Category Archives: feminism

What to wear in Oman : Lady Travel

Having been unable to find the information before we went on holiday to Oman last year, and having friends who live there who weren’t overly specific in the way that I was looking for (TELL ME EXACTLY WHAT I SHOULD BE WEARING GUYS. FEED MY NEUROSES.), it seemed like a good idea to write the post I would have liked to read before hopping on a plane to the Middle East. So how should you dress if you’re a lady heading to the Middle East- specifically, Oman- on holiday and you want to be a) respectful, b) comfortable, and c) cute? Allow me to do what I can to shed some light on the situation.

A lot of it will come down to fabrics. When we were in Oman, the average daily temperature was around 100F/40C and cotton or denim aren’t really the go-to fabrics for such climes. Linen or loose knit cotton would have been ideal. Everywhere in Oman has very strong air conditioning, so do keep in mind that a lot of the time will be spent braving the heat just to get in a car with air conditioning, to drive to a place with air conditioning. This is how one gets away with wearing skinny jeans and a tank top with cardigan for a night out – but if you’re planning on wandering around markets or heading to the desert, I wouldn’t make that your go-to outfit.

While our trip was just a little over a week, this is my takeaway on what I’m glad I took, what I wish I’d taken, and what I’d recommend for anyone going on a little Omani holiday.

Things I’m glad I took

Floaty wide leg trousers. I had two pair, one in a cotton/linen blend with a fun print, and the other in a black satin. The satin ones got a bit sticky and wrinkly, but were still good – especially nice for evenings out. So floaty! They were, in fact, so lovely that I left them with my friend in Oman because she could get far more use out of them in day to day life. Highly recommend.

woman how to dress in the middle east oman

Lightweight scarf. For mosque visits, mostly. You’ll need to cover every bit of your hair, and it’ll be hot, so the lighter the scarf, the better (go for silk if you can, cotton is too heavy)! You can pick these up for very cheap anywhere in the Middle East anyway – and they make beautiful gifts for people back home, or a souvenir for yourself. Prepare to haggle in the markets to buy a few of your own in bulk.

what to wear when visiting oman

This was a gorgeous scarf that I picked up in Istanbul. It was fine for mosque visits there, but probably not big enough for its needs in Oman. You can see the difference between the two scarves – the one above is big enough and opaque enough for head, neck and shoulders, and that’s what you need.

what to wear when visiting oman headscarf women

blond headscarf woman middle east turkey

Not-too-tight jeans: Mostly good for going out for meals or a night out in the crazy air conditioning of a “western” or more relaxed restaurant or night club. The nightlife in Muscat is very open and forgiving, particularly if you are at a place that serves alcohol. Definitely wouldn’t be great for heading to the markets or being out in the day time though – much too uncomfortable. Much like I was in the picture below (despite how happy I look to be in the middle of a resort in the Omani desert).

how to dress in oman woman desert

Below the knee dresses. Another picture from Istanbul, but the dress still stands! Long sleeves, and even the slit is still below the knee. The darker color wasn’t great – go lighter whenever you can to beat the heat.
what to wear in oman what to pack in oman

Loose t-shirts: You can get by with short sleeved shirts in a fair few places, but not with truly short sleeves – no cap sleeves or anything like that. Just to the top of the elbow is good, although mid upper arm is usually fine. Make sure they don’t hang too close to the armpit to avoid pitstains, and make sure they’re long enough that nothing shows if you bend over. In the t-shirt I’m wearing in the picture below, I still had to cover up when going in and out of the restaurant, but it was fine inside.

shisha in oman

Bikini: Private hotels are just like their less-conservative counterparts around the world, and you can wear whatever you want, so don’t leave yours at home thinking it won’t be of use. You’ll be sorely disappointed when you get to the very chill hotel with an actual pool!

 

Losers of the trip

-Literally every cotton cardigan I brought. I wish I’d had a loose-knit cardigan that a) didn’t touch my armpits b) went to at least elbow-length (but no need to cover up to the wrist unless you’re at the mosque), and c) wasn’t in a dark color. (See the black and white cardigan in the mosque picture above – it covered everything but I was absolutely melting. I ripped it off the second we got back in the car with the air conditioning, panting like a dog.

-White. Cotton. Maxi dress. Too heavy, too hot, too see through. The worst of all worlds really. Would not bother with again.

 

Things I wish I’d brought

As mentioned, a 3/4 sleeve, loose-knit cardigan in a light color would have been ideal.

Long shorts. Especially if you plan on going out in the desert. I’m talking all the way to the knee here!

Capri pants. I hate them in my day to day life, but they would have suited so well!

Peasant tops – again, loose, floaty, 3/4 sleeved.


Have I missed anything? I know that the rules for dressing as a female in the Middle East and other conservative countires can vary dramatically depending on exactly where you find yourself (for more on that, read my post on what to pack for visiting Marrakech), but hopefully this serves as useful for any of you heading to Oman any time soon.

 

paris by night solo female safety tips

Travelling alone in Paris while female

paris by night solo female safety tips

Travelling alone while female is a topic that has been well-trod basically since the first woman left her house with no chaperone and galloped right out of town, shocking everyone. Personally, I’m a fan of the solo travel experience – I know that many people of all genders are not for a variety of reasons, but travelling alone allows you to become uncomfortable and subsequently comfortable with yourself, with being by yourself and having no one to bounce ideas off of, with having no one to make decisions with, and ultimately, with having no one to answer to. I recommend it. I’ve been a solo female traveller in the Pacific Islands, in South Korea, parts of Europe and America – of course, I recommend it!

But there’s always a ‘but’. Last week I went to Paris alone for a few days. It was not my best trip ever, much of it because I was sexually harassed multiple times (something I reflected on here), but despite that, Paris is and always will be wonderful, and having a few bad experiences is not enough to swear off going places alone.

It got me thinking that there are some general tips for travelling solo while female, but there are also some that are more specific to Paris itself. I do not agree with the overly adamant assertion that woman don’t need to take extra precautions that men do not have to take when moving through the world, or that common sense will solve all problems – that’s never been true domestically and it sure as hell isn’t true when you’re travelling, no matter what any travel blogger tries to tell you.

 

In that spirit, some ideas for travelling alone in Paris while female:

 

Practice your resting bitch face

Unlike some other countries, eye contact alone is enough for many a man in Paris to feel validated in pursuing you. Even a shake of the head after accidental eye contact may not deter them straight away, so sunglasses and a resting bitch face are a great investment to avoid the whole rigmarole all together.

There will be touching

Yep. It sucks. But be prepared for men to grab at you – your arms and hands and shoulders in particular. I’m a blonde, and blondes in many parts of Southern Europe, but also including Paris, get a lot of unwanted attention thanks to our lovely locks. So if you’re in the blonde family, gird your loins.

Be firm and don’t stop walking

There is a certain….resilience to the men in France when it comes to really digging their heels into their sexual harassment. What I’ve found is that while someone may try to spit some game at me in America or elsewhere, they generally won’t follow me down the street, or refuse to drop my arm so they can kiss my hand repeatedly. Expect this in Paris. Be firm, say no, and don’t stop walking. Oh and some French terms to help: laisse-moi tranquille – leave me alone; ne me touchez pas – don’t touch me; va t’en – go away; casse-toi – Fuck off (that last one is pretty rude so use it wisely, I guess!)

Be prepared

Like any good Girl Scout would be. Know generally where you are heading to avoid getting a map out, keep your wits about you (don’t use headphones with loud music, for example), be aware of your surroundings to make sure you aren’t being followed, always have a spare battery or a charger for your phone, and when possible, let someone know where you will be, even if that person is at home. Never keep all your valuables in one area in one bag, and make sure someone at home has a photocopy of your passport page, driver’s license, and bank card/credit card.

Be informed

Research before you go out – what are the common scams in that area? In France there are a few common ones- bracelet scammers at the Sacre Coeur, gypsy children asking you to “sign a petition” in Montmartre and elsewhere, water sellers who “accidentally” give back the wrong change in a variety of coins hoping you won’t notice. Preparation is key and will help you complete avoid a few tough spots. How do people dress?  In France, they generally adhere to a more covered up policy when it comes to women’s fashion – you won’t find much cleavage on display, or short shorts. I am NOT saying that you need to dress any certain way (rock that short short/crop top combo if your heart tells you to!) but if your hopes are to blend in, keep the local style in mind and aim for that as it will keep you from standing out as much, and thus prevent you from becoming a target for any unsavory types in the area.

 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help 

Some people are horrible. But lots of people aren’t. France and Paris in particular, is one of the best places in the world to go solo – cafes and museums galore, a culture that doesn’t think twice about a person eating alone, a general “live and let live” attitude that has always made me love the country and its people. It’s very chill. That same mantra also makes it a great country to be by yourself in. But if you are uncomfortable, ask for help. Go to the police (who are everywhere!), go into a bistro or brasserie and ask to be seated somewhere out of sight. Do what you need to do to feel safe.

 

 

Be extra picky with your lodgings 

Aim for a hotel that is in a somewhat crowded area and near a metro stop (but not a major train stop, as there are lots of pickpockets and scammers around those – Gare du Nord for example). This is particularly important if you plan on being out late and getting home after dark. Maybe spend a few extra quid and go for the solo room or ladies only section at your hostel. And do what you can to keep your room safe. At my hotel, I made sure that my door was double locked and then also put a chair in front of it. Some women invest in door stops to prevent entry, which is also a great idea. And don’t tell strangers where you are staying!

 

Trust your instincts

Really, trust yourself. If something feels icky, get the hell out of there. If a dude is nice, but in that “nice guy” way and you’re feeling bad vibes, GTFO. You owe no one anything. Take care of yourself. Be cautious. But be open to meeting new people – there are so many helpful and friendly people in Paris (and in the world). Be open to that side too.

 

This could seem like Paris is full of lechers waiting to snatch you up, and it truly isn’t that way – Paris is a great place for travellers, and for solo female travellers in particular! I have just found that it’s risks are slightly different than other places that I have been alone. #NotAllFrenchMen in case that needs reiterated. Have fun in Paris, and be safe!

Trashy holidays? On Benidorm and British Class Issues.

When Jon told some of the people at work that he was going on a holiday to Benidorm, he received a variety of responses, all in the same vein. These are two of the real ones he told me:

“Are you going ironically?”

“I thought you and Ashley were into cultural things?”

When I answered the question “oh, where are you going?” with Benidorm, I got either a laugh, a “really?!”, and once, from one of my clients, a sweet party-down style fist pump into the air. In that case, I was the one who laughed. That fist pump was pretty awesome.

But these responses are really indicative of the ways that English people look at holidays. In a country where a much much bigger segment of the population can take a holiday or two a year than in many other countries (and need to take that time off work, or risk losing those days altogether), on top of the fact that traveling abroad is super cheap when you a) have the still-pretty-powerful pound to spend and b) a two hour flight out of London can put you in Africa or anywhere in Europe, well, some places have become known for some things. Not all good things, either.

From what I understand, it was in the 1980s that a larger number of working class Brits started to have the expendable income and time off work to go on vacation every year, and this is when some places-mostly in Spain and on islands in the Mediterranean-became known for the “unsavoury types” that were taking advantage of the cheap prices and sunshine to get really drunk in the sunshine. The saying goes that this type of vacationer doesn’t want any culture, and just wants ‘England in the sun’.

This is how places like Benidorm, Lanzarote, Ibiza, Magaluf, Falaraki, etc have come to have the reputations for being places where English people go to get shitfaced in the sunshine, eating full English breakfasts every day in a terrible pub owned by a British expat that shows British tv, getting incredibly sunburnt, all the while being angry that more of the locals “don’t speak English” and trying to get naked with a local dude/lady (they aren’t completely against culture, if it’s sexy!). Some are known more for young people going to party on their gap year, others for being popular for families, and still others for old retired folk (pensioners) who have migrated into the sunnier climes in their older years. But all have reputations.

This bothers me though.

The classism involved in saying that one place is for a trashy holiday while another place is culturally appropriate is mostly idiotic, and thoroughly steeped in the idea that some places have culture, while the influx of drunk Brits has eroded the culture of other places. But that can’t be true. And isn’t. Everywhere has culture. That’s how culture works. It’s a matter of looking for it.

This year, Jon and I wanted to take a lazy beach holiday, something we’ve never done. We went to a part of Spain that is cheap. We had a great time. It was not “trashy”, although there were some potentially trashy things going on in some places (the same could be said of some of the shit bars in Brighton, or New York, or anywhere really). But no, we didn’t go to any museums or look at anything particularly culturally significant. That doesn’t mean that section of Spain is devoid of culture.

Last year, Lindsey and I went to Tenerife, another cheap and cheerful holiday destination that is fairly popular with the stag/hen do set (also known as bachelor/bachelorette in the States, except for in the States no one would take all their friends to Miami for a week just because they were getting married….or would they? Maybe I need fancier friends!). There were lots of folks there just to drink in the sunshine by the pool and on the beach. There were also great restaurants, traditional flamenco dancing, a bus trip to some old villages on the North side of the island, and day trip up a cool ass volcano.

A holiday is what you make it. And while I don’t think anyone in the states would turn their nose up at the idea of someone they know saying they were going to say….Myrtle Beach, or Key West, or San Diego for a summer vacation, I sure as hell know a LOT of Brits who give a side eye and a giggle to anyone going to one of the holiday destinations deemed “lower-class”. And I even got in on it, this weird classist joke,  after we figured out where we were going, but the more I think of it, the more annoyed it makes me. These stiff definitions for what a place is, and what happens there, are just another way of dividing the population of Britain. It’s weird. It’s weird to be seen as a different person for even wanting to go to a place like Benidorm over a place like Barcelona, two Spanish cities only separated by a few hundred miles of coastline.

At the same time, I don’t think Jon and I would take another all-inclusive holiday like that again, just because we generally are people who like to explore and see new things everyday. But do I begrudge people who want to get the most out of their money in a sunny place, close to the beach, often with their families or a group of friends? No. Nope. It’s easy, and it’s lovely, and more power to ’em.

And if you’re interested in reading a bit more about this strange (to me) phenomenon-here’s some more reading around the web, including the very recent article that went out as a response to a German paper calling British holidaymakers the worst in Europe/the world, some writing on Brits abroad, where to take your prim and proper middle class holiday, and some writing about chavvy (aka poor+trashy people) holidays. Whew.

One: the aforementioned response

Two:on “lad culture” on holiday

Three: on “chav holidays”

Four: an actual pdf on middle class holidays to take. Seriously.

Five: an article from back in 2009 about a travel company offering “chav-free” holidays

Six:and one from today on Brits abroad

still a feminist over here

I used to write do a little weekly round up called feminist friday. I thought it was a good feature in that I already spend so much of my free time keeping up with, and being hyper aware of, news that reflects the inherent misogyny in our culture, and ways that people-men and women-are fighting for equality, and it seemed like a nice way to share that bit of knowledge. Since it was more an issue of collecting things in one place and then posting on Fridays, it took a much smaller amount of thought and effort to put together, and served a somewhat larger purpose than just rambling on about my day to day.

But then I stopped. I kinda got worn out. It’s really hard caring so much about this stuff and feeling the complete impotence that is being a woman in the world. Superficially empowered, but still looked down on in so many ways, by so many or our compatriots, simply for existing. It is a hard life, and so many of the stories that were being shared were about the injustices being faced by women and the marginalized, with very few uplifting bits. And it proved very disheartening, even for a round up with next to no commentary. I still feel like it’s all disheartening more often than not. And it’s not that I’ve stopped keeping up with things-it’s just that I’ve stopped writing about that.

Last night I watched a documentary on BBC2 called Blurred Lines, by the news presenter and journalist Kirsty Wark. It was an hour-long look into sexism and misogyny’s role in today’s culture, and how the internet and media have played into that, and whether today’s misogyny is new and different, or just a rehashing of the old versions. it was amazing, thoughtful, and thought-provoking. And frustrating, as most of these things are.

The Steubenville case (which makes me sad for it having drawn such negative attention to my mostly invisible home state, such a normally beige place), Grand Theft Auto (where more effort was put into creating realistic murder scenarios for prostitutes than into actually creating a female driver avatar), Page Three girls here in the UK….all were brought up in the documentary. It felt like an example of a situation where none of it was new to me, but where the presentation and the vessel were possibly putting it in front of a very different audience. I’m happy to see these sort of issues being put in front of a different kind of audience, where it’s not all “preaching to the choir” and where it becomes evident to those who have either brushed aside or completely ignored this very important contemporary issue that it’s not as marginal as they may think. It’s important and we, as a society, MUST address it.

After a few businessy meetings this morning I took advantage of some break time to time to wander into a book shop and purchase a copy of ‘The Female Eunuch’ by Germaine Greer. Published nearly 40 years ago it is still relevant today, and the sheer bad-assery of Ms Greer in the documentary last night made me even more eager to get around to finally reading her masterpiece. (On a side note, the feminist theory section of the Brighton Waterstone’s was a paltry half of two small shelves also shared with sociology. It was slightly embarrassing, with a whole floor of philosophy waiting and open for other schools of thought, and so many other books that I’m aware of that could have been on those shelves).

“Commercial porn has been liberated. Fantasty has been liberated. People haven’t. Women haven’t been liberated. -Germain Greer

In sum, I’ve been thinking that maybe I should try harder once again to get feminist things out there in this space. Links for reading, for those interested, and for those not interested who still pop in to say hello. Any of us interested in putting those things out there, should put in just a bit more effort-it’s still so important, and in no way overwrought or finished. After all, those who don’t care won’t be clicking anyway, but those with the least bit of interest, well, they may just pick up something new. And any mind opened to these issues is a success story. It’s worth it. One hundred percent.

Happy International Women’s Day!

 (via)

Some good reading on the internetz on this day of celebration, observance, and looking forward to more progress in the future. Alright, ladies!

 

Illustrated portraits of fabulous, trail-blazing women over at Brain Pickings.

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/01/07/the-reconstructionists/

Air France puts an all-female crew in the air (this should maybe not be such a rare occurrence, right?) http://jezebel.com/5989335/air-france-celebrating-womens-day-with-an-all-female-crew?post=58103161

An interactive map of women’s political rights around the world. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/datablog/interactive/2013/mar/08/international-womens-day-political-rights

Social media for equality (with some great links!)

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/features/international-womens-day-google-doodle–and-tweeting-for-equality-8525269.html

The Guardian’s picture of the day is pretty cool.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/picture/2013/mar/08/international-women-day-moscow

A history of international women’s day via SocialResistance.org

http://socialistresistance.org/3218/international-womens-day-a-history

A book quiz for women’s day!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/quiz/2013/mar/08/international-womens-day-book-quiz

“You can’t be what you can’t see”

http://www.lifeoflaurie.com/blog/international-womens-day/

A light-hearted look at the importance of correcting childhood gender biases, even for the small things.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/brain-flapping/2013/mar/08/correcting-childhood-bias-international-womens-day

And if you’re in a giving mood, donate to Oxfam and help change women’s lives!

http://www.oxfam.org.uk/get-together?pscid=ps_ggl_Events+-+IWD+2013

Happy International Women’s Day!

Feminist Friday #22

Friday Friday Fridayyyyyy! Let’s get our feminism on ya’ll…

 

-On likeability and how the desire to be liked often prevents women from asserting their own power

An excerpt: “The truth is that we don’t need everyone to like us, we need a few people to love us. Because what’s better than being roundly liked is being fully known – an impossibility both professionally and personally if you’re so busy being likeable that you forgot to be yourself.

The answer, of course, is bigger than the individual – we need to shift the broader culture so powerful women aren’t automatically seen as bitchy or undeserving. There are structural inequities that impact how realistic abandoning likeability is for different women depending on their identity and circumstances. But we can’t change the culture if we’re not changing ourselves, too.”

http://www.thenation.com/blog/171520/she-who-dies-most-likes-wins#

-A study  from USC hat looked at gender roles and occupations in in film and television recently came to these conclusions:

Overall, the purpose of this investigation is to examine gender roles and the world of work in media popular with youth. A few
major themes emerge across the study. Female characters are still sidelined, stereotyped, and sexualized in popular entertainment content. Fewer females than males work in family films and prime-time shows, with the former showing fewer women in prestigious occupational positions than the latter. Females are not only missing from popular media, when they are on screen, they seem to be there merely for decoration—not to engage in meaningful or prestigious employment, particularly in STEM fields.

http://seejane.org/downloads/KeyFindings_GenderRoles.pdf

 

-An article exploring the influence of pop music on teen perceptions of dating violence. http://www.missrepresentation.org/pop-culture/bleeding-love/

 

-Hypocrites be hypocritin’ all up in this piece! A woman who has made a career out of telling women not to have careers tells women to stay home and take care of their men. Blech. (From Fox News, obviously). Also, she’s not good at analyzing statistics. Spoiler!

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/11/24/war-on-men/?intcmp=features