A different culture, yes. A different history, yes. Still human, also yes.
I would be lying if I said it was easy for me to brush over the sexism here without judgment. It feels so deeply engrained in every day life. From the way women hold their head, with their eyes towards the ground, to the fact that only men sit in cafes, and when they do, they turn their chairs towards the street, just watching the world go by. Men can have more than one wife, but at the mention of a woman with more that one man, it’s an immediate disgusted no.
How does one approach broken conversations, already stifled from errors in translation, with respect despite frustration?
Mohammad explained to me how his father had more than one wife, how in that time when life was more simple, and the man cared for the family financially. Nowadays, he says, only men with big hearts and a lot of money can handle more than one wife. I try to ask him why he thinks this is okay, if he sees how a life like this could be detrimental to a woman, to her autonomy.
He tried proving his point to me by asking me who the first person I would call if I was in serious trouble was, a man or a woman. I said probably a woman given. He tried telling me that the big problems of the world could only be solved by men, they just think in a certain way, that god gave certain things to men. Like what? I kept asking and asking to no avail.
We sounded so stupid to each other. Without a common language this conversation was more sparking and building flames of frustration within me than actually getting anywhere. Eventually we realized we were getting nowhere and we stopped and hugged and smiled and he said I am glad that I met you.
I was reminded by a friend that sometimes its necessary to just listen to what guys like this have to say, regardless of how much it makes me want to explode in frustration. Without judgment, I try and listen, try and see what he sees, while challenging him to open the doors of his mind even slightly.
I have come from a home and family of such empowered women, that conversations like these have always been and I know will always be painful. But it is because of conversations like these that I see the strength of the women that I work with on a day to day basis, especially that of the artisan leaders. Their strength, business abilities, relationship skills, management, artistic design, all in juxtaposition to a world which expects them to walk with their eyes at the ground will never cease to amaze me.