A little respect, please?

National Yemen

By: Asma Al-Mohattwari

By: Asma Al-Mohattwari

Once when I was shopping with my brother at one of the Hadda Street malls, a woman’s scream seized my attention. To find out what was going on, I walked towards the clothing shop where the scream came from as if I wished to buy something there.

The scream had come from a saleswoman. I approached her and asked “What’s going on?”

She pointed to a man who was in the shop and said, “This guy continuously comes here without buying anything, and the whole time he is trying to talk with me…the last thing he did was give me his phone number.”

It seemed the saleswoman’s limit had been pushed, to the point that she couldn’t help but scream out. “I kept silent for so long to keep my job, but now I just don’t care anymore,” she said.

I felt so annoyed. Why couldn’t she just be treated with a little respect?

What made me even more upset was my brother’s comment, which came moments later: “She deserved it – this is a bad job for women.”

In Yemen, many men believe that only men should be salespeople. They’re just plain wrong, and for many reasons. One such reason is that women will likely feel much more comfortable when dealing with a female salesperson.

To be frank, our society needs to realize that women have the right to work and choose a profession which fits her as long as it’s consistent with our religion.

Later, as I was walking by more shops, my curiosity got the better of me. I approached a saleswoman and asked her if she, too, suffered because of her job. She said, “A girl can impose her will and make others respect her, by how she talks, what she wears, and through her behavior; I’m a saleswoman, but I’ve never been in such a situation.”

So she had managed to avoid such a situation, but at what cost? She’d clearly put much effort and, it seemed, thought into just how a woman – a saleswoman – can shield herself from unwanted, but generally accepted, unacceptable behavior.

Is there possibly a legitimate excuse for a society to humiliate and annoy saleswomen?

In reality, the society continues to hold very limiting views concerning the mixing of genders, whether we’re talking about educational institutions or the workplace. Even while some communities accept women in certain positions out of necessity, most will look at a girls or woman in such a role as a salesperson as an outright rebel.

Some men may feel it’s perfectly acceptable to harass a woman because of her role in society. Maybe one day they’ll realize that while they’re wandering and harassing, the object of the unwanted attention – the saleswoman – well…she’s actually doing something. She’s working, she’s making a living.

At least, she’s trying to.