Tag Archives: women’s rights

Don Quixote of the Modern College Campus

I took this picture while stopped in traffic on Nassau Street, right in front of Princeton University’s main gate.

The bus caught my eye.  (How could it not?)  It’s the type of NQR that makes me, at least fleetingly, rather happy, warmed-inside, representing a sort of harmless and hopeful craziness which, if it were to increase individually or collectively, would surely benefit our often cruel and callous world.

Some of the lovely, hopeful slogans borne by this Rocinante:  “Spread kindness to everyone every chance you get” . . . “Overcome bullying through love” . . . “One guy (Bob) and his dog (Gocart) traveling to campuses across the country to promote kindness” . . . “Kids need role models” . . . “Let’s all stop hurtin’ each other” . . . “Don’t Hit Don’t Hurt Do Help Do Heal” . . . “You Have Such a Big Heart Share It With Everyone” . . . “The Greatest of These Is Love”

The bus also provides an opportunity to show to people overseas who aren’t familiar with America one of the last vestiges of our vaunted hippie culture, a dream and an anti-capitalist fervor that once thrived on certain (more liberal) college campuses but has now disappeared, aging and mellowing, to suburban pacification or to isolation in certain marginalized movements or locations. (Though the ‘Occupy’ events of last summer still had force!)

I was happy to see this bus, here, in a place like Princeton where I wouldn’t ever have expected it.  I wonder how its owner fared, preaching or simply being among the scions of this elite, Ivy locale.  I imagine he found some folks to listen, others like me to look and think about his slogans and his message.  But, in the end, the thing that made me happiest of all was just to imagine him, a modern Quixote mounting his painted, slogan-covered Rocinante and driving, rescue-dog at his side, off into some romantic and futile sunset, tilting at so many noble windmills.


Equal Opportunity Slaughter

Male pharoah at Merowe, Sudan, slaying his prisoners.

While the record is certainly not blank with regard to a history of powerful and influential women — Catherine the Great, Joan of Arc, Catherine de Medici, Eleanor Roosevelt, Queens Victoria and Elizabeth, Rosa Parks, Cleopatra — nowhere does a graphical depiction of absolute equality between the sexes exist with such profudity as that which still stands at the Temple Complex of Merowe in Northern Sudan.

Here, on the left hand wall of a massive, 20-ft high bas relief, a male pharoah raises his sceptre to smite the knot of enemy heads he grasps by the hair.  In traditional Egyptian iconography, the pharoah stands three or four times the size of those he is about to kill, a statement of his superiority and a nice artistic touch to allow the masses in their domination to be better portrayed, often literally, under foot.  The pharoah’s dog waits, teeth bared, between his legs to feast on the carcasses of the slain.

Female pharaoh, partaking in the slaughter with apparent gusto.

This bas relief itself really doesn’t depart too widely from many of the other Egyptian retellings of war conquest.  What sets it apart is the matching right-hand panel of this same wall.  Here, the queen partakes in a very equal-opportunity sort of slaughter, with an equal number of enemy prisoners gathered by their locks in her hand while her other arm — this time with sword rather than with sceptre — hovers menacingly above them.

The best part of all of this, the part that stands in such stark contrast (an almost ‘Not Quite Right‘ sort of contrast) when compared to the lithe images of other female Egyptian rulers like Nefertiti, is this woman’s stylized yet very full, very womanly figure.  It is nice to see power displayed in such a way:  equal, unsparing, and devoid of the expectation that a woman in power rules through guile or charm rather than through the sort of brute physicality this long-gone pair of pharoahs demonstrated.

Wild Wadi (Women Only)

One of the more contentious points of Islamic culture, from a Western point of view, is the wearing of the hijab.  While it is an issue receiving international attention, with France having outlawed it completely, we’ve had our own, more personal experiences with it here during our travels and daily life in the Middle East.

First, some definition of terms usually used rather loosely in the West:

Advertisement for Wild Wadi Waterpark in the UAE.

– Burka: the long, draping outer body covering, also sometimes called a jelaba or ghalabia especially when worn by men

– Hijab:  covering for the head

– Niqab:  covering or veil over the face

The wearing of these traditional garments varies from place to place in the Middle East and even from sect to sect within a country, or region, according to that sect’s interpretation and adherence to tradition.  Where this tradition springs from is briefly but nicely reviewed, with excerpts from relevant Islamic sources, in this article from Emory University.

As for our personal experience:  here in Oman some women wear it, some do not.  Foreign women are not compelled.  Muslim women seem to chose for themselves or adhere to the values inculcated in them as a part of their family upbringing.  In other countries, like Morocco, the hijab is rarely seen.  Or, on the opposite end, in Saudi Arabia it is mandated for all women, non-Muslims included (although, somewhat surprisingly, most western women we met generally did not wear a head covering, and were not often reprimanded for it by the Mutawwa, the Saudi religious police . . . )  My wife, Angie, actually enjoyed wearing the full body covering, feeling (for once) like she wasn’t being stared at and, moreover, feeling releaved at not having to wear make-up, nice clothes, etc.  I think she spent all our time in Riyadh clothed in a yoga outfit, her very favorite choice of apparel, tucked away under the burka!

Best of all, and perhaps most in-line with other Not Quite Right observations here, is the photo above, a quick shot Angie took of an advertisement she saw for a waterpark in the UAE.  It seems, at first, to be tongue-in-cheek with the woman wearing a fluffy pink towel in place of the usual black facial covering.  But, really, it is serious.  No men allowed.  Women only.  The fine print makes an allowance for boys under 8 years old entering the park on these particular Thursday nights in the company of their moms, but only if they can provide proof of their age!