I’ve been invited to be a panelist at a women’s conference in November. Four generations of participants will discuss how the women’s movement has changed their lives. I represent the past, of course, so I decided to refresh my memory by rereading Betty Friedan’s seminal book, The Feminine Mystique. Arriving at the library, I was surprised when I failed to find it standing on a bookshelf layered with dust. Instead, all 75 copies were checked out. I had to fill out a reserve for it.
Walking home empty handed, I marveled that the work was enjoying so much popularity. Decades had passed since it was written. Perhaps a number of students was dabbling in ancient history. Or was it possible that women were still looking for answers about their role in life. I admit I was puzzled.
Later that day, having forgotten Betty Friedan, I sat down to read an article by Brian Murphy. His story was about a Norwegian woman who attended a conference in Dubai and while there, she was sexually assaulted by a Sudanese man. She reported the rape to the police at once and was shocked to learn that she would be arrested on a charge of having sex outside of marriage. Adding salt to the wound, after the trial, she was sentenced to 16 months in prison while her assailant was given 13. (http://news.yahoo.com/dubai-pardons-woman-center-rape-dispute-093407907.html, July 22. 2013)
Naturally, in a country where foreigners out number locals 5 to 1, the public outcry was long and loud . (Ibid). Eventually, The woman and her attacker were pardoned and released.
I suppose freeing the victim and the perpetrator was Dubai’s version of a happy ending — though I am loathe to understand why the victim of the violence should require a pardon. She’d done nothing except to be in wrong place at the wrong time.
As bizarre as the course of events may seem, the woman’s reaction to it all puzzled me more. When asked if she’d ever consider returning to Dubai, she said that she would. I was stunned. In the name of Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug, how was I to understand her state of mind? Was there something in the wisdom of The Feminine Mystique, I had forgotten? I don’t know. But I can hardly wait for my reserved copy to arrive.
(Courtesy of prisonphotogrpahy.org)