Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Put this stuff in GQ and get it out of my face.

It's easy to bash articles like this that assume that we care about a problem that only a few people actually are lucky enough to have. But do you know what irks me even more? Travel stories like this one. Or even blog posts like these by Tyler Cowen (who is not the target of my ire by any means).

It seems like travel writing about the Middle East has become more popular of late. Maybe this is an effort by editors to show us a different side of Muslim countries to counteract the avalanche of awfulness coming out of Iraq. The accounts are often written by adventurous solo travelers who praise the culture and beauty of these lands.

But I've never read one written by a woman. The mysteries of Kabul, I'd venture to guess, would be difficult or impossible for a woman to see, especially on her own. I bet Dubai is a lot less fun for women as well. Even relatively Westernized Turkey, which I visited with a female companion, was utterly exhausting after just a couple of days due to the street harassment, sexual propositioning, and creepy men following us. I would never go to Egypt or Morocco alone, much less Afghanistan or the UAE. Most woman travelers would probably agree.

So who's the intended audience for these articles? Women wealthy enough to travel abroad to far-off destinations and adventurous enough to go to a country where they are likely to be treated as second-class citizens, but resigned enough to go only if they have a male companion who can assert ownership rights and drive off the harassers? I'll take a 1,900 word piece about aspirational luxury items any day over a travel story that taunts me with tales of unavailable experiences. I might be rich some day, but I'll never be male enough to sip green tea with the Sufis in the shadow of the Pul-i-Khishti Mosque.

(Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe bumming around the Middle East as a solo woman traveler is totally awesome. But if it is, why do we never hear about it? Aren't there any female travel writers who could so testify?)
blog comments powered by Disqus