The Entertainment Industry, Jordan, and Me

I am an American.
I am a girl.
Therefore, I am “easy.”
The past few weeks I have begun interviewing Jordanians for a documentary I am making. This documentary will address common misconceptions (among other things) that Americans have about the Middle East. In the process, I have learned many eye-opening things. Most interesting has been the Jordanian perception of Americans. Multiple people told me that the American girl is considered “easy.” When pressed, they explained that it was because of the entertainment industry in America. It has led the general Middle Eastern population to believe that American women will let men do whatever they want to them.
In my last interview, I decided to push the conversation further with the man who once again gave me that now expected answer. I asked, “So is there nothing American girls can do to fix this perception?” He explained in detail that they should be careful to cover up and that more importantly they should be serious at all times with taxis and strangers. “American girls are far too friendly for their own safety,” he said. I sat back and swallowed that. I usually pride myself on my friendliness, and being reminded that it is a negative thing here in the Middle East is difficult to comprehend.

After the interview, I took some time to let what he had said sink in. From what it sounds like, there is nothing I can actively do to make this perception of American women stop. I can try and help prevent the symptoms of this perception, but I am powerless to stop it. And that is a scary thought.

For awhile now I have planned to pursue acting (possibly in the entertainment industry). Because of this, I have often considered how I would conduct myself if I ever got to be in films. I had more or less decided on my “line” because of my faith. I didn’t want a bad reputation, even though it was only me acting. But now, with this new information, I cannot even consider acting in a role that makes a girl look easy. Suddenly it’s so much bigger than myself. I had no idea how Hollywood’s actions were making every day life difficult for American girls in foreign countries. But it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

Lady Gaga and Katy Perry represent some of our female musicians. Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis represent some of our actresses. The popular American show The Voice has its own Arab version over here. This means at one point Christina Aguilera was a representation of our TV shows. All of a sudden, the men who whistle and cat-call me don’t confuse me anymore. I am in a category with these larger-than-life stars. To these men, I am easy.

Last night, me and three friends went to Abdoun. Abdoun is the ritzy neighborhood of West Amman. The area is filled with Western restaurants and even has the nicest mall in the country. It is not uncommon to see women showing some of their legs or even a shoulder. When I first started walking around, I felt at ease. I felt like, for once, I could put my guard down. But then, it wasn’t two minutes later, a man driving by yelled out his window, “Hello, Beautiful!! Welcome to Jordan!”

The rest of the evening was filled with similar occurrences. Jordanian men honking, staring, and yelling at me usually makes me feel like a piece of meat. Later in the evening, my friends and I were trying to get a taxi. We decided to cross the street and walk up a bit in hopes that an empty taxi would pass by. We ended up standing under a street light next to the road. Men were every where I looked. The SUV parked to our left had two men staring at us and honking. The cars passing by would yell out in Arabic as they blew us kisses. The men walking by to our right were staring us up and down.

I felt gross. I felt overwhelmed. I felt trapped. Then it dawned on me – I felt easy.

Living in this country has done much more than teach me about Jordan. It has taught me about how America as a government, as a culture, as a super power is perceived. And it has taught me about myself. I may not be able to change the world or even how American girls are viewed, but I can represent my faith, my culture, and myself to the best of my abilities. We must realize that we are ambassadors all the time, no matter what our pursuits.

Thank you, Hollywood, for teaching me that my actions are so much bigger than myself. And thank you, Jordan, for opening my eyes to so many life lessons.


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