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Why should I walk behind him?

Maybe this my biggest pet peeve of Arabic culture: walking behind the man. Why? You answer me and explain why should a woman walk behind a man? I just find it absurd that women subject themselves as something less than a man’s worth.

I am not talking from observation or bewilderment of the subject, but I experienced it before, and it always baffled me for a certain idiot of a guy from my disturbing past to tell me, “Why you walking in front of me?” I continually answered him, “Maybe because I am trying to get somewhere, and not be your shadow!”

I am not prejudice towards Arab men. I happen to like men, and think some are damn fine looking, but why the hell some think it is a mockery if a women walked in front of them or even next to them? (That was the main reason I broke up with him.) Believe me, it is not a religious thing at all. Since when did Islam say that a woman should walk behind her man?

The problem is that it has become such a cultural norm, that I do not understand why Arab women don’t have an ounce of dignity when it comes to this problem. Yes, it is a problem. I am sorry, I just find it wrong, very wrong, disgracefully wrong, and utterly wrong! It honestly degrades our culture and people look down upon us. :down:

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35 Comments

  • I won’t even begin to guess “why” from the Arabic cultural standpoint…doesn’t make much sense to me either.

    But maybe other times it’s just because men walk faster. Chicks have shorter legs, ya know.

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  • Arab culture can be very annoying!
    Thank God we don’t have such a thing here in Egypt!!!

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  • I see that a lot here, too. I live in Hamtramck, MI and we have a lot of Arabic people that live here. I think women should be equal here no matter what. People come here to be free. I understand tradition but not something that seems so unfair and sexist!
    Peace, Collette

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  • Erm. Maybe cos you not fit enough :P

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  • The first time i heard of this tradition i was suprised and thought it to be sexist. i never really thought about it until you brought it up but i know that in other parts of the world like southeast asia, from what ive observed, this isnt so and the women are quite equal to the men, inspite of the hijab and abaya. Walking hand in hand is alot sweeter than having someone follow your every step.

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  • Just out of cultural interest, is this an Arabic thing, or an Arabic Muslim thing? What the score with Arabic Christians?

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  • Its part of the man of the house thing and what is a women doing walking in front of her man? As for the guy telling to walk behind him … slap that Mofo

    Its not Arab culture its Gulf countries …

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  • @Danko Ramone – I doubt it is the walking speed if guys explicitly say “why you walking in front of me” in an angry tone.

    @Moey Halawaty – really? none at all in Egypt. I find it hard to believe.

    @Collette – it’s the norm I tell ya!

    @KiLLa – good answer. How long did it take you to come up with that crap?

    @Brian – you will hear a lot of “traditional” crap in your life time.

    @Meyrick Kirby – I do not know if it is similar to the Christian Arabs, because I am not one, but it is not a religious thing, and definetly cultural. It’s just Arabs (Muslim) like to justify everything based on religion. Where they get their info, no clue!

    @Sabeur – isn’t a woman part of the house thing too? Or she is just there for decoration?

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  • May be it’s bcoz women like to windowshop and take their time browsing while the man isn’t interested in any of that…On a serious note, not all Arab men and women are like that, my parents aren’t like that, nor am I or my husband, or my sister-inlaws or my friends… so it depends on the ‘home or cultural’ environment that the person has been brought up in. Actually, it also isn’t Arabs, as a lot of Asian/Indian and African cultures have such a phenomena occuring in their societies.

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  • I didn’t say it was ALL Arabs. But it seems to be a “thing” that has been going on. I am not sure about other cultures, but do you think it is a conservative culture thing? Or just that area of the world?

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  • @Mona
    Ok, yeah but you know what I mean by “man of the house”
    Arab men demand respect and a lot of things

    Anyway women should walk side-by-side with a man(preferably her husband or w.e) simple

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  • @Sabeur – Side by side! That’s how it is mean to be.

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  • On the other hand, if you happen to be walking through a minefield, perhaps it’s best to let the man walk in front :-)

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  • The reason for a man walking in front of a woman is for courtesy and protection. Just as, when I was a young boy in upstate NY, my father taught me that men always walked on the the side closest to the road when walking down a sidewalk. The woman is further away from traffic, and he may be able to help protect her should she be threatened by traffic (a car going out of control,, for example). Likewise, when my wife and I are walking through a crowded shopping mall, I normally walk in front of her to help clear a path so that she may walk more easily behind me. Why should she try to clear a path for me? I’m bigger and stronger.

    What I find pathetic is your attitude and that of some of your commenters. “It makes a mockery of women.” “It’s unfair and sexist.” No, it’s a courtesy to women, but, you know, God forbid that men should ever do something nice for women.

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  • I was NOT talking about courtesy and why some do it for protection. I SAID WHY DO SOME MEN THINK IT IS BENEATH THEM AND SO BAD FOR A WOMAN TO WALK IN FRONT OF THEM AND EVEN BESIDE THEM! Why do they think it is bad for their ego? Why do some men take it to the extreme and think it is GOD FORBID WRONG FOR A WOMAN TO WALK IN FRONT OF THEM! They think it is SINFUL! Do you get it now? I was not talking about courtesy and protection.

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  • I will be shocked for sure if I see a woman walking behind her man. What if the walk is for 20 minutes how can they talk to each other.. I am actually surprised that this practice is widespread as you mentioned.

    Honestly Mona after going through your posts of the last few months you don’t sound that rebellious to me. But you are definitely an eye opener. The fact that I grew up in an environment where we had to struggle in all aspects to physically survive and even exist maybe led to us letting those cultural values go if they stood on the way of our goals while not contradicting the religious values. Also there might be still people who make their wives walk behind them around here but there is not a chance that they are in your generation. They would be much older generations.

    However, arab families who ended up in the west maybe thought holding onto those values will keep their identity alive.

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  • Another advantage of walking behind is that you can kick him easily. Just pretend that you’ve walked into him by accident.

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  • sometimes i am walking behind my husband , sometimes i walking in front of us…it depends on how slow or fast our kids are…but most times we walk together..so do my parents, my sisters and brothers and their so…my uncles and most of the our friends here…the only time a guy said something like walk behind me…he was making a joke…i didnt know people like that still existed…i definatly do not see it done on purpose here in canada…or even when i was in jordan, lebanon and syria…maybe in the gulf countries…but i’ve never been there…but all the arabs i know in canada walk together…

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  • Meyrick Kirby has it right…If anyone ever asks or tells you that you need to walk behind them again, do so and then proceed kick them in the ass. haha.

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  • As far as I know, in my country back home (in the Mid East), Arab Muslims have practiced this for generations. But Mona, it really surprises me to hear that this practice still goes on in your (our) generation and in North America. In my family (we are Arab Christians, back home or in America, I have never had to experience such a thing, unless the man was doing it out of courtesy or protection for his woman. However, I am not sure if this practice is a religious one, as it does happen in other countries who practice different religions other than Islam. (Not that I agree with this, but) This practice was done (or still goes on) in very conservative countries as just another form of “protecting the man’s honor” by protecting his woman. When a woman walks behind her man it is a woman’s form of “respect” for her man and his honor. It goes hand-in-hand.

    The Middle East is a very conservative part of the world which refuses to become “westernized”. And since the Mid East consists of a mainly Islamic population, maybe this is why this old practice (which is still practiced today) is very much linked to Muslim men.
    Families who don’t believe in westernization or have refused the influence of the Western culture continue to instill this Arab Bedouin mentality in their sons, who continue to practice the Bedouin ways. One of which includes “the man’s honor”.

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  • Hey, Sweetie

    I would like to thank that I have nominated you for the Butterfly Award on my blog. Congratulations with this, your blog deserves it

    Hugs and kisses

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  • @NY Arab – so you are like me, believe that this is a cultural tradition that people end up mixing with religion. And yah, I agree, it is very conservative old style thinking.

    @Jody Donnelly – thank you very very much! I feel honored! :)

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  • [...] Why should I walk behind him? Posted by admin on November 11, 2008 random Maybe this my biggest pet peeve of Arabic culture: walking behind the man. Why? You answer me and explain why should a woman walk behind a man? I just find it absurd that women subject themselves as… [...]

  • I agree with JDsg – it’s something my husband pointed out when I was walking beside the curb, that I should walk “inside” rather than outside, because I might get hit by a car, also when we went to countries which were rumoured to “steal your handbag” off you, my husband always walked next to the curb than I, and in crowded shopping areas I always preferred to walk ‘behind’ him so he can clear the way for me. Wow, never thought of that before…
    Dare I say, I have seen Saudi Arabian’s who have their women walk behind them (granted this occurs in their society), but that’s not to say others don’t do it. May be it is a conservative thing…may be it’s one of those annoying cultural norms that ppl stopped questioning and generations just went with the flow…

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  • Not being very knowledgeable in the arab culture or islam religion, I’m not able to add anything more relevant to the comments yet made so far, and the conclusion you draw, which I tend to agree with.
    I however would like to make a parallel with something from the western Europe, where I live. In France and surrounding countries, the man would go before the woman in the following circumstances:
    – when getting down the stairs (in case she would fall)
    – when getting up the stairs (to avoid him looking at her buttocks)
    – when entering or leaving a public place, a restaurant, etc… which are habits centuries old from where many places were unsafe.
    Unfortunately, those traditions are getting lost, which many women tend to regret, as they find a lot of charm to those habits especially when they are no more needed and are a pure courtesy (which is not your question I know, I understood that).
    Fortunately those traditions didn’t prevent men and women to walk side by side in “normal” circumstances.
    I believe that more recent generations, like yours, will more and more see unrespectful so-called traditions fade away, rejected by those who are victimes of it: women.

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  • Surely its so you can give him a swift kick up the buttocks whenever he does something silly (as he inevitably will)!

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  • fragileheart:

    Surely its so you can give him a swift kick up the buttocks whenever he does something silly (as he inevitably will)!

    Hey, that’s my joke, go get your own!

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  • maybe the reason why arab men don’t want the women to walk infront of them is because…..hmmm.. i can’t think of anything.. but let’s try to see it in a positive view.. maybe.. just maybe, they are trying to protect the women. You know like they are the first line of defense.. something like that.. or they want to make sure that it is safe and if the woman is behind the man, the support is always there… this is just with regards to walking infront of women.. lol..

    now let’s look at it on a negative side…

    What are they thinking?

    by the way mona, do you twit? I have a twitter tag for you over at my <a href=”hey gen.. got a twitter tag for you .. I hope you can join in..

    Twitter tag here“>blog</a….come and join in.

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  • opps.. sorry my code got messed up… here’s the clean link..

    Twitter tag here

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  • If it’s not walking speed, beats me, especially if it ellicits that sort of response.

    Personally, if I’m with a girl, I prefer she be by my side.

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  • Hi.
    I didn´t know about this tradition (that´s the reason I like to read your posts so much).
    I agree with Alter Mind. Here in Portugal, the ladies go first but in normal situations couples walk side by side.
    What I know about Golf Arab culture is trough TV and things I read. My opinion is that man are very close minded towards women and belive they´re somehow superior. They look to women as servers, mades, etc. It´s an oldfashion way of thinking and they got it all wrong. They mix religion with everything and use it to explain and justify their wrong actions.
    Hope things really change in the next generations.
    A good Thursday. Cheers!

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  • I think it would really depend on the situation. My first time out wearing full niqab I followed a man. He cleared a path for me. I did not feel at all degraded. He was actually very protective of me, and wanted to make sure I got to where I needed to go safely and unmolested.

    Salaam. :)

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  • When I was stationed in S. Korea, especially in the villages that were were near, I would be in my military vehicle driving by and would see women walking behind their men. One time I saw a man lash out at his wife or whoever she was and pointed to WHERE she was to be. I was like ???

    I liked allot of things regarding the culture and some things which I did not (i.e. blowing snot out of one nostril into the open air)…oh I know GROSS…but so is walking behind your significant other because of your gender.

    ok, off my soapbox.

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  • HI!
    it happened that there is this one Arab man that I`ve like.(he`S in Dubai). honestly speaking, my friends and family don`t agree with me. I really have this hard time now telling them that not all Arab men are same. Do I have to fear? i really want to know some feed back about having a relationship with an Arab.

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  • Honestly, I was searching on the subject of “man walkin in front of his woman”, solely because I’ve noticed my man doing that to me everytime we go somewhere. I’m not Arabic, African or whatever religion who does that. I am an African-American who lives in New Mexico. After thinking about this for a couple of days my question is, “Is it disrespectful?” It feels very disrespectful to me. I feel that you should walk side by side. Besides, it doesn”t look right! It looks as though the couple may have a problem. like as if there is no respect within the relationship. Maybe I could be wrong…But it doesn’t feel wrong. It doesn’t feel good at all…I felt less than his woman.

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