Remember that movie with Sally Fields? The one where she is a successful businesswoman or doctor and she marries a fella, specifically Dr. Octopus, from Iran. And when they move to Iran her social status and her face take a few hits. She’s not allowed to eat with the men or join in their conversations and other stuff like that. When she oversteps her bounds she gets a beat down. This is all I knew about the role of women in an Islamic culture until I actually spent some time in Bangladesh.
In Bangladesh, some women wouldn’t shake my hand or make eye contact. (Yes, it was pretty touronic of me to try and shake their hand, but hey, I’m big into the handshake and, culturally sensitive or not, I think it’s a nice gesture. Why not exchange a little culture now and then? I don’t get upset by someone bowing to me.) Other women wouldn’t hesitate to converse or interact with me. Even so, I still feel that women living in an Islamic dominated culture don’t have the freedoms that women do in the USA.
But why is it then that a woman has never been President of the United States and women have held the highest positions of power in Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, India, and Bangladesh?
I don’t have a clue.
What I do know is that watching Dr. Octopus beat Sally Fields in Hollywood’s version of Iran and spending over a month in Bangladesh is not enough education to safely know what the heck I’m talking about. I think it’s important that we embrace our preconceived notions about religion, culture, and Marvel evil villains, and try to understand why they exist. It’s not bad to have prejudices, but it’s wrong to try and pass them off as knowledge. However ill-founded, they are a starting point that can’t be ignored.
Prejudice: Dr. Octopus is evil and Spider-Man should wrap him and his tentacles in a tight web and never let him go.
Reality: Otto Octavius was abused by his father and hovered over by his mother. He was engaged to the love of his life, but his mother and his dedication to his work as a scientist put an end to his engagement. He was in a nuclear accident.
Maybe if we understood Dr. Octopus and why he is so angry, we could give him a hug or therapy, or something.
Maybe before we herald the freedoms of women in our own culture and bemoan the lack of freedoms in others, we should know what the heck we’re talking about. If Hillary Clinton wins the Presidency, maybe then we can’t start preaching about gender equality. Until then maybe we should shut-up.
When I think of Islamic culture, I don’t exactly think girl power, but maybe I should.