I used to have a college professor—of women’s studies, of course—who would occasionally start class when we were particularly chatty and inattentive by saying, loudly, “SEX!” Our heads would whip around to stare at her and the room would be silent.
The professor would chuckle and then start the lesson, which almost never had anything to do with sex—or at least not sex in an interesting way. Her way of talking about sex was dry and academic, having to do with words like “hegemony” or “heteronormative.”
I thought about that professor a few weeks ago when I read about “International Topless Jihad Day,” sponsored by FEMEN in support of Amina Tyler, who had sparked a global controversy by posting a topless pictures of herself on Facebook with “my body belongs to me and is not the source of anyone’s honor,” scrawled on her naked chest in Arabic. Tyler’s life—and the lives of her family—were threatened after the pictures were posted; she has since left Tunisia, where she lived.
The topless jihadists claimed that their actions showed solidarity with Amina and sent a message to the world that women’s bodies belong to no one but themselves. And yet it seems a bit like my professor yelling SEX! FEMEN is yelling BOOBS–and the topless jihad did, it’s true, get a lot of press coverage. The coverage drew attention to Amina’s plight but also gave respected media outlets a chance to run pictures of boobs and more boobs: Huffington Post ran a whole slideshow of revolutionary boobs. (more…)
Natalia and her son in Tunis.
As I sat in the Embassy listening to the rocks and chants hitting the wall outside, I couldn’t help but feel as though my maternal instincts had failed me. Why didn’t I know to leave? Why did I stand on the second floor, flippantly observing the gathering crowds, and assume it would just be your standard protest? Shouldn’t I have had some sixth sense, some feeling in my gut that things were going to go from bad to worse?
I knew that the baby was far from danger, picked up by family friends from his daycare miles from the Embassy. The staff had in fact been quite at a loss to understand why I couldn’t pick him up at 2pm. “Protests you say?”
The events of September 14th at the U.S Embassy in Tunis took many people by surprise. Not least of which the Tunisians who were even more taken aback when the order was given to evacuate all non-essential Embassy personnel and all families. (more…)
Photo by Elizabeth Atalay
It was too hot for October as I pushed the baby’s stroller towards the busy intersection, nervous about navigating the after school traffic.
As I approached the T junction, I could see a woman striking her arms out wildly from the driver’s seat of her car, stopped at the red light. She looked as though she was battling someone in the passenger seat with all the strength the confined space would allow.
I had been reading and thinking a lot about women and women’s rights in Morocco since my arrival a couple of weeks prior and in the split second it took me to walk from the trunk to beside the window, I had concluded she was an abused wife, fighting back.
Prone as I am to flights of fancy, I had her whole heroic back story firm in my mind as I walked level to the front window and realized that she was in fact landing punches on a boy; about 12 or 13 and looking utterly deflated as he half-heartedly held his arms up against his mother’s blows. (more…)
Tunis: 1st impressions….hot, beautiful, ancient….and dirty.
Between the bustle of the Medina, the rocky remains of Carthage and the white-washed walls and crisp blue sea views of Sidi Bou Sa’id lie fields, highway divides and alleyways of litter.
While the omnipresence of trash and it’s accompanying odor, flies and wild dogs are something you quickly become accustomed to and learn to look past, it is hard not to think about how much more lovely this city could be without it.
Why, I asked myself, can people not find a better way to get rid of their trash? Don’t they care about their city? An editorial in a local French language paper echoed my thoughts and reported the shame of having to apologize to visitors for the state of their public spaces; asking them to look past the litter to find the beauty of their country.
As a scrupulous sorter of my trash, compost and recycling back home, it was a shock to the system to see all manner of glass, plastic, paper and vegetation strewn willy-nilly along the road leading up to our beautifully maintained and manicured Embassy home. I reduce, reuse and recycle! I care about the the future of the planet my kids will inherit! I could never do such a thing…
And then it came time to dispose of our own garbage. (more…)
As anyone who has executed an international move knows, the process is as much excitement as pure terror. In addition to the myriad concerns flying through your head about never seeing your cherished belongings again, there is the fear of the unknown. Where will I buy milk? Will I find a circle of friends? Will I be able to learn the language? What on earth have we signed ourselves up for?
As I make the final preparations and move onto my final five fingers to count the days until we move to Tunis, I have found a way to categorize, if not altogether deal with my fears. I’m a compulsive organizer…what can I say! If I can’t solve a problem, it is at least sitting in the right pile.
As a wife, I fear for the demands that this move will place on my husband’s time. This fear is mitigated by the fact that since we found out about this move, he has been as giddy as a school boy… more excited by his chosen profession than he has been in a long while.
As a mother, I fear for my 18 month old’s fragile understanding of his little world and how we are about to shatter it. He won’t be waking up in the same room, his little friends will all change, and people will be speaking to him in strange tongues, just as he was getting the hang of this English nonsense. But I take comfort in the fact that, although he may not remember this year, it will permanently lodge itself in his psyche, and that I will love discovering this new world through his eyes.
As an entrepreneur, I fear that I won’t be able to accomplish all that I have set out for myself in this upcoming year. While this move is offering me numerous opportunities, I doubt my ability to seize them and to properly maintain my control over the business I have so carefully built over the past year. But as with all things in business, the reward is in the risk….and if nothing else, I will blog my little heart out!
As a woman, I fear the changing political climate in Tunisia. As the country struggles to find its footing after the Jasmine Revolution and the ouster of long-time dictator Ben Ali, a long repressed undercurrent of conservative Islamism is attempting to take hold. What implication this holds for the women of Tunisia, no one can yet say. The nation seems, to this outside observer, to be so fiercely proud of its moderate stance on women’s right
s that a curtailing of their ability to work outside the home or a mandatory enforcement of the hijab seems unlikely. But I am excited to be able to come to know these women and experience first hand how they will play a role in determining their country’s future.
As a traveler, and especially as a traveler with a small child in tow, I fear the baggage, and the train schedules, and the changing of diapers in public restrooms. But I am also happy to infuse my tourist dollars into the many Tunisian communities desperately missing their visitors
since they launched the Arab spring and to discover the vast historical, cultural and culinary treasures my new home has to offer. I can’t wait to introduce you all to my new home as I get to know it thoroughly.
Have you endured the stresses an thrills of an international move? What coping measures have you used to get through it?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our new writer and newly exported “Tunisian,” Natalia Rankine-Galloway of Culture Baby.
The image used in this post is credited to ReeccaLeeP. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.