recently: BBGuns and a rant

May 5, 2008

I knew, 10 min after landing in the ‘Baijan that I was walking target.  Unfortunately I had been lulled into thinking that they (the delinquent boys in my village) had gotten used to my weirdness (and the fact that I not only wear sunglasses, I also wear shades WHILE listening to my iPod.)  There I was minding my own business, reading a book, on a nice day, in an old park.; there were 4 guys who had been unsuccessfully trying to get the attention of my site mate and me.  What these guys lacked in creativity (the used such techniques as strutting by every 15 min while playing Enrique on their mobiles, climbing trees, sitting on near by benches while staring/yelling at us: soooo last year) they made up for in persistence, by stubbornly refusing to admit utter and complete rejection even after over an hour had passed.  Deciding that the benches where truly uncomfortable, we moved to a mini-pavilion and carried on with our reading. The tranquility lasted 30min and then, mid way through a memoir/essay/short story on homes and the ideas of space and time contained with in the idea of home (how exciting!) I was shot in the back by a BB, that was launched from a plastic BB gun made to look like a machine gun, that had been aimed at me by a snot nosed 10 year old boy, who was carrying out the dirty work of the rejected teenage boys who lacked the courage to actually shot the gun themselves (“look!!! An American girl, I hear its top season for them”) and were cowering behind a plastic slide waiting to see my reaction.  Being startled/surprised/angry/mad I threw my book down and ran at the boy, yelling, (choice cuss words) when I reached the boy, he tried to pass off the blame by pointing to a 7 year old boy (who wasn’t holding a plastic machine gun and had just innocently emerged from a tube slide and looked confused).  I stood there telling my self to NOT grab the gun and beat the shit out of the kid and NOT turn on the menacing teenagers as target practice for the instrument of doom replica -somewhere someone decided that making plastic BB guns that look like machine guns was a good/lucrative idea, I however strongly disagree with that person and am quite convinced that the inventor/ manufacture of said product had never interacted with/known a group of board-out-of their-minds-teenagers and a 10year boy, if they had, they would have know the likelihood of such a product being used for evil cruel purposes (such as harassment of foreign women in parks) was very high if not inevitable and furthermore placing such a thing in the hands of a boy is unleashing certain doom on various small woodland animals such as chipmunks, robins, rabbits, and the occasional squirrel (though I hate tree rats so I’m not so broken up about them, and besides they reproduce like a bad virus).  Displaying an astounding amount of self control, I simply yelled at the teenagers and the boys in a wretched mix of Azeri/English and while some cuss words may not directly translate, I’m quite positive the general meaning was perfectly clear.   After thoroughly making a fool of my self I walked away, though after 10 feet I wasn’t convinced that I’d made my point and for good measure (and to seal my doom of being a spectacle) turned an yelled something to the equivalent of “and take that you little beasts!” 


I really was quite angry.  And I was thinking, I can’t remember the last time (in the last 3 or 4 years) back in the states, or anywhere, that I was harassed or picked on.  I don’t consider the spectators at the Twin Cities or Boston Marathon yelling/cheering as a form of harassment, I wanted/needed people to cheer, and it wasn’t done because they didn’t like my clothes, or thought I was an easy women, they were actually encouraging me to run faster(although, if you’ve ever ran/watched a marathon, us runners do look pretty damm funny with short short shorts, race numbers, and sweat involved)  I understand those boys wanted a reaction out of me and were pushing to see how a far they could go and while I hate to admit it, I’m guilty of needling people as well; for some strange reason us mean little humans like pissing people off.  In my head, I’m of course able to justify my own bad behavior (for various reasons, such as thinking the other person deserves it etc), but fly into a tizzy when a dull group of raging hormone teenage boys are able to justify their behavior based on the face that I don’t belong, am American, wear sunglasses, and was very obviously asking for attention by sitting in a park on a nice day, (why else would I be sitting in the park reading?) [That was sarcastic]  I know that, more than anything else, I hate thinking/feeling that I have no options or ability to retaliate, and the situation in the park was one of those times; me against 6, the odds are bad, and really nothing would be gained by kicking their arises (though that’s truly what I wanted to do).  Its not so much the BB Gun, its that on a daily basis, I have to just duck my head and take the yelling, kissing/teeth sucking/tisking noises, rude gestures, nasty gossip, and shoddy treatment all while the general consensus is that, by being different, reading in the park, wearing sunglasses, I deserve it.  Now, it might seem logical to simply stop those things, but, the problem is that, weather I wear sunglasses or not, I’ll still get yelled at becasue it will be something else, or simply the fact that I’m a single American woman.  And, from my viewpoint, which I consider valid, even if I am being awkward, it doesn’t justify the bad treatment.  I  am aware that there are things I shouldn’t do to be culturally appropriate, but, but, Azeri women go to the park with their girl friends, and wear sunglasses, while because American women are perceived as being more ‘loose’ I can do the same things and its considered bad.  This is extraordinarily annoying, since on one hand, I can understand that perception: most of what the Azeri’s in the regions see of American culture and women in general is from music videos by Madonna, Beyonce (sp?), Rehanna (sp?) and various other pop/faux hip hop groups in which the women are over sexed (Madonna) or objectified (50Cent) and welcome the degrading attention of males.  So then, not only is this silly behavior seen as normal, its encouraged.  On the other hand, there is no logical way that how I dress and act can even be compared to the teasing of oversexed American pop stars,(not to mention my hair, which is almost always in a pony tail and unless I’ve been asleep for the past 6 years, pony tails don’t scream pop-star sexy in any culture) lest I be taken as culturally insensitive, I do act correctly and follow the rules, but, really, when the sun is blinding bright (as it already is in ISM) I’m going to wear my sunglasses, and when it’s a nice day, I’m going to walk in the park with a friend.  I was having this conversation with someone who I respect, and she made a point along the lines, that this was the only time in my life when people would like I looked like a rock star or model or Pamela Anderson and I better enjoy it while it lasts… (Though we can talk later about Ms. Anderson)   Now the issues is that by acting just like a typical Azeri women, the repressive treatment is encouraged, by acting like a free American, I offend culture and ruin my reputation.  And here I am trying to be a role model for the youth, and exactly, where do I find the balance between brashly flaunting my free American values and buckling/bowing to a system that disrespects and limits the freedom of women?   (Meh.  I know, I know, America culture isn’t innocent and Azeri culture is not all bad)   So that’s what I have to figure out on a daily basis.






8 Responses to “recently: BBGuns and a rant”

  1. Ben said

    That sucks.

    I can’t really think of anything constructive to say. I was so bored today that I got myself banned from a chat channel on IRC, me needling people as well.

    Maybe if you yell at them they’ll learn something. Maybe not, but it seems like “don’t be a dick to women” is a perfectly acceptable lesson for you to be trying to instill while they’re over there. If treating women the same as men isn’t part of their culture, it is inferior for it.

  2. Mike said

    That does well and truly bite. That being said, it being an election year here in the States doesn’t make the old adage about one person being able to change the world any less generally untrue than it normally is. (Though an acquaintance of mine disagrees, arguing some ill-defined nonsense about the *right* person in the right place… but I digress.) You’re dealing with two species of animal – boys and men – who always have been and always will be little more than great hulking piles of shit, regardless of nationality, language, or whatever, and in the most socially confused of the post-Soviet states, so it’s really kind of inevitable that crap like this is going to happen.

    Oh, and FYI, in some areas of your part of the world, having hair in a ponytail is tres-scandalous. I know it sounds really melodramatic and terribly victorian, but it shows off your – wait for it – *neck*.

    You horrible tease, you. 🙂

    I got your postcard, BTW. Did any of the electronic crap I had sent to you arrive yet?

  3. Having a BB gun as a kid is one of my fondest memories from childhood. The fact that some little turd shot you with it is a direct result of shoddy parenting. They should be telling their kids what my folks did; stick to the blackbirds in the back yard.

    Sorry this happened. Don’t let it bring you down, though.

  4. siologen said

    Id say your doing a marvelous job dealing with it all. 😀

  5. mcmacdonald said

    i understand what you guys mean. now that i can see both sides, American culture is just as degrading to women, but in a different way than Azeri culture. its just that after mostly living in the states, I had become numb to the shoddy (a good word!)treatment. and yes,I agree,bad parenting and bad examples are partly responsible for the kids actions. i had a bbgun AND a 22 when i was i was younger, but never in heck would have used stange boys as target practice. i see that i’m not sure how to be a good example to the youth i’m trying to help, and really its immature to think it would be easy.. i did just get the electronic stuff THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!!!!!! what? I cant change the world??!! awww, dont bring a sista down!!

  6. matty said

    It’s a difficult situation. Given the language barrier and years of socialization, it would be impossible in the course of two years to communicate to them that they should not only feel ashamed of their actions, but also treat foreigners, and more especially women, with dignity. The easier and seemingly more efficacious thing is to do what you did or do what I would do, assault them verbally and/or physically. Of course we know that such actions are not acceptable, but there comes a point when even the most patient people get fed up and tend to rely on techniques that bring instant results, even if the relief is only temporary. I think about this a lot. At what point did African Americans stop lowering their head and accepting the insults? What was the final straw that lead to the formation of the ANC? Not that I think anything that we are doing is nearly as noble as them, but I cant help but feel slightly more empathetic after being here, with one glaring exception. We chose to be here and to continue to be here. Does that mean that we have to grow thicker skin? And if so, we will eventually end up calloused and bitter about our time here and their culture. The other question that you raised is possible more convoluted. When have we given up enough of idiosyncrasies in an effort to blend in? I have a feeling that regardless of how far we bend, we will never be accepted or regarded as anything but foreigners. Does that mean that we shouldn’t try? I think we have, and at least from our very subjective point of view, given far too many concessions. I suppose that is an American attitude. Something to the effect of, “I’m willing to try it, but honestly it’s weird”. If we did completely submerge ourselves in the culture, we of course wouldn’t cease to be who we are, nor would it even be for that long. Yet still, being a stranger in a strange land seems to embolden us and put undue importance on our notion of individualism. Then again, I think that all of us truly believe in morality and ethics, whether that is in the form of religion or personal values. Witnessing women/people/animals mistreated and degraded is one of those things that we feel transcends culture and is worth fighting for. We desperately want to believe that our morays are above governments or western education. That despite the actions of our compatriots (Madonna, 50 cent), we know, just as everyone else should know, what is good and what is wrong. Maybe.

  7. ds said

    The pony tail isn’t the problem, it’s the pigtails.

    You’re doing what most could not, keep going on going.

  8. mcmacdonald said

    of course, the pigtails.
    i should have known, blast, and all along i could have avoided being yelled at.
    ha ha
    thanks for the kind words 🙂

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