Friday, May 22, 2009

The cultural ideals of Bedouin

This is one of sixes essays I have written for my anthropology 201 this semester. I think it is the most interesting one, because it deals with some very unique cultural ideals. Yes, it is an A paper too. I have received a B+ on my first paper of this class, I won’t post it here; it is not so interesting to read.

How Bedouin Women Fit into their Ideological Role

In Veiled Sentiments by Lila Abu-Lughod, the codes of honor are regarded as one of the essential elements to construct the ideology of the Bedouin society. Given the fact the Bedouin is patriarchal society, men are dominant and carry the codes of honor, including independence and self-control. Nevertheless, low social class or dependent men and women present voluntary deference in order to achieve their honor. Particularly, Abu-Lughod analyzes women’s role in the society. Women are considered inferior because they are naturally less independent and incapable of controlling their bodies; menstruation and sexuality are undeniable evidence of it. Most importantly, sexuality, which is closely related with women, directly threatens the fundamental social pattern of patriarchy. Hence, women wear veils in order to present their realization of shame and characteristic modesty; this is their voluntary deference, a specific way for women fulfilling the social ideology and achieving honor.

Menstruation and sexuality indisputably demonstrate the fate that women are short of the capability to control their bodies. Menstruation is judged unclean and a pollutant by Bedouins as well as many other people in the world. “A menstruating woman cannot pray” (130). However, menstruation is a natural attribute of women; no women can resist it. Since self-control, including controlling one’s natural desires, is promoted as honor by Bedouins, consequently, menstruation becomes an inherent weakness in women. They are unable to do anything to amend the fact but admitting their inferiority in comparison with men.

Sexuality is constantly linked with reproduction in the Bedouin. This process of reproduction demonstrates women’s dependence and lack of self-control. Sexual intercourse implies women’s dependence. They have to get the cooperation from their husband in order to complete it. Pregnancy and birth-bearing expose women’s failure to control themselves. An example Abu-Lughod offers is that during the pregnancy, women lose control over their own bodies (133). It is true that the bodies of pregnant women grow abnormally. Because of these natural attributes, women are viewed as inferior and as being less honor than men. They become the vehicles for men to perpetuate lineages (133). For this same reason, older postmenopausal women, who are no longer reproductive and less sexually active, are less controlled by others (133).

More importantly, sexuality is a serious threat that challenges the patriarchal system. As mentioned above, sexuality proves women’s dependence because they need men to fulfill this process. Therefore, sexuality reveals men’s dependence as well. When men depend on women to get sexual satisfaction, they are inclined to attach emotionally to women. Before a man gets married, he completely follows the order of patriarchy and fully respects his father and senior kin males. However, after the marriage, sexuality creates intimacies between the wife and the husband, which is a strong force competing for the men’s obeisance of the patriarchy. It “challenge[s] to the hierarchical relationship between providers and dependents, or elders and juniors” (147). Understandably, senior agnates ignore junior agnates weddings, subconsciously recognizing the threat such weddings pose to their authority (147). The implication of sexuality in Bedouin culture is extremely profound.

Based on these analyses above, the real reason Bedouin women wear veils can be explained. In comparison with common American stereotypes about the veil, which generally means women cover their face in order to avoid sexually attracting men; consequently, it prevents further sexual activities from taking place. Oppositely, from the Bedouin perspective, women wear veils because they are innately shameful. The sexual relation between men and women forcefully challenges the fundamental social order of this society. Although sexuality is necessary for reproduction and is unavoidable, the troublesome consequence of sexuality is undeniable and women should accept responsibility for it. The veil demonstrates women’s self-mastery and the code of modesty. Despite the fact that women cannot effectively control their bodies and some natural processes such as sexuality, their attitudes of understanding the shame and showing modesty are a typical form of voluntary deference; their independent choices assist them to achieve honor.

The fact that neither all the women wear veils nor do they wear veils all the time and in all places additionally reveals the significance of the veil. First of all, unmarried girls do not have to wear veils. They have no sexuality, making no threat on the social order and having no shame at all. Due to less or no sexuality, older women wear veils less frequently. Married women are the category of people who wear veils, but they do this depending on the situation. When they encounter high status males, they always wear veils. The profound meaning here is that women’s sexuality with their husband results in the husbands’ greater respect for their wives than those senior males. Married women wear veils because they feel shame about this fact. Nevertheless, women do not wear veils in front of their husbands because their husbands share with their shame.

In the Bedouin society, people emphasize the codes of honor in order to maintain the patriarchal social order. Women are naturally less independent and have less self-control. Particularly, they are closely associated to sexuality, a dilemma, that on the one hand, is essential for reproduction, and on the other hand, threatens the patriarchal system. Veiling represents women’s acknowledgement of shame. This is a critical way that women participate in the society and show their attempt to fit into the Bedouin ideology. Their honor is not placed on independence and self-control, but voluntary deference.

The last day of my life as an undergraduate student

This noon, I handed in my final paper of history 392W to the professor’s mail box in the department office. At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I emailed two final essays to the professor of Anthropology 201. So, at this moment, I am done. It is a big turning point of my academic life.

Because of the decreasing budget, the school writing center ended its torturing service a week before the last day of the semester. The assignments of my final papers were handed out at the day the center close. Thus, I had to find assistances from my friends on my papers. I asked Barry to correct my anthropology papers. I really did not want to spend him too much time, so I told him to correct the big grammatical errors only. However, Barry took this task seriously. He read my papers very carefully, not only correcting my grammatical errors, but showing better expressions to me. Moreover, he discussed the main ideas and supporting details to me too. I went to see him at 5 o’clock in the Tuesday afternoon, and expected to finish the papers within one hour. However, on Tuesday, we talked about my paper until 7 o’clock but we had done only the first one. Barry asked me coming on the next day. He took my second paper home and read and prepared for the next day discuss. On Wednesday, we met 4 o’clock. When we were done, the time was 7 o’clock again. I felt so sorry about this, but Barry said he enjoyed the discussion of my papers. I believed his words because there cultural topics were indeed interesting.

I bought a box a strawberry and a bag of cherry to Barry on the Wednesday. At first, he refused to take. Those old ladies who study English with Barry told him that was my expression of gratitude. Then, he accepted and said, “Ok, I like strawberry, and my wife likes cherry.” I am glad to hear that. Barry and his wife are going to vacation next week. The students in the ESL center and me all are could not wait to see him again.

I asked my ex-coworker Jennifer to help me on my history paper. I didn’t want to ask one person to do too much job; instead, I asked two people. Jennifer has a BA in English major, and she is such a sweet girl. I thought she should do a quicker job than Barry, but she still spent three hours to check the seven page paper. She helped me on sentence by sentence, word to word. After she checked my paper, I had confidence to hand in my paper. I am so glad that I have so many wonderful people in my life. I wanted to treat Jennifer a dinner after she spent time on my paper, but her mother called her and insisted her eating at home. So, I promised her I would make some Sushi for her when she works in school next Friday.

I do not have anymore work to do at least today or tonight. I can do anything I want now. I am happy that I successfully finish my college career. Even though tomorrow is unsure, I don’t worry too much at this moment. As the college, my friends and family members had done, I also recognize my hard work and ambitions. Congratulations, Pink tear!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Awards from QC History Department

I have only one final exam this semester, South Asia history, and I finished it today. It is not difficult at all, five identifications. I expect an A or A- on this course. There are still four papers that I have to do in order to finish all courses; one is two page (for extra credit), two are four page, and another is eight paper. I am looking forward to the summer vacation although I am indeed enjoying the tense studying, which keep me from a boring live.

I got two awards from my department last Friday. They are called “World History Prize” and “Department Honor”, respectably. Barry had told me he would come and he really did. He took it seriously. He had a business in Manhattan in that morning. After that, he rushed to Queens to join my ceremony. He also prepared a present for me. He knew I like calligraphy, so he asked his one of his Chinese students to select a calligraphy book for me. They ran to all bookstores in Flushing but they were disappointed. Thus, Barry went to Manhattan Chinatown and finally found a good calligraphy book for me. I am so touched by his action. He is a really really nice Jewish.

After the ceremony, we went to Kissena Park to have a walk. The weather was so nice. Tree leaves were in fresh green. We walked around the lake and then stayed down aside to watch some old men playing a ball game. Barry have told me the name of the game, sorry I could not remember it now. Some of those men spoke Italian. Barry was enjoying listening to his mother language.

Barry and his wife are going to have a one month trip to Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Thailand. He said after he comes back, he may take a Chinese class in the school where I am teaching in July. I wish them having a wonderful trip and wish to see Barry again soon.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Preparing the final exams

There are only two weeks left for this semester. I have one final exam that will be next Monday, for history 144. For history 392 and Anthropology 201, I am expected to complete an 8 page paper for each of them. This final exam period is not exciting because there is no an exact time as a sudden end, but passing gradually.

I have measured my time and believe I have enough time to finish these tasks. The due of the last paper is May 22. After that, my undergraduate program is end. Probably, I have to say the end is a wide opened new start after four and half year college study.

Brian found a job a few days ago after stayed at home many months. This job has a higher salary and is closer at our home than his first job. This is a photo frame manufacture, which is similar with Brian’s first company despite it has a much larger scale. Although his first job was an depressed memory for us, it at least provided Brian some experience and also became the partial reason that this company hires him.

His work schedule is basically 10-6, but not fixed. I think it is very acceptable working hours. I remember someone said, it is happiness that family member can have dinner together. Because of my miserable pervious work experience, always came back home 10 or 11 at night, I totally comprehend the profound meaning of these words, although it looks simple and easy. Unlike me, Brain told me he would like stay in the work place as late as he could, “I have already stayed at home too long. Right now I like to work”.