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A Young Muslim and the Pornographic Pink Carnation

11 Oct

My Christian friend wears long sleeve shirts she finds at Goodwill when she goes on her yearly mission to the heated Middle East.  Even if she pairs them with unfashionable baggy pants, the kind I wouldn’t be caught dead in, she’s still seen among many Muslim men as just another loose American woman.  She and her group are anything but that.  They do many generous, selfless things in a country where practicing Christianity is not only unpopular, it’s dangerous.  On this trip to Egypt they’ll be standing out in the open painting a church in triple digit temperatures.

I try and understand her motives for going to spread the word of God in such a place.  She plans to privately counsel the young girls about key passages in the Bible that might pertain to their lives.  She has brought them gifts.  In some ways I think she would like to bring them our independence here in the U.S., too.  As for the Christian women there who are most definitely in the minority, they don’t abide by the predominant dress code of  burkas and other cultural cloak and dagger norms used in disguising their most disarming qualities – their curves, their softness.  While still conservative dressers, these women may break out a light scarf or a long skirt, but their hands, faces and toes are most always in plain view.

In class I cover an essay by New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof called “Saudis in Bikinis” about Saudi Arabian women who wear flattering, form-fitting Western clothing, even swimsuits, but they do it together behind closed doors.  These women don’t see themselves as oppressed.  They staunchly defend their way of life, the need for male chaperones to walk with them in public, the need for two separate lines at the local McDonald’s – one for men and the other for families.  They are respectfully following the traditional rules of their religion.

And they make a good case that it might not always be this way, that the younger female generation is taking great strides by heading to other countries and becoming educated.  Some of them are bringing their hard-earned knowledge back to Saudi Arabia as doctors and other professionals.  While my friend is not in this particular country where she is at is not so far removed.  The men, uncomfortable with their own sexuality, prefer to safely view women behind the bulk of heavy material.

After her last trip my friend told me a story about being in a van full of fellow missionaries and how they were temporarily detained by a stern looking soldier.  One of the translators got out of the van with a male pastor to see what the trouble was, and as it turned out their having been stopped had nothing to do with any of the carefully covered up Western women inside the vehicle.  It had to do with the pink carnations on the dash.  “The color of the flowers is too sexually exciting for the young men,” the translator explained.  “Better put them away.”

Better put them away?  Who knew porn had such a short shelf life?  That it must be kept wet in order to maintain color and freshness?  If a flower with frilly pink petals and a long green stem is as provocative to look at as a busty Playboy Centerfold, what this reveals is that it is the men in this region of the world who deserve our sympathy for they are truly the oppressed sex.

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  1. Alexandra

    October 12, 2010 at 9:46 am

    It’s about time a writer had the guts to honestly tell it like it is. I’ll read your memoir when it comes out!

     
  2. Stephanie Williams

    October 13, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Now I know where most of our “celebrity” men like David Boreanaz and Brett Favre are learning their cues from. Thank you for sharing this informative piece. I cant’t wait to read your book! :)

     
    • Paula

      October 13, 2010 at 5:34 pm

      Now why do you have to insult certain Middle Eastern men by comparing them to a sleazy B list actor and a grandfather who just can’t let go of the pig skin? Thanks to both you and Alexandra for wanting to read my memoir!

       
  3. Jerri

    October 14, 2010 at 8:10 am

    Thanks for putting to words what always struck me as disturbing about orthodox muslim culture; that the men are thought to be such lowly beasts, incapable of self-control or rational thought that it is put entirely upon the woman to keep the male animal nature at bay.

     
    • Marwa

      October 15, 2010 at 2:32 pm

      I agree with Jerri. Ms. Priamos gives voice to women who don’t get one. I don’t wear any abayas not anymore. I’m American now.

       
      • Miles

        October 20, 2010 at 12:24 pm

        A perfect piece of writing!

        All best,

        Miles

         
    • L

      October 20, 2010 at 7:44 pm

      Muslim culture is far from making any definitive progress (in terms of women’s rights) in the near future. One only has to look at France to a prime example of Muslims still oppressing women, yet they are removed from their own indigenous homeland, they for the most part still cling to their “dark age” like traditions.

       
  4. Inez

    October 23, 2010 at 8:19 am

    What a wonderful blog. I invest hours on the internet reading blogs, about tons of different subjects. I honestly believe there is a skill to writing articles that only several possess and to be truthful you have it. This piece about Muslim men is very timely and alarmingly accurate.

     
    • I Love Lucy Fan

      November 4, 2010 at 9:16 am

      I think L is right. Hardcore Muslim culture as represented in the Middle East and elsewhere is outdated, and as Ms. Priamos alluded to, very dangerous.

       
  5. Covered Girl

    November 6, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Really great piece, Ms. Priamos. And well put about the male sexual oppression being an issue. It’s just as big a problem as the female oppression.

     
  6. WyattRC

    January 9, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Staunch Muslim men and their views on women are certainly a troubling and pertinent subject. This was an informative read including the comments.

     
    • Southern Reader

      January 15, 2011 at 2:13 pm

      I’m afraid that the average American citizen doesn’t have a clue as to what or how a Muslim man thinks. How in the world do they find a pink flower offensive sexually. I am a Sr. female living in the South. I thought the South was backwards. Thank you for the insight.

       
  7. Mystery Reader

    February 9, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Thanks for the informative article. It’s particularly important given the recent conflicts in Egypt.