Monday, May 21, 2012

Boys and girls

The separation of girls and boys is definitely beginning to take a toll on our group dynamics.  I get the feeling some of the boys think its funny, but many of the girls are beginning to get frustrated. Yesterday we went to the University of Dammam,  a mixed campus with separate facilities. We met with students, both genders in the same room but separated by a sign and each sitting on opposite sides.  At the end of the meeting, we broke out into smaller groups and just informally chatted with our peers of the same gender.  The girls were awesome.  We chatted about music, dating/marriage, and school.  

I am not sure if it's appropriate to really detail what they said because I don't want to break their confidence, but in general things are changing a bit.  One girl said she delayed engagement and marriage until she graduated, and another said she really didn't even want to start thinking about it because she is so focused on school.  Additionally, they said they were held to a higher standard academically because girls are stereotypically academically better than boys. They just want to be taught the same curriculum as the boys.

After our meeting, though, the boys made plans with the Saudis for lunch and of course we could not join them.  We had to go back to the hotel-I find that we are spending an incredible amount of time in the hotel.  We couldn't go to where they have lunch, can't smoke sheesha (not an issue for me, but some of the girls would like to), can't work out to get rid of some of our negative energy.  It's only a couple of days, but you can really see the institutionalization of gender discrimination.  

Honestly, I'm a bit disappointed about how quickly some of the boys seem to embrace this and how willing and without a second thought some just leave us behind.  I have only seen one make an active effort to include us.  And he is the only one I have heard say anything along the lines of how they treat women is ridiculous.  I've only heard jokes from the others. Hahaha, lunch was so awesome. Hahaha, the pool was so nice. Hahaha, oh that massage was amaaaazing. 

While the boys went out to lunch, a handful of the girls begged our guide Saad to take us out. We went for a walk on the corniche, which was nice. The weather was actually pleasant by the sea.  And then the boys came back saying how amazing their lunch was, without one mention of oh, I'm sorry you couldn't join.

I hope no one is offended by this post. I admit I am being a bit sensitive, and i do not mean to complain.  Amy for instance, is good with dealing with this and just laughs it off. But there's no point in sharing my experiences if I'm not honest with how I'm feeling and my experiences.  No one will learn anything if I just relay the positive points of the trip. 

We all later met up and went to this bizarre mini air and space museum and then saw an IMAX film about the deep sea.  I have a feeling that was just time filler.  We went to the mall and walked around a bit, and then the girls went back to the hotel (naturally) while the boys went out with the Saudis. Amy, Brit, Michelle, and I sat out in the lobby for a few hours, hanging out, and eventually the guys came back.  We all hung out for a few hours. Until 3am, actually.  

Everyone says Jedda will be better for the girls, more fun for us. Even if it is, I am still really disappointed about the behavior over the past few days. 

Im on the bus to our next stop, Jubail, and one of the boys just said we empower our girls too much in the West. It was meant to be a joke. He was talking about how white guys don't like white girls and date Asians because they are more submissive.  I had to tell him to stop.  

Ugh, wow. That literally hurt me inside. 


  1. Wow. I think you're definitely entitled to complain. Or better yet, call out your guy friends for being jerks. I'm sorry, discrimination on the scale that exists in Saudi generally ain't funny. A woman was frickin arrested for driving herself to the hospital, for chrissakes!

    It's so interesting that they felt absolutely cool with rubbing in your faces all the privileges they were given as men in Saudi. If you had been visiting a country that restricts the rights of a certain race or ethnicity, I doubt your guy friends would have been joking around about that power discrepancy. But since you were in a country that only restricts women's rights, that's totally hilarious lol rofl type shit.

    Making fun of your friends? That's cool. Making fun of your friends because they don't have fewer rights than you? Uh, who does that?

  2. ... Unfortunately it is very easy to lose a veneer of civility when it's not encouraged by the society at large. I've seen nice American boys turning into misogynistic pigs when exposed to misogynistic ways in Russian/Eastern European societies. In fact sometimes Americans were turning into worst offenders! The Secret Service scandal is yet another example how fast American males lose their inhibitions when put into a society that has a different set of rules (in fact in a matter of hours :(). It may happen to females as well, yet the process is usually not as rapid and dramatic and of a different nature. The only way to deal with it is to oppose it. So to second a previous post why don't you tell them that their behavior is not funny, but disrespectful and to understand your frustration one should imagine not being able to do things just because of their race or religion...