Breast Cancer, Censorship and Omanis In Pink!
To raise awareness of breast cancer, we organised a Breast Cancer Awareness Day at the college. Representatives from the charity set up a stall with leaflets, information, badges etc.
There's a lot of censorship out here: crime is never reported, free-speech is a no-no and the human body is rarely seen uncovered. The latter provides some amusing tactics to keep Joe Blogs from the mortal sin of witnessing bare flesh. I've seen everything from chunks of film missing at the cinema to black pen scribbled on celebrity cleavages in gossip magazines. To this day, the best piece of censorship I've seen was a row of Special K boxes in the local supermarket, all with pieces of white card glued to the front to hide the curve of the red lady on the front!
Anyway, I digress. The point I'm trying to make is that for a country so hung up about the body, a breast cancer awareness campaign is at the very least an essential exception to this type of censorship. My job was to design a leaflet which informed everyone that to show their support, they should come to college wearing something pink and donate a bit of cash (which loads of students and most of the teachers did).
I spoke a little with the charity manager about the effect of things like this out here in Oman. She articulated that the main problem with raising awareness is that most of the young women who approach the stalls, do so just to buy the sparkly badges and don't really stick around to talk about breast cancer, how it can be spotted and how it affects many more people (men included) than you might think.
Still, my thoughts are that some awareness is better than no awareness and if that means getting all excited about wearing something pink, then so be it.
The boys' (I should really say men, but you'll see why not in a minute) reaction was interesting. I've found that for whatever reason - be it lack of exposure to modern lifestyles, advertising, film or just the fact that it's a heavily religious country - boys tend to be much more immature than the equivalent age in the UK. A twenty-year-old student I taught last year came running up to me, highly delighted and amused by the pictures of a naked figure of a woman with instructions on how to check your breasts. A while ago, I learnt how to say 'grow up' in Arabic (it translates more like 'act like a man'), a phrase that couldn't have been more apt at that moment and which I duly delivered with perfect scorn.
Yesterday, whilst informing my more mature class about wearing pink to show support, one student said: "Teacher, if I wear pink, my father, he shoot me!" This was backed up by the others saying that pink "is only for the girls". My response? I opened up Google Images and typed in Omanis in pink. The fourth image, which I beamed onto the wall, was non other than His Majesty Sultan Qaboos (ruler of the Sultanate and highly respected and adored by the nation) wearing, wait for it... a pink head scarf!
From left to right are Sheikha (English teacher), Zaina and Hanaa (both receptionsists) without whom the college would come to a complete standstill. They were buzzing around taking photos of everyone so this was me getting them back!
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