Thursday, May 18, 2006

Eve's Market

I tuned in to the JRTV website last Thursday to see first hand the confessions of alleged Hamas members on the 8 o'clock news cast, and at the end of the cast there was a story about a new market in Mafraq, Jordan. What makes this market special is that it's available exclusively to females, see an Alghad article about it. All the shops in the market are run by women, men are not allowed into the market and those men who insist on accompanying a woman until she gets to the "safety" of Eve's Market, will have to wait outside the market in a room clearly marked with a sign that says Men's Rest Area.

Those interviewed for the story, both men and women, expressed their support for the market and stated that it's a great idea for our conservative society. Now I grew up in Irbid, which is a very conservative society and I'd like to make two notes. Firstly, I find this idea to be too extreme, what harm can come from some interaction between males and females in a place like a market? I'm aware that females are often subjected to comments that are unpleasant in nature to say the least, but you do not solve this problem by further separation. All the separation does is make the interactions even more awkward in the future, because the scene of a woman in a market that is not designated as for women only, will be seen as something out of place. A healthy level of gender integration can go a long way. Take our educational system as an example, public schools are gender segregated, and more often than not when teenagers start school on our co-ed colleges they've had very little contact with people of the opposite gender outside their family circle. That led to very awkward situations that I as a proud public school graduate, have witnessed first hand, things that would make you go what was s/he thinking?!

The other note I want to make is on a topic that has been on the minds, and blogs, of many Jordanians, the issue of the huge economical and social differences between Amman and the rest of the Kingdom. I can't imagine an idea like Eve's Market flying in Amman, I remember an Amr Diab concert in The Orthodox Club in Amman circa 1994, I was 17 at the time, and when I saw guys and girls greeting each other with kisses on the cheek I thought that I was on a different planet rather than a different city. The Ammanite society has gotten much more liberal since 1994, while the rest of Jordan is where it has been for the last 30 years for the most part. It's normal for any country to have differences between its people and regions, but I wonder how healthy is it for the differences to be so stark in a country so small?

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