Saturday, October 8, 2011


This week, I asked a guest speaker into my Pop Culture classroom where we are launching our unit on gender. She is a teacher from Uzbekistan, we'll call her Krom. She is a sweet-natured, kind woman who is visiting our school for two weeks as she did last year. She is learning about American education and has created a program for students here to correspond with her students in Uzbek. When I told her I was teaching a unit on gender, she offered to come share her experiences.

I didn't know how the students would respond. They can be rowdy. They can be teenagers and I didn't know if this is super-sweet woman could hold her own. But they gave her their full attention and I think it's because what she said surprised us all:
In Uzbekistan, she cannot wear pants.

She cannot make her own decisions without clearance from her husband.

Most girls are married off (by way of arranged marriage) when they are sixteen. So alas, they have to drop out of school because they are immediately expected to be wives and bear a child within 9 months. If they do not have at least one male child within the first two years of their marriage, they can be divorced, no questions asked.

Most boys are married off when they are twenty. How nice that they get to finish their education and there's not much pressure or risk for the men from that time on.

Krom was shocked upon her first visit to the States to find a man in the kitchen. A man made her breakfast and she found that incredibly odd. She said that in her thirty years of life, she had never once seen a man cooking, or cleaning, or helping with the children, or consulting their wife in a decision.

She has never been asked by her husband for advice. About anything. Ever.

She mentioned that she feels so much safer in America. She doesn't worry about being assaulted here. According to Krom (I know you'll hardly be able to believe this), if a woman is sexually assaulted or raped in Uzbekistan they actually blame the woman! Shocking, right? I told her that unfortunately it's often like that here too, but we're making progress in enabling women with rights and laws that keep the perpetrator from being let off the hook.

The students had many questions for her and the next day we de-briefed and discussed what we heard. If felt so good to hear some of the students say, "I never knew men had so much power in other countries," or "It sounds like Uzbek is about 100 years behind the U.S. on gender," or "Why isn't it like that here?"


Why is the gender climate so different in other countries than it is here?
What happened in America that hasn't happened in other countries?

Well, my suggestion is feminism. The countries were women are most discriminated against are those that have never had a successful or lasting feminist or equality movement. The countries were women have more rights (i.e. Western and European countries) did.

But I'll let them draw their own connections to that later in the semester.