The other day I took the trash out for some shits and giggles. You see, because in Tunisia it’s typically the men who do this household chore. So I grabbed the black bag of despair from the kitchen and yelled to Youssef, “Let’s hit it.”
So the shits part comes from the garbage in my hand, and the giggles from heads turned as I walked to the neighborhood mini dump in broad daylight. I then waved happily to Bechir across the street–Bechir, the owner of the corner store who often hides the good chocolate until I stop by, probably thinks Americans are pretty freaking weird because of me.
We digress. Alright, I’m on my way to the grocery store thinking I left all the trash behind and found: not one, but two lines! One for men and one for women. WHY? JUST WHY?
Yeah supermarket security couldn’t tell me why either. They said it’s an order from the Ministry and proceeded to make sure an even number of men and women were let into the store.
So I stayed in the men’s line with Youssef. When people pointed and asked, “Why is she over there?”. The guard shrugged and said, “His wife wanted to wait with him.” Thank you supermarket security for officiating my abrupt wedding, but no, I stayed next to Youssef (not my husband) who was also peeved by the situation. Another Tunisian woman did the same.
Reasons why their could/should be two lines:
- Women shop for food and this is a better reason to shop.
- Women should not waste time away from the kitchen waiting in a line outside
- Women are too weak to wait as long as men. They should be let in faster.
- Women are more organized so they can get in and out quickly.
- Women are well behaved and will not cause trouble.
- Women are not there to buy alcohol. They are pure flowers.
I didn’t want to be an imperialist asshole so I asked around about what some Tunisians thought. They thought this extra line thing was garbage too.
Tunisia is praised for being a leader when it comes to women’s rights in the Arab World. Here you will find hijabs, free flowing hair, maybe the occasional burqa, and my personal favorite: platinum blonde visible for miles.** Hair is important–just ask my mom. But professional inclusion and political representation is also important, so I would like to show you the new ten dinar bill:
Right now the U.S. doesn’t have women represented on currency (due to the delay of our girl Harriet Tubman’s debut). If we are using this as a benchmark, perhaps Tunisians can show us a thing or two about gender and equity.
This all goes to show that, no thank you U.S. military of the early 2000s, Muslim women do not need saving. The badass mayors, CEOs, and doctors of the world who cover their hair will probably be better off without you and your invasions. And more specifically, no thank you supermarket security, the extra line is not justified by your desire to take advantage of corona privileges.
However, women do need their rights respected. This extra grocery line has my undies in a bundle, but I’m sincerely upset about the expected rise of domestic abuse due to quarantine. There are actual posts circulating on Facebook of men celebrating the closure of courts and protective measures.
With that in mind, this post is not so much about being annoyed at the supermarket, but more so about the balance of privilege and how that takes shape. A lot of us reading have more clay in this life-sized pottery class. Let’s sculpt something lovely, like respecting equal rights in little ways, as to not contribute to a culture in which gender determines safety in big ways.
**Women, and people in general, should be able to wear whatever they want. Hijab or bikini.
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