Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Girls outside

This is a text I wrote on helgon.se in 2008.

Girls outside

In the Muslim correspondence to Sunday school, in some country - I've forgotten which one - only boys sit in the class rooms. The girls sit outside, on the ground, and listen through the window. Education is not meant for girls, only for boys. But even girls need to grow up to become good, Muslim women, and even girls are of course taught to love God, and therefore they come to every class hour, take a seat outside the window, and listen when the boys are being educated.

Some of the things said in there are only applicable to boys. Then the girls can close their ears for a moment. But they have to be alert and open them again, when something is said that is applicable to them too, because there will be no signal to tell when they are included again. Since it isn't actually meant for them. When the male teacher says: “This you'll do good to remember”, they'll have to come to their own conclusion of whether what is said after that is something that applies to them, and that they will therefore do good to remember, or not.

And of course they can never ask any questions. And I wonder if the male teacher ever says anything that applies only to girls? If so, how does he frame it? He probably doesn't turn towards the window and says: “You girls will do good to remember...”. Probably he says: “Girls do good to remember...”, to the boys. As if it were very important for boys to know what girls need to remember! Outside the window, the girls sit and make a note to remember that thing, though nobody told them to. It was never said directly to them, but they know that they are expected to hear it, and to abide.

How unbearably derogatory! What a killer mental abuse to never be directly addressed in this way, but to still be expected to sit there and listen attentively! To sometimes have to realize that 'oh ok, this part actually wasn't meant for me FOR REAL, whereas they otherwise only express themselves as if it weren't meant for me, although it is'! What an awful, contemptuous way this country treats its female citizens in!...

...But are we really that much better? Is it all that different when we talk about businessmen, congressmen, Englishmen and cave men?... Some claim that these words include also women, but do they really? Does really the WORD include women, or is it just the thing it denotes that very well may include women? And it's up to the women themselves to figure out whether what is being said at the moment can be applied to them or not, without the rest of us (us men, whom the words are actually for) having to bother our busy heads with that? 'Sometimes the word applies only to men; the rest of the time we only express ourselves as if it did.'?

I once said to a man, who had just claimed that such words were totally gender neutral:
“Would anybody ever say: 'When a businessman becomes pregnant... what social welfare system applies to zim?' for example?”
Do you know what he replied?... He said:
“...It is very unusual that one would want to say such a phrase.”
Oh. Well I guess the problem is solved then. We never talk about when businessmen, middlemen, firemen or madmen become pregnant, take maternity leave, menstruate or have PMS at work or in treatment, or when they reach their menopause, and therefore it is totally fine that we also in future will never talk about these things, because it sounds so absurdly ridiculous with a bunch of fireman with PMS!... Most likely something inside us will stop us, before we even THINK such a phrase!...

A bit later this man however said that it was much better to say “member of congress” instead of “congressman”, in this particular discussion. For a brief second I felt a bit encouraged, thinking that this might be an opening. Until I learned that he didn't at all think that one EXPRESSION, in itself, was any better than the other. It was only in the discussion with ME that he preferred one over the other, so that I wouldn't have to be annoyed by this fictive problem, and instead could focus on the matter of discussion... Something which could have been achieved just as well by me coming to my senses, and just not getting annoyed by this to begin with... Just like the girls outside the Quran school classroom probably don't sit and get annoyed by the way things are. Nobody built the system to be bad, and it's better to give one's attention to the education, than to pettinesses, such as in what form it is given.

For publishing the text here, I've been looking for a source of the girls outside the school window and didn't find any. I'm pretty sure we learned about them in school though... And in any case, here's a Wikipedia page that at least confirms that it's quite common (or at least has been) that girls are not formally enrolled in school, but attend anyway, informally:

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