While in Dubai (Today’s World Women’s Day)

I was sitting in a coffee shop at The Walk on Jumeirah Beach Residence when I realized (thanks to Google) that today’s World Women’s Day.  As a tourist in Dubai, UAE, where women are second class citizens, I thought about what World Women’s Day means for Arabic women–the traditional ones, especially–who wear the abāyah & the niqāb.  I mostly thought about their bodies–how confided their breasts were, how tucked in their hair was, & how covered their skin was.  With the exception of an occasional nose ring, I saw no jewelry on them.  I don’t even remember their purses and shoes–although I know they had them.  & while I understand that these Muslim women’s long black robes and headdresses are “shields” that, according to the Quran, protect them from the world by covering intimate parts of the body, I was focused on this idea of freedom–of women’s rights to burn bras & wear pants–to get funky hairdos–& to do it all publicly.

I’m not quite sure–for I am still processing–why I imagine that these Muslim women aren’t “free.”  After all, Orthodox Jews, Amish, Tibetan Monks, et al. have customary clothing.  & even Arabic men wear long white robes (very much like Jesus).  But, I think because the abāyah & the niqāb (that I saw in Dubai) are black, & because the niqāb conceals the entire head except for the eyes, these Muslim women’s bodies appear less liberated, some how more confined than the bodies of others who prescribe–faithfully–to a particular religion.

Maybe if the abāyah & the niqāb were a canary yellow or a periwinkle blue or a moss green, these Muslim women’s body would dance, if you will, signifying a liberation movement akin to Alvin Ailey’s “From Before.”  Colorfully dressed, these traditionally dressed Muslim women would look like flowers, I think, sitting, standing, walking beside their white-dressed men.  Or, they’d look like Black women mothers belonging to a Missionary Baptist church.  & that would be ok too.  But, these desert women are clad in all black everything–which is both Lupe Fiasco & Black Panther hip–& therefore, is cool all by itself.  However, I’m pretty sure they are not carrying that particular spirit with them–or maybe they are?

Anyway, so I’m sitting in a coffee shop, sipping on an amaretto soy cafe latte, wearing a tank top & jean shorts that revealed my tattooed body, flossing three leather Pandora bracelets, three rings (plus a toe ring), & a red & black rosary.  I’m sporting a ‘fro hawk of sorts with a fat part up the side (which perhaps contributed to this Arab brother mistaking me for a boy when I entered the women’s bathroom at the airport last night), & I–a bit excessive in my dress–am thinking about World Women’s Day in Dubai.  What does it mean to be a woman in a space where I exit the airport & there are two waiting areas outside of Baggage Claim: One marked “Women” & another marked “Men”? What does it mean to be a woman in Dubai where pink taxi cabs are assigned to women drivers–who, in 2007–earned the freedom to drive women passengers & their families? And what does it mean to be a lesbian woman in a place where homosexual behavior is forbidden?

I’ve been thinking on this for two days now (as this post is becoming outdated), & John Lennon’s 1972 song, “Woman is the Nigger of the World,” continues to beckon me.  I don’t know if these Arabic women feel like “niggers” in the slave, slave master sense of the word, ’cause I think only slaves can understand that dichotomy.  & why would they feel like slaves or “niggers” anyway considering that they have chosen to follow Islamic doctrine, right? However, these Arabic women dressed in their traditional black robes cause me to stare–much like those who stare at (& marginalize) Black skin.  & of course, my wanting their black robes to be colored Easter kinda makes me a contributing voice to woman’s oppression.  Folks always trying to make a woman look, act, and sound soft, petite, & inviting.

Sigh.  I am absolutely lost in my thoughts.

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About Kendra N. Bryant

I teach peace, & I write poetry. View all posts by Kendra N. Bryant

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