Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mad about the boyat

The more time you spend in a place, the more you start to peel away the layers to find out about the usual and the unusual things that make somewhere both unique and simultaneously akin to countries all over the world.

Proof that there is nothing new under the fierce sun danced in front of my eyes this morning when I saw this article on cross dressers in Dubai.

Cross dressing women targeted in Dubai campaign

Well gosh oh crikes a blimey.  That is really not something I expected when I came here. 

What I didn't expect was this counterculture-style movement of "boyat" - women who dress like tomboys and have short hair under their abayas and head coverings. It's reassuring that even in a restrictive society, not everyone conforms, they find ways to step outside the perceived norm.

I don't know why I didn't expect it.  It's human nature that if rules are enforced, some will rebel against them, no matter what the consequences might be.
The boyah quoted in the National's article said something in her childhood home life led her to become one. I can only speculate on what they might be but I can see the attraction of saying "no" to femininity.  I think it's fair to say that the teenaged me would have spied the beautifully but heavily made up ladies in six-inch heels prowling the malls and wanted to rebel and do something totally different rather than resign myself to four hours doing my hair and makeup before leaving the house. 

I am not sure exactly what the authorities mean by "targeting" them.  It sounds rather sinister to say the least. According to a three-year-old article I found from the Economist, boyat is a phenomenon that spread throughout the Gulf region.  I don't know if it's an example of women in a patriarchal society leaning towards the masculine as an attempt to assert power.  Maybe it's a rebellion against the expectation that they will marry and start breeding new Gulf residents when they are barely out of their teens.

I wonder if the authorities will now lean towards "treatment" of a so-called gender identity disorder, consider banning boyat or continue a previous attempt to educate these young women about the virtues of femininity.

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