On Being a white Woman abroad– What Yemen made me Realize


So, I have heard some stories that have made me reflect on my study abroad experiences. More importantly for the purposes of this particular entry, I have had an epiphany of sorts about the challenges that white women face while abroad. ( I knew I was right when I wrote in my White for a day entry about the the grass not being quite so green on the other side 😦

At any rate, someone relayed a story about a European woman who was unabashedly approached for sex by a Yemeni man, which then led me to other accounts relayed to me by another European woman here. In both cases the women were bluntly asked do you want to….? Then, I think about my study abroad programs that I participated in as an undergraduate and some of the things that the women in those programs did and/or were rumored to have done with local men.

White American/European to me, when traveling to the developing and underdeveloped world have to face attitudes about them presented through film and television that present women as sex objects, sex fiends, and sexy. When I think a about the way these women have been approached here, it seems that men who proposition do so because they think that White western women are sexually free enough to accept random rendezvous with cab drivers, store clerks and other types of random-ass men. They were not approached as prostitutes, they were propositioned in a way that these men think goes on in the states/Europe.

Although I too have felt (and continue to feel) like a sex object, something that is gawked at in a raunchy, sexual way, when I juxtapose how the white women I know have been treated by men with the way I have been treated, there continues to be great differences.

While I do think that the men that approached me here in Yemen ( and in other countries) have done so most of the time purely because of my skin color, I don’t think that they have done so because they think that promiscuity is an integral part of my culture and worldview: I am/have been approached as a black prostitute because in the countries I have visited/researched/ studied, women of darker skin tones have tended to be in socio-economic situations that made begging and prostitution a feasible option for survival (sub-Saharan Africans in Morocco and Spain and Ethiopians, Somalis and the Akdham community in Yemen). And so, I believe for the men in these countries black= poor= prostitute= free game for sexual advances. The insertion of white women into this dynamic is a totally different equation white woman= promiscuous=free for sexual advances.

I may not totally be right, but it’s what I have been thinking. This is an introspective process, but I’m also interested in what other people think. Maybe I need to develop this idea more before I discuss it at-length. Or perhaps, I need to discuss it at-length in order to develop this idea more? I’m not trying to generalize.  But this is what I have seen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s