Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Problem with American Men

We've visited one family at home since we've been here, and had no trouble filming because the two girls are orphans and the aunt they live with is a widow. So, that means there is no man in the family to tell them that they can't be filmed. Free to make up their own minds, they are excited to participate.

But today was different. We were invited into the home of Hameida, a first grader at the Zabuli Girls' School, who lives with seven women and two men (her father and grandfather). And there was no way these men were going to allow Kevin, a foreign man--and worse an American man--intimate access to their home where he would see their women's faces. Disappointed, he handed the camera over to me.

"This is what happens here," our translator said as Kevin graciously accepted a cup of coffee from the school administrator. "The men sit around and get served coffee, and the women go to do the work." No laughter from Kevin. Or from me, for that matter.

And even though I was being allowed to enter the family's home, no one wanted to draw attention to the filming or to give the neighbors any clue what was happening. I wrapped the camera in pretty floral fabric, rocked it in my arms like a baby and snuck right through the gate, unnoticed.

Tomorrow I'll be going it alone again - and just wish I had some pithy, lapidary comments to sum up my views on the gender problem.

Instead, I'm grateful we're getting footage of these families at all. And I'll choose to focus on the other fun things that are happening here -- today I hugged a sheep and flew a kite.

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