October 12, 2011
A screening and discussion took place at the University of Jordan in the American Corner of the Language Center and was open to all students. We screened The Woman Warrior program for a room of 30-35 students, two of whom were male and the rest female.
I was touched to see the entire audience watch with complete attention and audibly react to the films.
Instead of presenting a formal panel, we ran the event as a seminar and opened the discussion with a question addressed to the students: “What did you think? How did the films make you feel?” The answers that followed were inspiring:
About It Is Written the students used words like free, liberated, flying, amazing, and enlightening to describe their thoughts. One girl said: “Before watching this I never thought a woman in a hijab could be free, but now I see that freedom is in the actions, in the mind and in the choice, not in the dress.” One overall observation was that they were all sad that the dancer “dies” at the end of the film, that she gives up. Suzie presented an alternative interpretation to them: everyone dies, but before that happens, the fruit is passed on, and that is the important part, that the work done to liberate women is passed on from generation to generation so that progress can happen on a bigger scale.
The overwhelming favorite film was Half Value Life. The students were impressed by Maria Bashir and her ability and willingness to balance her professional and personal life. “She is such a warrior,” one student said, “I feel like now I want to dedicate my life to helping women.”
One thing to know about University of Jordan is that its student body is generally made up of a more privileged sector of Jordanian society and is attended by a significant number of foreign students as well. Our audience made comments like: “I didn’t know the things women faced!” and “It’s easy for us to understand these issues because we are educated, but I think it is important to bring these films to the poorer, less educated communities.” When they found out about our numerous screenings in the poorer areas of Jordan at both universities and women’s centers, they were excited and wanted to join us so they could connect with these communities.
Our favorite student comment from the poll we took: “Thank you a lot on everything. I have laughed, cried, open my mouth out of shock and been more educated about how to be a strong woman than I’ve ever been.”
Both Suzie and I were touched by this experience. We came to Jordan hoping our work would touch people and change their perspectives. The overwhelming response from the students validated our hopes for this trip and for WVN’s Global tour as a whole. It has proven that we must continue our travels in Muslim-majority countries to share these critical voices with audiences at all levels of society.