Sunday, 7 October 2012

Wolf Whistles & Ciao Bella's: Thoughts on From My Sisters' Lips



Recently, I started reading 'From My Sister's Lips' by Na'ima B. Robert which a really lovely Italian lady lent to me. It sparked some ideas which I thought I'd share. In the first few chapters the protagonist speaks about her modest attire ending 'unwanted male attention' which put an 'end to seeking male approval for my looks or clothes.'  This got me thinking about how my daily life in Italy has changed since my Erasmus days in Italy. 

At that time I remember assessing my attractiveness each day by a tally of the number of 'Ciao Bella's' I received when I walked in the street. It wasn't that I was parading myself  or strutting but it's a normal occurrence for a woman to receive such remarks in Italy. Particularly if you're quite clearly foreign (pale skin and shorts in Spring are a dead giveaway!) Even if you'd just woken up and were scrambling to get to a lecture with scruffy hair and bags under the eyes, you'd still get at least one 'ciao bella' from an Italian man. It was a handy pick-me-up on bad hair days. 

On the other hand, I've received a grand total of one 'ciao bella!' in the last year! and that particular one was from a newspaper vendor who got a bit flustered by my presence and went into panic mode! This really shocked me at first and I thought urgh! It's clearly a sign that I must look so bad that not even a stereotypically sleazy man says ciao bella to me anymore! My self-confidence took quite a hit I have to admit. Much like turning on your Twitter after a day away from the computer only to find no one has mentioned you! Sad times indeed. 

But after a while, and as my confidence increased, I realized that this wasn't a bad thing. Not being verbally harassed in the street or on the train is actually a positive thing. It removed the stress of relying on male approval to feel good about myself and in the end it's given me a greater sense of self respect because I'm treated respectfully by everyone I meet in my daily life, both at work and in the city. I still get some stares (see previous post: 11 Basic Facial Expressions) but usually from brothers who are so distracted by a hijabi in Italy that they stop their conversation just to stare in wide-eyed surprise.  This is more entertaining rather than stressful. 


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Some of you may have already read this novel and if so 
I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Please leave any thoughts or your experiences below

11 comments:

  1. Asalamu alaikum,

    JazakAllah khair for sharing this, please share with and invite friends and family who are intending to go Hajj one day to my blog. See posts to understand, its in detail and fun :)

    Take Care

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  2. mashaAllah this is amazing :) Thanks a lot for sharing your experience, sis. I've always wondered how it's like for a hijabi to walk the streets of Italy..

    I have read this awesome novel by Naima B. Roberts a couple of years ago and I remember how enjoyable it was. Of special interest to me was how the new reverts decided to transform their outfits into hijab/niqab. I do admire those ladies =] Another thing that impressed is that bit about marriage tips and how to keep the home fires burning even after having kids, as she put it. I just loved it! <3

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    1. Thank you so much for your encouraging words. I'm actually still in the process of reading the novel and really enjoying it. I'll look out for the part about marriage that you mentioned. Thanks again! x

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  3. what an interesting read. I went though something very simular when moving to Uk from Aus. Now I dont desire the ciao bellas but they are still nice to hear at times.

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    1. I agree - if someone says you look beautiful, it's always going to be a boost to your confidence. as the ciao bellas seemed to be indiscriminate and so after a while they didn't really mean anything. hope your move goes well x

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  4. Catcalling/unwanted male attention tends to be a problem here in Argentina too. Some of the remarks I've received have been quite vulgar, and I can honestly say that I don't enjoy it (although many Argentine women measure their self-worth based upon the 'piropos' they get out on the street). All women deserve to be treated with respect, whether they're wearing a head-covering or not.

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    1. You're so right. Regardless of what you wear, you should be treated respectfully. Its so sad that often the focus is on what women wear and not how men behave towards them - there needs to be a shift in focus really - because the tendency to blame women for bad male behaviour is not right.

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    2. On a lighter note - it's lovely to hear from you. Hope you're having a good start to your week : D

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  5. thanks for sharing.

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  6. Hi :) could youplease make a post about talking more about this subject? im sooo interesting on how you were treated/talked to/looks etc as being a hijabi in Italy.

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