Feminism in a Foreign Landscape

By Seitz, Charmaine | Herizons, Summer 1998 | Go to article overview

Feminism in a Foreign Landscape


Seitz, Charmaine, Herizons


Feminism in a Foreign Landscape

Two years ago, when four bus bombings sent Israel reeling, was in the Occupied Territories, living in a Palestinian town that was struggling with a cosmetic peace. I had moved to Ramallah to write and study Arabic and enjoy my recent graduation from college.

Soon afterward, a shocked and wounded Israel slammed shut the economic doors to Palestine and I -- in addition to many Palestinians -- found myself out of work.

I moved out of my city apartment into a cheaper village home and cut my Arabic language studies in half. Somewhere in the middle of my own fog of despair, I was offered a job hostessing at a restaurant -- a job that would seem to many to be an ideal position for a young female student, but one that is not so innocuous in the West Bank. I was being asked to be the second woman to work in a restaurant in Ramallah's recent history. I would be an aberration in what is -- in spite of the intifada's role in expanding women's societal roles -- a deeply conservative community. In this job, I was to have public exposure that many Palestinians believe is inappropriate for women, a job some would associate with prostitution. Was that really the way I wanted to make myself known?

As a blonde, single, American woman, I was already aware that I was an outsider in this land. I had been working hard to mediate between the norms of Palestinian society (rather than simply surrounding myself with other foreigners) and my own personality that I had brought with me. I also knew that Palestinians were angry at the United States government's refusal to criticize the government of Israel. Faced with a new culture and a tenuous political situation, did I really want to snub social norms, making myself even further a stranger?

The common social currency here in Palestine is the family -- something I had none of. I had come here truly a foreigner -- no recognizable name and no visible support.

I did some informal social polling. The young Palestinian women I lived with encouraged me to take the job, saying, "It's o.k. for you because you are ajanabia (a foreigner) but for us...? No." Dubious reassurance, indeed!

However, I was surprised by the answers of young Palestinian men. I was forced to set aside my own stereotypes about Muslim and Arab men when, instead of questioning my morals, they showed concern about how I would be treated. This may be a tired excuse for Palestinian women who are pushing for the increased social visibility of equality in the workforce. However, for me -- someone accustomed to a culture where women's bodies are commodities of exploitation in media and politics -- their concern was refreshing. Finally, I took the job, after Yusuf, a Palestinian friend, assured me that all would be well.

In retrospect, I can see my naivete. I can see now that when I started work that cold March day my presence became symbolic. Customers' reactions to me were a reflection of what, in their eyes, the job made me. It was only after I had been working for a month and understood much more Arabic that I recognized that I had become a sort of sexual caricature. From the beginning, I was very clear about my boundaries. I sat away from the waiters and avoided talking too much to the owner. I widened the personal space around me -- no `accidental' bumps. And when one just-married waiter blurted out, "Please, I can't sleep. Do you have a boyfriend?," I dutifully -- as my Arab girlfriends had taught me -- made a scene that meant `leave me alone.'

Let me be clear about this. I wasn't careful because I felt that I was representing some cause larger than myself -- my instincts were less noble than that. I had no reason to believe that a Palestinian man would treat me any differently than any other man. But I was afraid of getting into a situation and not knowing the right words or body language to get myself out. I knew that I had already broken an unwritten rule by doing this work -- would my coworkers respect that I had other `rules' that could not be broken? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Feminism in a Foreign Landscape
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.