Being an American Women in Kuala Lumpur

Have you ever been to Muslim country? For all my military friends – war zones excluded – I am speaking for places like Turkey, Egypt, Morocco and the country I am currently in, Malaysia.

Don’t ask me why I didn’t factor this in in all my trip preparation for traveling here, but the Islamic influence in this country is one of the major striking factors for a person used to largely secular societies (albeit even religious areas of the US are nothing in comparison to religious areas here). At first, I tried to ignore the head scarfs, floor length, full armed dresses and shops that read ‘the modern Muslim women’, but after wiping the sweat off my brow wearing shorts and a tank top (it was 100 yesterday) I began wondering how dedicated I would really be to the whole conservative dress thing if I lived in this weather day in and day out.

– there was that – and also the constant cat calls, smooching sounds and honking of horns I couldn’t really understand, even when wearing a full length dress myself and a jacket, why I was getting so much attention (my boyfriend kept saying it must be my sexy ankles).

Then it hit me – yes I need to be wearing a headscarf myself and a poncho of a dress that covered all areas, side from my hands, in order to stop getting awkwardly long stares and smoochy sounds thrown my way. In this society, that was clearly acceptable behavior towards a women who decided to show as much skin as I had. But why?

I would argue that it was the national religion that provided this influence. A modest women would never wear what I was wearing (but let me also caveat that every westerner was). To protect her womenhood and dignity she covers all areas of her body – and the more attractive, the more covered.

What affect does this have on a society? Does it protect the women of the country? ( Let me also be fair and say that there were also women at work in every area of society – female cops…with head scarfs, female barista’s at starbucks…with head scarfs and immigration officers..with head scarfs). Or does it create a society that constrains other areas of being a women.. such as dress, behavior and freedom?

2 thoughts on “Being an American Women in Kuala Lumpur

  1. Hi!! Wonderful posts! Just wish I were there with you. Can you put up some photos? I looked at some YouTube videos of the New Yer’s celebrations in Kuala Lampur. Quite spectacular fireworks. I found it interesting that all broadcasts by the DJ/emcee were in English.

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