Monday, July 20, 2009


Today in class I had a student walk out on me.  I was teaching 'Report Writing' for a group of management trainees, nothing strange/funny there, except for this one man who wouldn't look at me.

I'd forgotten there is a school of thought here which doesn't allow interaction with non-relatives of the opposite sex, in any way, shape or form.  This means no looking at anyone of the opposite sex, no shaking their hand {see wgaw blog archive: shaking hands}, etc. In reality, not communicating with the opposite sex.

I've experienced this thought process for many years. When I lived in England in the 1980s I'd shared a house with an English woman called Jenny, who refused to speak to men; she was (and presume still is) a seperatist lesbian feminist.

Anyway, back to the man in the classroom this morning.  When I asked him to work on an activity with one of the girls wearing a hijab {see wgaw blog archive: hijabs} he went into panic mode (eyes flashing then quick movements away, total body recoil, sallow colour entered his cheeks), I over came this by doing a quick change around and paired him up with another boy.

However, at the first break he siddled up to me and said he was too busy to continue with the course, he had to go back to work to answer emails. I asked him to come with me to the course administrator to explain what was going on.  This he did, and although he wasn't paying for the course, we really couldn't force him to take part in something he refused to join.

Although it's strange to be rejected completely on the grounds of being a woman, I realised today rejection does become easier with age. What once fascinated me, finding out about thought processes I didn't understand, was no longer interesting.  But I was genuniely sad for him.  And for the girl in the hijab who had been quite embarassed by his obvious dislike for her.


*~Ange~* said...

maybe he just shat his pants and needed to be excused.

trancepass said...

perhaps, he's graduated form boy school.
what course are you teaching?

Sand Gets in My Eyes said...

Seven years in KSA, and I wonder if I will ever get to the point where "finding out about the thought processes I [don't] understand" will make me only sad instead of interested...frankly, I hope not!

I just located your blog and am enjoying your archives. Seems we have much in common!


ange Embuldeniya said...

It is seriously sad that this is happening at corporate level...When working in Saudi I'd understand and honestly it isn't so bad as some people perceive it to be in Saudi, but this is Bahrain and I wasn't expecting to hear something like this.

Thanks for sharing wgaw~

wgaw said...

ange: isn't as bad as all that, this is the first time i've come across it in 12 years of teaching. in reality, bahrain is extremely tollerant.

trancepass: i teach management skills, in this case; report writing

sgime: glad you're enjoying the wgaw archives.

Ashish Gorde said...

It's amazing that rejection (or even bad behaviour) becomes easier to accept as one gets older. What was once intolerable suddenly becomes somebody's quirk and ends up as an anecdote. I wonder why that's so... is it because the issue becomes less important or have we just moved on from such issues?

Coming back to your post, it'd be interesting to see how this man fares in life. It's one thing for him to blame tradition for such behaviour it's another thing to live with the consequences of it. What on earth would happen if he joins a firm and a woman takes over as CEO or Chairperson?

wgaw said...

Ashish, yes that is how it is, what was once important is something that is no longer interesting. I spent time thinking about it, finding out about it even, but it's still there and I can't change it. Now it's time for something else.

Faith in Writing said...

I was recently introduced to a friend of my fil's, who has spent the past 50 years in KSA, and was appalled to find that while my fil was looking straight at me and smiling and talking, throughout the introduction his friend merely glanced at me and refused to look at me for long periods (past 2 seconds). I was wearing jeans with a dress over the top and hijab (we were in Jordan and I was playing the part) so I really couldn't understand ... it wasn't as if I was standing there in a bra and nickers!! But I felt like I had offended him as much. Then I was left with him and our baby for a while and he refused to look at me still, even though we were both smiling and playing with the baby. So I sat there, feeling like a stupid rejected woman for 5 mins. Then I just walked off. I felt like there was no point even excusing myself if he wouldn't look at me.

!! I don't care how this is explained to me,I'll never understand it.

Bkwrd byatch said...

To Faith in writing and to the others who have a lack of knowledge regarding this situation and many other..., regarding Islam, but are quick to find fault.

First your way of life is not the only way of life. In Islam, one has to lower his/her gaze, it's that simple.

Many who are non-Muslims and is used to mingling with boys and girls and have no respect for ea other...should first study the culture, religion...before going places like this, before implementing your way of life. We need to respect other cultures, and the way they do things...its their style...just like if they were to come to your country and do something that may offend you.