I was supposed to be teaching a photography workshop to a group of Muslim girls (aged about 11-14) yesterday. This workshop has been scheduled for about a month, and I already taught a workshop to the same group about two months ago.
So, on Thursday I phoned just to make sure everything was still OK. The woman at the other end said “oh, could you send a woman teacher instead, the thing is some of the parents are unhappy about a man teaching their daughters”.
There is no woman teacher. I am the teacher. If you don’t want me, you don’t get a workshop.
To be honest, I was quite glad of the day off, but Karen – who organised the workshop, secured funding for it, and now has to go back to the funders and explain why the workshop that they paid for will not now be taking place – was understandably livid.
But, the more I thought about it, the more I also got angry. Why don’t they want me to teach their daughters? I already ran one workshop with them and, judging by the assessment forms they completed, it seems they really enjoyed it and found it useful. I like to think that I am fairly sensitive to the needs and sensibilities of different cultures. Having fostered Muslim girls in the past, I have a little understanding of Muslim culture, and I do my utmost to behave in an appropriate way.
I can only assume that they don’t want me teaching their girls because, as a representitive of the male gender, they do not trust me with them. They fear that I might, in some way, violate their daughters’ purity. To put it bluntly, they believe that “all men are rapists”.
It strikes me that this is very similar to if I were to say “I don’t want my daughters to be taught my a Muslim because ‘all Muslims are terrorists'”.