The recent events of women’s assassination and uprising violence towards women raise many questions regarding multiple components of the cultures in which we live.
Is gender a culture? How do different cultures define gender and what are the outcomes of these definitions?
As a little girl I remember deciding to begin a collection of women’s traditional clothing from around the world. Time went by and the collection remains a story with a few colorful garments illustrating that naive decision. Traditional women’s clothing across cultures is the most intriguing visually and intellectually. Though that is of less importance. The issue is, that women’s bodies are a display window for cultural values and customs.
As in a display window of a shop a woman’s body becomes an object for expressing a collective’s “we” believes thoughts and concepts. The privacy of the “I” disappears along with the accountability of a woman her own body. What happens to a women’s will in this case? Does a women own her body? Do women have a choice deciding what are the common values and norms that she herself is deemed to represent? For example: when a lady wears hejab (a muslim headscarf) there are multiple cultural understanding. She may be religious, traditional or a ‘believer’. She may just think it is pretty. There are also questions regarding who lead her to dress with a hejab and how does she herself feel towards her community, tradition and culture. Does she own her culture or vice versa?
Wangari Maathai, claimed that the way in which women, children and elders are treated in a society reflects how that society treats nature. Beside the ecologic impacts and division of power and natural resources in societies, Maathai reveals another question: are women subject to similar attitude as that of mines, oil plants and desertification? What is the correlation between removing body hair and chopping forests?
As a Cross-Culturalist, issues of gender and cultures and cultures of gender a far more tangled then the ideas shared above.
I do invite you to join our Cross-Cultural Jaffa Comfort Food Tour that includes a meal and encounter with a muslim lady where you can ask your questions.
And next time you see a traditional dress or accessory ask yourself: what does this item reveal about the values and believes of a certain culture.