Tag Archives: assumptions

The irony of stereotypes

As I have already mentioned in my previous posts, like “Bikinis, Niqabs, oppression and assumptions” and “Good luck to him, he married a foreigner”, there are just as many stereotypes about the West in Middle Eastern countries as there are stereotypes about the Middle-East in the West. A lot, if not all, of these stereotypes are completely incorrect at worst, or distorted at best.

One of my Iranian friends (who lives in Australia) has a relative (who lives in Iran) who honestly believes that all Western women are prostitutes. The relative of my friend believes that all people in the West recreate pornographic movies by attending pool parties where young men and women walk around half naked, rubbing oil on one another and procreating with anything and everything that moves. Funnily enough, I have never been to such a pool party in Australia, but I have witnessed such an occurrence in Iran. The parties that I attended in Iran were 100 times more risqué than those I attended in Australia, or any other Western country for that matter. Either I have been going to all the wrong events in Australia (and have clearly been missing out) or the stereotype that my friend’s relative has set is not an accurate representation of Western social events.

To make myself very clear, I have nothing against people who are sexually liberated and choose to attend social events where everyone walks around naked and openly has sex with one with another, but it’s just personally not my thing. I was particularly shocked to see this happen before my eyes in the Islamic State of Iran. It wasn’t something I was expecting to see. It took a lot of willpower to resist the urge of filming what was happening around me and showing it to my friend’s relative and saying- “Do you see this? This happened here, in the country in which you you live, not in a Western country…. please explain”. Don’t worry I didn’t do it. The relative of my friend’s world of “Iranian is good; Western is bad” has remained intact. The only footage I retained is a memory of the hilarious irony of what I witnessed.

*Please note: I specifically restricted this post to dismantling a particular stereotype that some Iranians hold about Westerners. I can just as easily dismantle stereotypes that Westerners hold about Iranians, but the post would be too long. I acknowledge that this specific post is one-sided and does not give a balanced perspective of the various stereotypes people of different cultures hold towards one another.

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled“Introduction…”.

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Bikinis, niqabs, oppression and assumptions.

assumptions

Image:  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/547539267167376074/

I recently had a conversation on a Facebook thread with a close friend of mine after I had shared an article with the following feature image:

WaterWorld-Stoke-on-Trent-waterpark-burqa-Muslim-584338

(The article can be found on http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/584338/WaterWorld-Stoke-on-Trent-Muslim-Islam-waterpark-women-only-bikini-ban-clothing-veil-burqa, but this post relates to the feature image, rather than the content of the article itself)

My close friend (who is a Muslim female) had left a comment stating that she found the image to be an ‘interesting’ depiction of what is ‘Islamically appropriate’. I followed on by saying that a niqab (a form of veil that covers everything other than the eyes, as depicted in the above image) is not the only form of female attire that is considered ‘Islamically appropriate’. My close friend followed on to say that what she meant by her initial comment was that the opposite of ‘Islamically appropriate’ doesn’t necessarily mean bikini.

My close friend went on to say that a lot of non-Muslims associate Islam with a niqab and opression in the same way that a lot of Muslims from Islamic countries associate non-Muslims with open relationships, provocative attire and prostitution. Obviously these sorts of stereotypes are intolerant and incorrect. Islam doesn’t equate to niqab and not-Islam doesn’t equate to open relationships and provocative attire. To quote my close friend- “I think we need more knowledge and less assumptions” I couldn’t agree more and I couldn’t have said it any better myself. Islam is much more than a niqab and non-Islam is much more than a bikini.

As I have already mentioned in my post titled “Does he drink alcohol? Does he eat pork?” religion can be followed to various degrees and there is no single unanimous expression of a particular religion. The same goes for culture, national identity and much more.

In my previous post, I suggested that the best way to combat intolerance is through education, positive reinforcement and love. Likewise the best way to fight assumptions is though actual knowledge, not further assumptions that only lead to more and more intolerance.

Below, is another image that highlights the unfortunate nature of assumptions, which also suits the given theme of bikinis, niqabs and oppression.

opression Image: Cartoonist Malcolm Evans

 Unless the woman on the right lives in a country that makes any other form of attire other than a niqab illegal, both women are exercising their free will (if there is such a thing) to dress how they wish; and both women are making assumptions about one another. The woman on the left probably doesn’t think she is oppressed and the woman on the right probably doesn’t think she is oppressed either; yet oppression is the exact conclusion they have each reached about one another’s choice of attire.

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”- Isaac Asimov

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.

“Good luck to him, he married a foreigner”

Image: http://www.sfu.ca/~torsten/slacker-moderated/msg00161.html

There are always two sides to a coin. While I’ve encountered stigma from Westerners regarding Middle Eastern culture, my husband and his family have too encountered stigmas about Westerners from fellow Iranians. If you thought that only Westerners felt entitled to make stereotypes about the Middle East, you thought wrong, there’s another side to that coin.

Before they had even met me and given me a chance, some of the friends and relatives of my in-laws had already concluded that I have no family values and that I’m not hospitable, simply because I’m Western. Prior to coming to Australia, my husband’s family told some of their friends about how they were going to live in the same house as my husband and I for 8 weeks. The responses my husband’s parents got were great- “Are you sure you can stay for that long? Your son’s bride is foreign after all, and foreigners don’t live with their in-laws. What if she kicks you out?” Another friend of the family told my husband’s parents the following: “We feel really sorry for your son…good luck to him, he married a foreigner”

After I had met the majority of my in-laws’ friends and family, their opinion of me had changed and they started to say things like: “She’s one of us” and “She understands us, even though she doesn’t understand our language”. Some even said, “A foreign bride is better than an Iranian bride”. I’m glad that I was able to change their mind, but really I shouldn’t have had to change anything. I should have started off with a clean slate. My husband also shouldn’t have had to change unfounded opinions about himself. He too should have started off with a clean slate with my friends and family. Neither one of us were lucky enough to have a clean slate.

Irrespective of who we are and where we come from, why do we feel the need to make assumptions about people we don’t even know based on stereotypes? I wholeheartedly agree that Australian culture differs greatly from Iranian culture, but that doesn’t make one right and the other wrong. What’s right and wrong is subjective anyway. There is good and bad in every culture and in every person.  Can’t we at least meet a person and give them a chance to show themselves for who they really are before we jump to conclusions?

~

Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.

“Which one of you had to convert?”

Image- http://ssje.org/sermons/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Conversion_Wordle.jpg

As well as having to answer the “Not Without My Daughter” question (refer to my previous post titled “Not Without My Daughter”, I have also faced some other gems for questions including:

“Which one of you had to convert?”

My preferred response is “We flipped a coin for it” making the stupidity and primitive nature of my answer aptly reflect the stupidity and primitive nature of the question.

I mean it’s just wrong on so many levels, that I don’t even know where to begin. At school I was taught that you could always find the answer, or at least part of the answer to your question in the question itself. So, the person asking this question had already answered some questions for themselves- that either myself or my husband had converted AND that this conversion was obligatory.

This offends me. It offends me due to the  fact that my Mum is of Russian Orthodox faith and my Dad is a Jew and neither one of them converted to the other’s faith. Surprisingly, their decision didn’t bring about the end of the world.The concept of converting for marriage has always been a bit foreign to me because my parents didn’t feel the need to do it, so naturally I didn’t feel the need to it either. Even if I did feel the need to do it, it would have been by choice and not by obligation. I’m going to make myself clear and say that I have nothing against people who choose to convert to their partner’s religion. It’s totally cool, however it’s just something that I was not prepared to do myself, or ask someone to do for me.

I made it very clear to my now-husband on our very first date that I am what I am- a daughter of an Orthodox Mum and Jewish Dad and that I intend on staying that way. Take it, or leave it. I told him that if he has an issue with that or can envisage his family having an issue with my faith/(s) that he should tell me now so that we could walk away from the table as friends. I also let him know that it was nothing personal and that it had nothing to do with him being Muslim (this is actually the case, this isn’t another example of my intolerance).

Had I been dating a Jew, who later told me to revoke my Orthodox faith, I would have told them where to go- somewhere nice, but far away from me. Had I dated a person of Orthodox faith who asked me to denounce my Judaism, they would have joined the Jew who disagreed with my Orthodox religion. Prior to marriage,  my underlying message to potential suitors was as follows: if you want to change my religion- don’t date me. It’s that simple.

Before I answer “Which on you had to convert?” let me start off by first reframing the question: “Did one of you need to convert to make your relationship work?” No. Thank you for asking.

~

Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.

Guilty as charged

Image: KEVIN CURTIS via Getty Images, as sourced by http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/01/28/tyler-beavis-arrested-attempted-rape_n_6564918.html

I am a hypocrite. I have probably already contradicted myself several times in the last 48 hours of making my first few posts. Here I am preaching about the importance of tolerance, when I myself am just as intolerant as the people who I have described in my previous posts.

These posts not only serve to convey an important message to the world, they also remind me to work on myself. I’m trying really hard to dismantle intolerance within myself, towards a lot of things and its both challenging and rewarding.  I’m now going to share a few stories that I am not particularly proud of. Frankly just thinking about the examples makes me feel ashamed of myself, but I hope that I have come a long way since then.

I was getting ready to hit the town for a night out with a few girlfriends. I decided to be a little risque and put on a really revealing top. I wasn’t quite sure if it was appropriate, not just for that particular occasion, but generally ever.  When my husband (then fiance or boyfriend- I don’t exactly remember) saw what I was wearing, he gave me an unimpressed look followed by the sarcastic comment-  “Could you be wearing any less clothing?”

Immediately I felt empowered to start my unnecessary feminist rant of “I can wear what I want”, “This makes me happy”, “Don’t tell me how to dress” etc. Then the following scary-scary thought popped into my mind. It wasn’t just a fleeting thought, it was something that I had attached weight to-

“He demands me to cover-up because he is Muslim”.

I don’t have anything to say for myself. The thought entered my mind and I considered it. It was detrimental to me, to him, to our relationship and probably to humanity in general. ANYONE, including myself could have told me that the article of clothing was revealing. Had that person been my Mum, or my friend, I wouldn’t have gone ahead and dragged their religion into the discussion I was having with myself in my head.

I didn’t need to verbally articulate the thought, just thinking it was enough for it to be written on my face anyway. My better half read it in my eyes and said: “Are you really giving into what society thinks I’m going to do to you? Do you really think I am trying to break you? That I am trying to project Islam onto you? How could you think that?”

I cried, and he comforted me. I should have been comforting him and apologising profusely, but instead he held me and told me that everything was going to be okay and assured me that I am not a horrible person.

I’d love to say that stupid these thoughts stopped entering my consciousness after that occasion, but that would be a lie. Similar thoughts popped into my head when my Hubby told me that he wasn’t comfortable with me taking pole-dancing classes and that he didn’t like me staying out late at night without his company. He didn’t tell me to go to a mosque, befriend Mullahs and pray 5 times a day. But I felt entitled to interpret his concerns about my reputation and safety in that way.

My husband never gave me the third degree for having these impure thoughts. He didn’t label me “intolerant”  or “racist” or “religionist”. He just simply accepted me and continues to accept me for who I am, as I am, with whatever thoughts that enter my mind. This makes me wonder why can’t I just simply do the same? Why can’t we all do the same? Simply accept people as they are without labelling and without trying to force them into a mould produced by stereotypes. I know from my own experience that it’s easier said than done, but it needs to be done.

Having been born in a different country to parents of contrasting religions and growing up with a different culture, doesn’t make me any more or less susceptible to intolerance. In this regard, I need to work on myself just as much as anyone else does. The way we interpret what others say to us depends a lot on our own perceptions and paradigms, not necessarily on what the other person is actually saying. Lets not be quick to jump to conclusions, especially those offered to us by stereotypes.

“Be the change you want to see in the world”

~

Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.

“Not Without My Daughter”

Image- http://video.xbox.com/en-us/movie/not-without-my-daughter/e6269361-7536-4d88-9662-84201899550d

As soon as I tell people about my religious background and my husband’s religious background, I either get some sort of silence or enjoy a series of unfortunate questions (Which one of you had to convert? What are your kids going to be?), my personal favourite being:

” But haven’t you seen the movie ‘Not Without My Daughter’?”

For those of you who have not watched the film, the synopsis goes something like this: an American woman marries an Iranian man and they have a daughter together. After some time the man convinces his wife to visit his homeland. Once they arrive he tells his wife that they will remain in Iran forever. The woman and her child need to find a way to escape Iran.

If I had a penny for every single time someone had the nerve to bring up this Hollywood adaptation of a docudrama and compare it to my life, I would be a millionaire. People really felt the need to explain how my fate would be the same as the protagonist played by Sally Fiends in a Hollywood movie. Can I just start off by saying that I DON’T EVEN HAVE A DAUGHTER…

It wasn’t just random people who were asking me this, people who were close to me would ask me this question out of sincere concern about my safety and wellbeing. In my previous post I talked about intolerance and inquisitiveness. I am going to go ahead and categorise this loaded question that I was receiving (and sometimes continue to receive) as intolerant rather than inquisitive. The person asking the question often hadn’t even met my husband/fiancé/boyfriend (whoever my now-husband was to me at the time) but was already making a presumption about him based on a Hollywood-made stereotype, based on one piece of information alone- his nationality.

I have to say that I don’t think that the intolerance of the asker was intentional, but even this ‘unintentional intolerance’ still managed to rub me the wrong way. I understand that people were not trying to upset me- their question came out really naturally like someone commenting on how nice the weather is on a sunny day. For this reason, I didn’t really know how to answer the question without losing my cool and without being offensive (for those of you who know me and know me well, can understand that this was a challenge for me).

At first I used to engage in some sort of a logical dialogue. I tried to explain to people that Hollywood doesn’t always aptly represent reality, and that not everyone is the same. I asked people not to make stereotypes, I gave them examples of stereotypes that are not an accurate representation of reality e.g. I’m Russian, but don’t drink vodka with my breakfast… but then I thought not to waste my breath on what I believe to be common sense (which apparently isn’t so common). So on one occasion, I came up with what I thought to be the best response possible to this question. Allow me to demonstrate:

Question: “Have you seen the movie ‘Not Without My Daughter’?”

Answer: “Yes… Now, have you seen the Disney movie ‘The Lion King’? Isn’t it awful what Scar does to Mufasa and Simba?”

My answer elicited the best response possible. Laughter. Understanding. Recognition. People would laugh at me and at my response and then at themselves and at their question. They immediately understood that comparing my life and fate to ‘Not Without My Daughter’ was just as farfetched as comparing it to Disney’s ‘The Lion King’. It was truly a groundbreaking moment for me AND for them. I kept my cool, my integrity and dignity (I only swore a little bit, I promise), and they willingly dismantled a stereotype through which they perceived a person who they hadn’t even met. Hopefully they removed the stereotype all together and it will no longer serve to cloud their perception.

I don’t think that this moment of clarity is an example of building tolerance. Again, I think it is an example of dismantling intolerance, even if it is unintentional or subconscious.

~

Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.