“Hate and force cannot be in just a part of the world without having an effect on the rest of it.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
The image of women in America has changed drastically over the years and continues to change every day. As most of us know, the opportunities for women in this country are ever growing. We, as women in the United States, have the option to choose whether to be a doctor, a lawyer, a government official, a stay at home mother, a construction worker, or even nothing at all. Since the days of the women’s suffrage movement we have worked hard to earn respect and equality within careers and society. We have role models like Gloria Steinem and Eleanor Roosevelt to inspire future generations to reach their fullest potential and appreciate the opportunities that are presented to them.
Sometimes throughout our days of grabbing coffee at the shop on the corner, sitting in class at our top rated university, and rushing back to our comfortable homes in time for our favorite television shows, it becomes easy to forget just how fortunate we are. As we know, in some other countries women aren’t treated in the same way that American women are used to.
In countries such as China, the status of women has made many turns and alterations, even in the past few
decades. In spite of the progressive attitude in Chinese culture, in some parts of the country, women are still not treated with the respect and equality that is seen in neighboring lands. As expressed by history books, there are still some laws regarding the treatment of women in this culture, which have been overlooked by some. These typically involve the abortion of female children and as Human Rights groups have discovered, the selling of girls into prostitution and as mail-order brides.
On the other hand, women are proud to have jobs in a variety of places and are not looked down upon for their success. Equality in education, rights, and marriage among others are freedoms that Chinese women are lawfully given in this day and age and, like the United States, opportunities for women are constantly growing.
In other parts of the world, the culture for women is quite different. Nations such as Morocco have a very dissimilar view about what are appropriate behaviors, looks, and jobs for women, compared to the United States and China. In an interview with Her Campus Elon president, Avery Lucas, she described the culture through the lens of an American student. “We had lunch at a fairly touristy restaurant, and one of the girls on the trip was wearing leggings because it was cold. Someone overheard the waiters talking very poorly about her, implying that she was dressed inappropriately since she was wearing long leggings.”
Compared to the way that women in Morocco were dressed, this was extremely contradictory. “All the women were dressed in typical Arabic clothing, with burkas, headscarves, and long, loose-fitting dresses. This was the most "traditional" and less urban city, which was apparent by the two bodyguards that our group of fourteen students needed while taking a tour throughout the day. However, when we went to Tangier, a more touristy and urban city, I saw women wearing pants, traditional clothing, and modern clothing.”
Avery shared some of the preparation she needed to go through as an American student traveler. “Before we went to Morocco, we had a woman come and speak to us about the differences we would be facing. She explained that women were so low on the totem pole, that a four-year-old boy has more power than a grown woman. If a woman ever wants to leave the country, she has to wait until she's 18 to get a passport and only with her father's permission.” She also shared some of her most interesting realizations, “What probably shocked and disturbed me the most was hearing that if a woman needed a divorce for a legitimate reason (domestic abuse), the only way the judge would allow it is if she could find a certain amount of witnesses to her being beaten. If you only had women witnesses, it had to be twice as many.”
As we go about our days with the stress of our busy lives, especially during the holiday season, we should take a minute to think about the women of these other cultures and figure out how we want to take advantage of the opportunities presented to us.
“When I see the elaborate study and ingenuity displayed by women in the pursuit of trifles, I feel no doubt of their capacity for the most herculean undertakings.” ~Julia Ward Howe