Thank You For Nourishing The Stereotype, Mr. Prime Minister

الخميس 25 تشرين الثاني 2010

Written by Nadine Toukan.

In an effort to place women’s issues on the government agenda and confidently claim it, the recent cabinet change includes a tag to the Ministry of Social Development, evolving it to Social Development & Women’s Affairs.

A banner devoid of dignity. No evolution there.

A sorry regression. Feeds into the problem. Insults half the population directly and insults the other half indirectly. Grows dependency on a quota mentality, everywhere. Lends to further gender stereotyping.

What is it about the gender conversation that makes the system so confused that we lose wisdom?

How can anyone justify that the wide range of topics that women’s affairs may encompass belong in a corner inside the Ministry of Social Development? Does this mean that men’s affairs do not belong within this ministry? Or is the role of women shadowed within social development only? Are there no men’s affairs we ought to be concerned about? What is the definition of women’s affairs anyway? Are women’s affairs not society’s affairs?

How did we decide to rescind an entire gender, half the population, to an after thought?

And no, the thing that we absolutely must not do is create a stand alone Ministry of Women’s Affairs either. That would be an even bigger disaster in a century when we know better because of experience.

The gender conversation specific to women is a topic of humanity. Gender stereotyping is a crisis of humanity. It is not a women’s issue. It is neither created nor solved in a gated environment outside of the ecosystem. It cannot be a segregated view.

As long as women are siloed and placed under the social development banner, violence against women will continue. Respect towards women will diminish. The self confidence of women will not be nurtured. The image of women will not be equal. And in a world full of misunderstanding, the rifts will only grow wider. In turn, men will become more broken, societal frustrations will fester, the workplace him and her attitudes will become more prejudiced, respect in the streets will wane, education will fail to fix things, and family and community units will further disintegrate. We must reframe the conversation on sex and gender. It is broken.

Dear government, either become part of the solution or get out of the way completely.

We need to rewire our entire system within every building, street, hallway, book and screen towards a healthy reality of gender cohesion. We cannot do so with sexist, gender biased banners and after thoughts that label half a population and concern the entire.

What Jordan needs now is a dialog of respect. We must seek to be enlightened. We must work towards integration. We must nurture capacities that collaborate and complement each other. We must value and credit on merit. We must raise the bar of ethics, human ethics, so as to weave a safer social net for all. We must affirm human dignity.

  • Rima Saifi

    Ouf I had to check the papers to believe it !

  • I am afraid that this was not written rationally, it is rhetoric and dramatic. Now, the idea behind the post might be valid, but I do not see how this will result in all of what was predicted by Nadine.

    Nadine, would you please write us a more rational post? Of course if you feel like it. And while at it, please include the Supreme Council for the disabled Affairs in your critique.(I am serious, not acting sarcastic or anything).

  • @Haitham – let’s start with the Disabled Affairs Council… what kind of quality of life do people with disabilities have in Jordan? I find it hard to argue anything short of humiliating. It’s 2010/2011 after all. A universe of solutions have been created, tried, tested with track records and easy to use catalogs. What is implemented in Jordan offering disabled around us a dignified lifestyle?Questions from daily life, no drama:Can a person in a wheelchair be independently mobile in the streets of Amman or Karak or…?Ever observe a woman with her 3 year old and aging father in a wheelchair crossing the street (at a pedestrian crossing)? Ever wonder how someone in a wheelchair is expected to cross the street using the pedestrian bridge?Can an elderly person get around town on a senior citizen scooter?Ever spend a day with a man on crutches following up his paperwork across four public sector departments around town?Ever see a blind woman trying to get to her dentist for the first time, using public transportation?Ever see the same blind woman take her kids to a public park on a sunny afternoon?Ever try to walk around town with a broken leg?Ever witness a situation where a paranoid schizophrenic off his meds has to be rushed to the emergency room of a general hospital to treat a broken arm?These issues can never be solved by a bunch of people siloed in the Disability Council. The activists for a disability friendly country need to be embedded in every municipality, planning department, ministry offices everywhere. They need to be part of the building codes teams. They need to be part of the conversation when a building owner violates these codes so that owner is forced to build with solutions for the disabled and not cut corners. They need to be part of the teams developing the health sector, the tourism sector, culture, entertainment, sports and so on. A moral will and technical skill must exist across the board in everything we do if we are to be respectful to people with disabilities and enable the a life of total functionality and dignity.The alternative is to build a disability friendly zone, stick every “non perfect” citizen in it from birth till death, gate it, throw away the key and live happily ever after on the outside with the Disabled Affairs Council on the checklist.What are your thoughts?Not ignoring the first part of your comment. To be cont…

    • Actually I liked what you said =) And here is my point again, why did not you write your post that way? Now despite the fact that I second Ani, for I can hardly see how a typical Jordanian will see this as a problem, I still think that you could have wrote a more articulate and intellectually convincing post, or don’t you think so?

      And I think that if you gave your article a second thought, then you should have seen Hend’s comment coming, which I think is quit convincing (for me at least it is)

      I hope that you did not take anything personal here, it is just a comment after all =)

      • Please take a moment to read this comment from Deena on who speaks for the public and the need for inclusion. Hend makes a point that was discussed on Twitter a couple weeks ago, before the Gov’s appendage announcement. It’s an important debate I welcome and would much rather not avoid. In response to your point, I wrote this because such planning should be about vision and not tactics. This decision is a poor man’s tactic. We know better, yet we opt otherwise. Not only do women deserve better, but you and your fellow Jordanians and society at large deserve much, much better. And it’s achievable, with the right vision to set the needed actions in motion. And if Gov is not able to do this, they really should do nothing and get out of the way instead, as civil society will find a way through. Unfortunately what Gov did holds everyone back with cumbersome weight.

        • I do not see why it should be visions and not tactics? Visions are about theories, tactics are about practice, and we all know that there is a huge gap between theories and real life; we live in the later.But now I see your point. You want task force teams. That is good. But don’t they need coordination?We all want to achieve that meritocratic society, no doubt, but… sigh… I wish I only could say what is going on in my mind… but I am afraid that this transcends task force teams, ministries or NGOs.

          • Vision is not theory. It’s a promise to live up to.

            “… but I am afraid that this transcends task force teams, ministries or NGOs.” – and this is exactly why we need that vision. A national commitment that includes everybody.

  • Hend Fayez Abuenein

    أعتقد أن هناك قضايا نسائية تحتاج لوحدة وظيفية في الحكومة لتتابعها. سواء كانت في التنمية الاجتماعية أو غيرها.

    حتى يتم الدفع بشكل أكثر تنظيما وقوة باتجاه التغييرات القانونية والاجتماعية اللازمة يجب خلق مثل هذه الوحدة الوظيفية. وأنا أتكلم هنا عن ما يـُكمل ويدعم عمل اللجنة النيابية المعنية بشؤون المرأة والأسرة في مجلس الأمة وما تطرحه وتدفع باتجاهه من قضايا.

    في رأيي المتواضع ليس عيبا أن نسمي هذه الوحدة بمسمى شؤون المرأة، ولا أن تدرج في التنمية الاجتماعية، وإن كان لهذين الأمرين بدائل أخرى. وليس تصغيرا من رأيكم ، لكني أرى أن من السطحية نعتَ هذا الاتجاه الجديد في إعطاء شؤون المرأة (القانونية والاجتماعية) شأنا في الحوكمة بأنه دامغٌ بالتحيّز أو بجندرة المجتمع.

    أذكر أن المطالبة بحوكمة الاهتمام في شؤون المرأة كان من بين الطلبات المتكررة التي أرسـِيت في تويتر من خلال #Joreform
    وقد ضـُرب المثل في اسبانيا ودول أخرى أن فيها وزارات لشؤون المرأة، وهذا لم يدمغ تلك الدول بأنها تجندر القوانين أو بأنها مجتمعات مجندرة

    هناك شؤون نسائية كثيرة تحتاج للدفع إلى الأمام في التشريع وتنفيذه، منها القوانين الشرعية التي تناقض الشريعة في روحها، وقلّة المؤسسات الاجتماعية الداعمة للمرأة، وخلق عجلة التغيير في نمطي الفكر السائد إلى ما يدعم المرأة كمؤسسة جديرة بالاحترام وليس كضلعٍ ٍ قاصر. كما أن هناك الكثير مما يمكن أن يطوّر في التشريع المعني بالأسرة ككل إن لم يكن بالمرأة خاصة.

    من الأولى في مثل واقعنا، أن نخرج بمجهوداتنا ونقاشاتنا من بوتقة التسمية والهيكلة الوظيفية. ونبدأ بدقّ المسامير حيث تجب.

    • Hend, you’re asking for too little. The issues we’d like to see evolved, improved, changed, abolished and reengineered are in every corner of our days and lives.
      Do you not want more for women in labor?
      Do you not want more for women in the media?
      Do you not want more for women in education?
      Do you not want more for women in our laws?
      Do you not want more for women in health care?
      Do you not want more for women in our streets and public places?
      Do you not want more for women in the male conversation that happens in some house of faith?
      Do you not want more for the family as a unit?
      It’s a long list.

      The goals and actions needed for the issues at hand exist across the board. We should be asking for task forces in every ministry, every department, every organization to make them happen – legislative and executive. To do that we need a national vision to shift from our current mindset. Anything short of that and we’re just busy with little tactics and alleged wins while the big picture crumbles – sometime visibly, sometimes invisibly.

      If the Municipality of Amman had a task force for disabled people in the middle of the room with the people handling the pedestrian bridges, don’t you think they would’ve done a better job to make the pedestrian bridges disability friendly? Have you seen what the ‘ramps’ on the sidewalks look like? The sidewalk team slapped on a ramp because the manual said they had to, but clearly common sense was absent and no one in a wheel chair was around to say, “hey my chair doesn’t fit, it’s too tight. hey my chair can’t climb that ten centimeter edge, hey my chair cannot take such share turns”. The Disability Council, the rule book and the memos failed. It’s pathetic! Why did this happen? The disabled voice was not in the room, so they were excluded from the action. They need to be in the room working together 24/7 every step of the way. The technical part of the solution is simple after that.

      Let’s think of the female related issues that we want to see addressed, and let’s imagine the scenarios of what it takes to get them done. What’s on your list?

  • Ani

    FTA: “violence against women will continue. Respect towards women will diminish. The self confidence of women will not be nurtured. The image of women will not be equal. And in a world full of…(to the end of the paragraph)”

    Here is the problem… Most Jordanians don’t even see all this as an issue in the first place.

    This is how Jordanians see things:
    First, violence against women is totally justified under the banner of honor and other cultural and religious ideas. Secondly, of course women should not be respected the way men are, because of many cultural beliefs and religious interpretations. Thirdly, nobody really cares about the self-confidence of women and finally, the image of women should not be equal to that of men, because men and women are not even equal in the first place.

    On women’s rights in general, it doesn’t really matter what the government does or doesn’t do, things are only going to change when people understand that men and women are exactly equal in everything except anatomy, and -most importantly- neither one of them (men mostly) has the right to designate to the other what rights they should have and what rights they shouldn’t have.

    • It is not seen as an issue Ani because it’s been put in a token category as Deena states. Bring it out front and center and we will realize how it holds an entire society back. Honor, respect, violence against women are overlooked and accepted as you mention because these issues have not been an integral part of the national conversation in religion and education and culture and media and health and and and.I don’t believe there should be a female-male competition to achieve equality, as that is quite an elusive measure. What we should work towards is inclusion – something everybody deserves. Once that happens it becomes easier to make decisions about when one wants to lead or follow, fight or accept. We are suffering an ethics and morality crisis. Our perception of life has been totally contorted because of omission, and now we’re using a warped benchmark and finding it hard to see beyond this painful reality.

  • Ani

    One other thing, FTA:”What Jordan needs now is a dialog of respect. We must seek to be enlightened. We must work towards integration…..We must raise the bar of ethics, human ethics…We must affirm human dignity.”

    You are obviously expecting too much of our society, none of this is ever going to happen…unfortunately.

  • It won’t happen through tactical musical chairs every few months, no. It takes moral will first and foremost, and then it’s a generational shift. When a country pledges a national moral will it enables us to discover, design and learn the moral skill needed in everything we do over the next ten years. That’s how it becomes possible.

  • sohair

    well said Nadine. I was shocked too by this new appellation, because it is nothing more than a simple game of appellations and terminology afterall. We are “the society” “the people” endangered by this game of terminology because it aims at introducing a new culture that has no tangible basis nor results, hence no policy making, no policy development, wala eshi! nothing! There is the Economic Social Council that was established in Jordan months ago, presided by Abdul Ilah Al Khatib. This is where society issues of all walks should be brought up and recommendations should be made to the parliament and gov’t. This council in Europe is very powerful and useful. i wonder when it will be activated and when the people will be able to have their say about something!

  • Fhellner

    I would not mind if the Ministry in charge of women’s affairs was given extra competencies, for example a say in important decisions made by other ministries, to see whether they are not gender biased. And if the Ministry was headed by a strong, credible personality who has shown his or her interest in realising women’s rights before. In some European countries, Ministers in charge of women’s affairs have done quite a lot for the cause of women.
    It would be better, however, if Government would lead by example. There are still only 3 women in cabinet, of 31 posts. There are still only 9 women in the Senate, of 60 positions. And there are still only 13 women in the Lower House, of 120 seats. How credible is this?

  • Social Development & Women’s Affairs. you gotta be kidding me !!!
    this whole issue of treating women as if she is an alien! a women is not a curse that the social development needs to deal with .. even if the aim was right their approach is insulting .. great article dear

  • Walid

    Let them start by giving the woman (who has married a foreign national) the right to bestow upon her children the Jordanian nationality. Small place to start right?
    And then we can build upon women’s rights, how about the equal right of inheritance, and then you can add myriads of other things to it.