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Are you insulted by the woman-only queue?
Eva Fernandes explores the hidden implications behind Dubai's special women's-only queues.
October 30, 2012 9:49 by Eva Fernandes
I have always had mixed feelings about the UAE’s special ‘Women-only’ queues at government offices, telecoms and utility services. The time-conscious/impatient part of me loves to get a legit excuse to jump the queue. And given the terribly long human chains which snake about some of the government offices here, you would understand the fleeting moment of happiness one would feel being allowed to walk past the blurs of tired men.
And yet, the moment is always fleeting for I am never fully able to enjoy the comfort being in a ladies’ only queue. For reasons I have never been fully able to articulate, I always feel uneasy about using gendered queues—in fact, I remember waiting my turn for my Emirates ID until the attendant on charge barked at me for standing in the wrong line (something I did intentionally). As I stumbled forward past the men who had been my companions in boredom and impatience for the past half hour, I tried to put my finger on why I felt so uneasy.
And though I have on occasion tried to explain the source of my discomfort at this preferential treatment, I have always been unsuccessful. After all, when compared to its neighbors, the UAE ranks highly for its empowerment of women in the workplace and the realm of education. The special treatment at queues are meant to help women and not oppress or offend them.
The counterargument? I have had several, but nothing made the opposing view more clear than the following coupon.
I received this coupon when I went to an Etisalat kiosk at a mall. When I was given the coupon by the grumpy heavily mustached man who was guarding the kiosk, I burst out laughing. Is this a joke? I could not decide whether I was more amused or more offended by the coupon.
‘Ladies and Special Needs.’
SPECIAL NEEDS? As in, similar considerations being made for people with physical limitations extended to people who have the special need of being a woman? Could one then extend the consideration of the special parking spots reserved for drivers with particular handicaps, to having special parking spots for women?
I have always had a bitter taste in my mouth for the special privileges women in the UAE are entitled to and the ‘Women and Special Needs’ association has made me keenly aware of why such considerations are really a double-edged sword.
Whatever your stance of politically correct vocabulary, it isn’t difficult to see why grouping women in the same category as those with ‘special needs’ is inaccurate. It does a disservice to the capabilities of fully-able women and also to those who have ‘special needs.’
Having been in this country for more than 20 years, I am keenly aware of the cultural precepts which give birth to such policies. I understand too, they come from a genuine place of consideration and understandings of respect.
Yet, given the changes the city is experiencing with women joining and constituting for a significant portion of the workforce, perhaps similar changes should be reflected in the policies?