our “tent-like” outfits or our “backward” mentalities. As we respect the fact that they are “open-minded”, they should respect the fact that we are “close-minded”. Don’t impose your ideas and traditions on us and you’ll be respected in our home. If you insist you are better, who”s intolerant and bigoted, then?
If those young ladies are really considerate towards women and ready to fight for their deprived rights, they’d better start adopting another track. There are other rights worthy of struggle and they are at least universally acknowledged by the international law and other human rights covenants. Only for the record, Palestinian women are denied their basic human rights, freedom of movement, security and education. I don’t want to bike in my small Gaza; I want to bike in my Palestine; I need to move freely and leave Gaza for a while not only to have some fun or to get rid of the hermetic siege but also to further my education. This is a right I’m ready to die for.
Instead of breaking the social rules, they’d rather work on breaking the world’s silence towards the Israeli violations of women’s rights inside their prisons in which our women are treated violently, exposed to harassment and other cruel treatments. Instead of defying a regime by wearing jeans and smoking shisha, they’d rather defy Israel for the inhuman and harsh conditions they impose on the imprisoned pregnant women without considering the mother’s or the baby’s health. Instead of talking about women’s problems in their communities as these normal problems can be found anywhere in the world, they’d rather talk about the main reason behind women’s suffering which is the occupation. Instead of calling for trivial rights, they should call for the release of all women prisoners whose sufferings are beyond descriptions. Instead of having the courage to stand in the face of a regime, it would be more effective if they could stand in the face of the occupiers. Have a real cause to die for instead of writing a silly article telling the world you wear jeans. Instead of going against the norm, show some respect to our culture and defend it in front of any stranger. Instead of trying to look a westerner, try to look more Palestinian and be a real role model not by your jeans, not by your bike but by your real cause. Then, we”d take our hats off to you and follow your example.