Today I am getting a little bit political. Sometimes travel blogs and pages get bashed for that. I don't really care; it is my blog and I'll write if I want to. Also, I think traveling, politics and world affairs are never not related. Chances are if Trump becomes president, I will not want to go to the US in the foreseeable future because I will be starting my ever first travel boycott. So you won't get any US content for a while from me. See what I did here?
I just connected travel and politics in less than a paragraph. Will I be endorsing Hillary's campaign on all of my social media channels? Probably not, but I will never not state my opinion about things that matter to me just because they are political or may ruffle some feathers. Neither will I pretend that I am objective. I am not and I don't need to be. If me not liking Trump offends you so much that you don't want to read my travel stories, so be it. Oh, and by the way - this is not really about Trump...
Today my heart is a bit sad and heavy. As it always is on September 11th. I was in New York on that day, so I get it. Or at least I get it as much as someone who didn't lose anybody they knew. But I definitely get it more than someone who wasn't in New York and only watched it all on TV. I saw the towers fall and crumble. I saw my beloved city cry and mourn and eventually rise like Phoenix. I was scared and sad and angry and anything in between.
And still... Still, I never condemned and suspected an entire religious community or race afterward. How could I? I would have to look suspiciously at some of my closest friends and a few boyfriends too.
A long time since then has passed and still, sometimes I think too little has changed. It seems people are more suspicious than ever and I think it is becoming a problem. With that, there are times when I regret my decision of moving back to Germany. I seem to have come at a bad time, a time when the country is facing issues it hasn't faced in a long time and it seems to bring out the worst in people. Many are dissatisfied with the government's policy on refugees, start to vote for right-winged knob heads, and think banning headscarves will make the world a better place.
While I am lucky to call none of these people my friends (at least as far as I know), I have yet to learn to ignore Facebook comments and the art of letting go when certain people think that banning all Islamic countries from their travel list is a way to help suppressed women. Funny enough I, a complete infidel of all religions, find myself defending one's right to believe whatever the heck you want including the existence of green fairies more strongly than ever.
Society is slowly learning that it is quite unacceptable even to question a victim of sexual harassment or rape what she was wearing. A bit too slow for my liking but the memo is making the rounds that it doesn't fucking matter, it is never her fault. We are slowly accepting that a woman can show as much leg and/or cleavage as she wants, it doesn't make her a slut and no, she is still not yours to call after, drool over or be discussed over beers with your buddies. But mind you, we still have a long way to go. If you think feminism has reached has peaked even in Germany you have never been a woman.
With so much still left to do and improve we are now facing 'new' issues. Now people, never keen to just mind their own business, have to have an opinion on women who wear too much clothing. Usually, some sort of head scarf is involved.
Recently an older lady was forcefully asked by the French police to take off clothes while sitting on the beach and a pregnant woman in Spain wearing a headscarf was kicked in the stomach and assaulted. Especially on the latter example there were comments à la 'Well, that is horrible, but she shouldn't have been wearing a headscarf.' Excuse me?! People are not at fault anymore for being assholes but for wearing too many clothes now? What the heck is wrong with the world?
I just don't get it. What is people's problem? I would be delighted if someone could shed some light on the issue for me.
Scared of terrorism? I get that to a certain degree but a headscarf doesn't make a terrorist. Being an all around horrible person with really screwed views of the world makes a terrorist.
Being degraded and harassed for wearing a headscarf is not a good excuse for being scared. Racial profiling and everyday racism are a harsh reality for many and if you don't believe it then you are definitely white. Talk to someone you know who isn't about their experience. Just because it hasn't happened to you doesn't mean it ain't real.
The second argument is that of presumingly wanting to help suppressed women. Because every headscarf and Islam, in general, is a sign of oppression, surely. I am no Islam expert. I don't think it is a great religion, but then I happen to think that none of them is. Do people construct a construed opinion based on the Koran using it for their own agenda? Sure thing. Do I want women everywhere to be able to enjoy their freedom, not live in fear, not having to marry some old, toothless dude they don't want to marry, be allowed to drive, vote, hold jobs and become a lesbian if they are inclined to do so? Of course. But here are some thoughts: I don't think banning headscarves in Europe is going to make that happen in say, Saudi Arabia. Want to invade Saudi Arabia and free all women? Cool, maybe let's talk about that - oh no, wait, we can't, because - oil. Sorry, women of Saudi Arabia. But don't worry, we will just ban headscarves in Germany to make ourselves feel better.
I believe in dialog. I am rather skeptical of boycotting countries to make something better in that country. History has shown that this works semi-okay only. Sure you may feel better about yourself, but I don't think you are actually helping anybody in said country.
With that attitude, we are also incapacitating a whole lot of very smart, successful, progressive Muslim women who happen to love their religion. How dare anybody tell my friend who wears a hijab that she is suppressed, uneducated, and surely must have an evil spell cast over her? It pisses me off.
Then there is another scenario why many have such an issue with headscarves which I find a lot more likely. It has nothing to do with religion but everything with gender roles. I am currently in Indonesia and this past week I attended PATA, the Pan Asian Travel Association. One of the attending journalists published a comment on the topic of Muslim women during the week which you can read here.
Wow, I thought, he made some great points - yes, Muslim women can be empowered, modern, self-assured, not even to mention beautiful. But then he concluded with a petty argument about female beauty standards (miniskirts don't make your legs good on stage!) and how in his eyes they apply to one - the more demure, headscarf-wearing Muslim woman - but not the other - the miniskirt-wearing lady. And though I get that he wanted to support his claim on Muslim women being all of those attributes mentioned above, he just lost it. People (I won't just say men because women often do it too) need to stop objectifying women and stop making it about appearances. It seems not a debate about religion but about different standards of how the sexes are perceived and judged. Guys, unless I ask you if my ass looks fat in these jeans, I do not care about your opinion so keep it to yourself! Same goes for wearing miniskirts, headscarves, and bikinis/burkinis. If you wouldn't say it about your guy friend, a male guy on stage or Mr. President, it doesn't' have merit to the conversation at hand, so don't say it at all!
During our opening night at the Trip of Wonders, we met many employees of the Indonesian tourism ministry. In front of us on stage stood three women who couldn't have been more different: Tata who looked like a full on punk rock chick, Ferina beautiful and elegant, her hijab draped prettily around her face, and bubbly Grace who always laughed. What all three had in common were their big, welcoming smiles and the fact that they work for the ministry of tourism in Indonesia, a pretty important job if you ask me. I didn't care what they looked like and I only cared what they wore because I really wanted Grace's pants. After seeing them together on stage, I asked myself: When have taken a step backward again and made it okay to objectify women covered by pretended concern about their freedom? Since when is it okay again to judge a book by its cover? To look more at accessories than a smile? To judge someone instead of talking to them?