You may be wondering why I’m not posting everyday about the culture shock of living in the Middle East after being raised in the US, about the cognitive dissonance of occupying a place of privilege while hundreds of thousands of laborers exist in a poverty I can’t even begin to comprehend, about the ways in which my ideas about feminism are evolving as I, a white woman, receive different treatment from men from different cultures and as I come to hear from others about what it means to cover your body and sometimes your face (but not always your voice and your mind) in public spaces.
In Women’s Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind, the authors emphasize the importance of listening to women’s development, understanding, and knowledge. Women in many different stages of development, they observe, come to orient themselves to the world around them through listening to others. Western culture doesn’t always value listening; for example, we often ask our students to adopt a position on an issue that they may not be fully informed about – we push others towards argumentative engagement with source material and towards a critical, almost adversarial, self that is presented in writing.
At this stage of my life, I find that I have less to say about my experiences in Qatar and more to listen to about others’ experiences here and elsewhere.
I listen to my taxi driver tell me about living near the India-Pakistan border. “You don’t want to go there, ma’am,” he tells me. “It’s a terrible thing. Very scary and unsafe.”
I listen to my coworkers’ love for and frustration with the student population. “I can’t tell if they don’t care of if they can’t understand,” one says. Another refers to the American universities here as the “colonialization of the natives,” and everyone at the table nods.
I listen to the laborers from Cameroon who walk with me to the grocery store. “We want to go to America,” they tell me once they find out I’m from the US. “We hear there are more opportunities for black people there.”
I listen and read more than I write these days, but I’m pretty ok with that.