Best of the Week
of Feb. 21, 1999


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Feb. 21, 1999, as selected by Y? These postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from previous weeks, also can be found in their respective archives, which we invite you to browse. There, you will find questions that have received answers, as well as questions still awaiting responses. We encourage you to answer any questions relevant to your demographic background, as well as to ask any provocative question you desire. Answers posted are not necessarily meant to represent the views of an entire demographic group, but can provide a window into the insights of an individual from that group.

First-time users should first make a quick stop at our guidelines pages for asking and answering questions.

Question Code Key:

A=Age

GD=General Diversity

RE=Religion

C=Class

G=Geography

SE=Sensitive Matters

D=Disabilities

O=Occupation

SO=Sexual Orientation

GE=Gender

R=Race/Ethnicity

THE QUESTION:
O11: Why are most employers these days more interested in the bottom line, even to the point of treating employees poorly? Don't they want life-long employees? (Director's note: Y? would prefer that an employer, or someone at a high level of management, as opposed to an employee, answer this question.)
POSTED JUNE 17, 1998
N.M., Hagerstown, MD

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Director's Note: Y? sought an answer from Marina v.N. Whitman, professor of business administration and public policy at the University of Michigan and former member of the President's Council of Economic Advisers. She is author of the just-published book New World, New Rules: The Changing Role of the American Corporation (Harvard Business School Press, 1999). Here is her response:

"The answer to N.M.'s question has two parts: Global competition and more demanding shareholders.

Back in the "good old days" of the 1950s and '60s, no other country could anywhere near match the United States in efficiency and technology, and American companies had no effective competition from anywhere else in the world. This dominance meant high earnings -profit rates in those days were much higher than they have ever been since. It also enabled those who ran the companies to spread the gains from market power around, not only in the form of lavish perks and excess management layers, but also as high pay and generous benfits to rank-and-file workers. And, because they didn't have to worry about always running a tight ship, lifetime jobs were secure.

Today, many countries can compete effectively with us, and intense global competition is pressuring U.S. companies to increase efficiency and cut costs in order to survive and thrive. This competition gives consumers lower prices, better quality and more choice, and has also made it possible for the United States to experience both inflation and unemployment at lower levels than we've seen in decades. But cost-cutting may mean laying off people or skinnying-down generous benefits, both of which threaten people's sense of economic security.

Along with more intense competition, American employers are feeling presure from more aggressive shareholders. Now that more than half the stock of large firms is held by institutional investors - mainly mutual funds and pension funds - companies whose profits don't measure up to expectations are likely to find themselves threatened with forced merger, hostile takeover or a change in top management.

None of this means employers want to treat employees poorly. In fact, the "high-performance workplace" instituted by many of the most successful companies gives employees more responsibility and freedom to make decisions, both of which require a positive attitude. And many employers are trying to improve working conditions with such innovations as flextime or on-site daycare. But the old mutual commitment of cradle-to-grave loyalty is gone; not only are employers less likely to guarantee lifetime jobs, but most young people today neither expect nor want them."
POSTED FEB. 26, 1999
To answer
BACK TO TOP


THE QUESTION:
G72: What types of punishments do kids receive in different countries or cultures for misbehaving, or disobeying their parents? What are specific examples, as well as the reasoning behind these punishments, and what are some opinions on which countries have the harshest punishments? Thanks.
POSTED FEB. 25, 1999
Spanish <
Lmgause@hotmail.com>, Raleigh, NC
To respond
BACK TO TOP


THE QUESTION:
C12: Why does the middle class pay more taxes than the upper class?
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
Dan M., male, Lawrence, KS

ANSWER 1:
The upper class take advantage of all the tax shelters written into the tax code. You too can take these shelters if you have the proper advice.
POSTED FEB. 25, 1999
Phuman, Adrian, MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
The upper class controls government, and government decides who pays how much in taxes. Although it may appear we have an equitable tax system, there are numerous loopholes to allow the upper class to dodge paying their fair portion of the tax bill. Viewed this way, it only makes sense that the upper class would not pass laws against themselves. Don't believe the upper class controls the government? Name five senators or congressmen from low- or middle-income families. Name five high-ranking government officials from low- or middle-income brackets. Can you think of any that are truly from the working class? That's the way our political system is set up.
POSTED FEB. 25, 1999
Angie W., female <
ajwalden@falcon.ukans.edu.com>, Lawrence , KS

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
The upper class always pays more taxes than the middle class. The current tax rates are designed so that the tax percentage is higher as your income goes up. Even if the tax rates were the same, the more money you had, the more you would pay. So while you might be paying a combined income tax rate of 35 percent at a middle class tax bracket, someone in a higher tax bracket might be paying 50 percent, and since they make more money, they are paying far more than you ever would. And that is just dealing with the income tax. Married couples, who tend to have a higher household income (and therefore a higher tax bracket), also get charged more in taxes than single people. Also, many upper-class people are in that class because they own businesses, and since businesses are taxed on top of personal income taxes, they get taxed more than once. While some business owners will pass that cost on to customers, that seldom covers the entire additional tax burden. The only difference is that upper-class people typically have more left over after taxes than middle-class people, which makes sense. If you work hard to become more successful and make more money, you should be able to do what you want with that money. No one else should feel entitled to take away the rewards of your hard work. Also, consider that most of the money from taxes goes to programs that upper-class people will never benefit from, even though they are paying a higher share of the tax burden for those programs.
POSTED FEB. 25, 1999
John K., 25, male <
the-macs@geocities.com>, Cranford , NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Tax breaks given for large investments in businesses or charities, which most of the upper-class have money for. The upper class can use these investments as loopholes to the tax code, and use the loopholes to reduce the amount of tax they have to pay. The upper class can usually afford another nice amenity: A tax accountant, who will advise them how to pay as little tax as possible.
POSTED FEB. 25, 1999
A.R. <
Adam.Risley@valpo.edu>, Valparaiso , IN
To respond
BACK TO TOP


THE QUESTION:
O17: Lately when I am shopping for groceries or anything else, I have noticed that I rarely get a "thank you" from the cashier for my purchase. It's "Have a good day" (even in the late evening). Why is this? I usually tell the clerk "thank you" when I receive my change.
POSTED JULY 1998
Patrick <
pfall1@aol.com>

ANSWER 1:
I know this sounds terrible, but most supermarket cashiers don't say "Thank you" because they are doing a mind-numbing job for terrible pay, in addition to the fact they get all the blame if the till or credit-card reader goes wrong. They aren't in the mood for thanking anyone. Also, it's company policy to say "Have a nice day" for some reason, but I don't know why this is.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
Flora, female <
hert0759@sable.ox.ac.uk>, Oxford , England

FURTHER NOTICE:
I think the lack of thank-yous is another symptom of the "disease" that has led to all those tip jars that have sprung up at Dunkin' Donuts, ice cream parlors, etc. Somehow the customer should be very grateful that the person behind the counter has performed 12 seconds of work and collected $1.25 for some flavored water. In my part of the country, stores have a hard time filling jobs, so maybe the employees know they won't get fired for not going the extra step cheerfully.
POSTED FEB. 25, 1999
B. Hale, <
halehart@aol.com> Hartford , CT

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
To Flora: I am unfamiliar with England and how grocery stores are run, but in the United States there is an issue with cashiers being overly polite. Recently a chain of stores was taken to court because it required its cashiers to be very friendly, and apparently many customers have taken this as sexual advances and have tried to "hit" on the employees. I am from Canada, though, and one thing I have noticed in America is that people are far less polite to the service industry. For example, in a coffee place like Starbucks in Canada, a customer would say "I'd like a Mocha, please" or words to that effect. But in the States, the customer is more likely to say "Give me a Mocha," which I think is very rude.
POSTED FEB. 25, 1999
D. Meerkat, white male, 26, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
To answer
BACK TO TOP


THE QUESTION:
SO125: Do lesbians have any hard feelings toward straight women?

POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
Jaime Y., 20, female, University of Kansas <
hi-mee_babe@yahoo.com>, Lawrence, KS

ANSWER 1:
No. However, we may react to funny looks from males and/or females. The looks might be because we are with our partners, or because some of us don't look like beauty queens. (See question GE177 for a discussion on that.)
POSTED FEB. 25, 1999
N.Smith, 44, lesbian <
ranebow@iname.com>, Butler , PA

FURTHER NOTICE:
I'm not sure what prompted your question, but in my experience people are most likely to experience hard feelings toward someone they perceive as having wronged them in some way, regardless of sexual orientation. Why would I have any hard feelings toward my mother, daughter, sisters or numerous straight female friends and co-workers simply because of their sexual orientation? Gems and jerks come in all orientations. Possible discomfort or uncertainy about a new acquaintance's response to knowing a lesbian or bisexual woman may inhibit the growth of instant trust or comraderie. If a new acquaintance indicated a certain level of ignorance and desire to understand lesbian issues, certainly I would be happy to answer her questions with no hard feelings. If, on the other hand, she started spouting homophobic rhetoric, I would strongly refute such arguments (politely if possible) but probably have hard feelings.

Strange to say that shortly after I came out, I went through a short period when I was so happy with my life that every really neat woman that I admired and liked, I wished were a lesbian, too. Guess I just wanted the best for them, and in my book, lesbians were the best! It didn't take long to decide that was pretty arrogant, and that really cool women could still be straight and wonderful. Certainly happily-married Congresswoman Bella Abzug was one of my childhood heroines, along with several other straight feminists and social pioneers.
POSTED FEB. 25, 1999
DykeOnByke, 48, lesbian feminist <
DykeOnByke@aol.com>, Southfield , MI
To respond
BACK TO TOP


THE QUESTION:
R617: In my experience, it seems that many East Indians feel they are superior to the rest of the races in America. I understand that all races have predjudice, but why does it seem to be so prevalent in East Indians?
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
J. Bilbrey, 26, white male <
slingblade@qconline.com>, Quad-Cities, IL
To respond
BACK TO TOP


THE QUESTION:
R616: Why is it that black people can go up to their friends and say "what's up nigger?" as a friendly gesture, when this term has such negative undertones? How is it that such an awful, derogatory word has evolved into this type of slang?
POSTED FEB. 23, 1999
Emmanuelle, 16, white female <
emmanuelle44@yahoo.com>, Cincinnati, OH

ANSWER 1:
As a black person, I'm still trying to understand this. Other blacks may try to justify its use by saying it's a good word for them. The truth is, nobody should use this word (not even blacks). How can we say that we can say something and someone else can't? It's a matter of having a (negative) double standard that my black brothers and sisters try in vain to explain. When blacks say the n-word to me, I correct them.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
Peter, 23, black male, Ypsilanti, MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
I know far fewer African Americans who use that slang with each other anymore. African Americans are beginning to have more pride in their ancestry and not copy mainstream ways of looking at themselves. For those who still use that term, it's because they are not looking at one another with the issue of superiority in the background. An African American considers that if he uses that slang, it is not in a racist mode; if a European American uses it, it is generally not a term of endearment. Even if it is not meant in an offensive way, the European American would be looked at with suspicion because he/she has not shared the same history of slavery, repression and prejudice because of the men who came up with that derogatory term in the first place. Personally, I think any African American who uses it is practicing self-hatred in the long run.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
Taliba, black female <
aja6311@unix.tamu.edu>, Houston , TX

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Our slave ancestors, not being permitted to learn how to read or write, picked up their spoken English from the whites with whom they came in contact - mostly slavemasters and overseers. The first and most enduring label these whites used in referring to blacks was "nigger," which became a natural part of black vocabulary and was used by blacks in the same broad range of ways that they and others used labels such as "white," "Indian," "Mexican," etc. Blacks soon came to see in the white usage, however, a single code standing for all of the hate, hostility and ugliness whites could bundle under one label. This led blacks to develop a distaste for the label in general and a profound reaction to the white usage which has always carried a footnote saying "I disrespect you, ... I despise you, ... and you are inferior to me." The multiplicity of meanings in black usage of the word carry some subtle and not so subtle shadings. While some of these, in certain contexts, may be rather provocative, none are that single, coded meaning that is bundled in every white usage. In general, it is much easier for a word to vanish from a vocabulary if it has but one meaning than if it has a multiplicity of meanings. The label "nigger" should therefore be expected to vanish from the vocabulary of whites much faster than from that of blacks unless whites work to preserve it. .
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
Floyd L., African-American male <
lastchild@worldnet.att.net>, Memphis , TN

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
What is actually being said is "nigga," which means friend, sidekick or partner. It can also mean chump, idiot or sucka-er. The term nigga refers to who's down (with me/us), and who's not. Made popular by hip hop, a few whites who are "down" are allowed to say it (with an a) in the presence of blacks. "Nigger" still retains its antiquated, defamatory connotations.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
Alonzo C., 32, black male, Jacksonville, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I believe comedian Chris Rock said it best when he used the analogy of a mother calling her kid "stupid." That is totally fine to the mother, but if another mother calls the first mother's kid "stupid," there'll be hell to pay. I suppose if you're black and call other blacks "nigger," it's not offensive. This is similar to Asians calling other Asians "chinks" - it can be viewed as a friendly gesture.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
Asian male, 22, Brooklyn , NY
To respond
BACK TO TOP


THE QUESTION:
GE117: I don't understand why women size each other up in terms of their looks - whether it's about their physical attributes or dress style. Why do women do this?
POSTED FEB. 9, 1999
George O., male <
g oboza@aol.com>, San Diego , CA

ANSWER 1:
Women must biologically compete with one another to land the most desirable males. I try to avoid sizing other women up based on their physical appearance, but I know exactly what you mean. I don't spend too much time on my physical appearance, but I'm a model and happen to be tall and slender, with fine bone structure. I consider it the luck of the draw; it has nothing to do with who I really am. However, I often encounter women who act catty with me upon meeting me. I think it's a matter of jealousy and insecurity.
POSTED FEB. 23, 1999
S.R., white female, 20, Austin , TX

FURTHER NOTICE:
Most women size other women up in terms of physical appearance because that's the way most men size women up. Everybody wants to be attractive. Most women see men on many different levels - physical, emotional, mental. Most men (initially at least) see women on one level - physical. I guess if you are going to size women up that way, so are we.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
D., 34, white female, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
S.R. says she doesn't have to size up other women's appearance or "spend too much time on (her) physical appearance." That's like Donald Trump saying he doesn't worry about money much. If you naturally have what society considers an attractive appearance it's really easy not to worry much about appearance. I spent 20 years yo-yo dieting to try and achieve what society says is attractive, but I couldn't do it. I can understand the jealousy women feel toward attractive women. I feel it myself. But it's not just jealousy because of appearance, it's jealously because of how people are treated due to their appearance. Try being size 24 and you'll find out how much appearance matters, and how differently women are treated because of their size (big or slender) and appearance. Women size up each others' appearance because women are judged more on their appearance.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
Jenny H., 33, white fat girl, Wellington, New Zealand

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Women are trained/raised from day one to believe that physical appearance is everything. Look at the images and toys little girls get to play with. Take an easy target such as Barbie dolls. Even the newer "working" series of Barbie has an impossible figure, perfect wardrobe, permanent makeup, wears a miniskirt and has long blond hair past her butt. Women are taught that their only worth is through looking good and catching a good husband. Even S.R. above felt it necessary to describe her physical attributes.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
Woman, 27, white <
OneWanda@hotmail.com>
To respond
BACK TO TOP


THE QUESTION:
A39: What kinds of things do Italian teenagers do that would compare and contrast with American teenagers?
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
Cody B. <
c_bertram@yahoo.com>, Colome, SD
To respond
BACK TO TOP


THE QUESTION:
RE142: Why is it that we as a species hold religion so high on our list of values, and is it possible to lead a fulfilling life without it?
POSTED FEB. 16, 1999
S.D.P., 21 <
bacitiman@home.com>, San Diego , CA

ANSWER 1:
Human beings are relatively unique as a species. We are self-aware, and we know that eventually we're going to die. Ultimately, I believe religious belief or non-belief is an attempt to answer the question: Does the person cease to exist when the physical body dies, or is there something beyond death? Archaelogical finds have shown religious activities since at least the time of the Neanderthals. Given the 30,000 or so years that separate us from them, it's no wonder religion has become so engrained and valued in the human culture.
POSTED FEB. 23, 1999
M.K., 30, theist <
kemper1@gte.net>, Tampa, FL

FURTHER NOTICE:
I think it comes down to the age-old questions: "Is this all we are? Is there nothing more than this existence? Why are we here, and where are we going?" For most of humanity, these answers cannot be found in the day-to-day struggles of life. Instead, we all look for something greater than ourselves, something that can give order to the chaos around us. For most, this is some version of God. Belief in such a higher power can give meaning where no rational explanation exists. I believe everyone gives in to this desire in some way or form, whether it be an organized faith or simply a strong belief in the theories of science. Is it possible to have a fulfilling life without organized religion? Absolutely. I do not subscribe to any particular organized religion; I prefer the methods of scientific inquiry to the endless contradictions of most religious faiths. However, that path is only one of many, and just because I find it fulfilling does not mean you would. Find your own path to fulfillment, and realize that you are the only person who needs to determine whether you feel that fulfillment.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
John K., 25 <
the-macs@geocities.com>, Cranford , NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
The experience of the sacred is one of the most basic human experiences. Rudolf Otto coined the term "numinous" to describe the awe and fear humans feel before something that is greater than us. Religion fulfills many important human needs: The need to feel that life has a greater meaning; the need to know how to live one's life in harmony with oneself, with others, with the cosmos and with God; the need for rituals to mark the important steps in life; the need to feel closer to that power which is greater than all others. When these needs cannot be met through religion, other spheres of human activity often take on a religious aspect. For example, in the Soviet Union, officially atheist, certain leaders were venerated almost as saints. Visiting Stalin's embalmed body (and why exactly was his body preserved if Communists are atheists and do not believe in an afterlife?) was an act of piety and devotion for many Russians.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
C., 21, female, Religious Studies student, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Religion plays an enormous part in our culture because it is a social comfort. It gives a sense of purpose and belonging. And hope. But it is possible to live without it. I studied to be a pastor, and in studying I decided I could not keep faith in what I learned. I felt it restricted logical, rounded thought. I live a happy life without church. I do not have a relationship with God or Allah or any other form of deity. I don't feel the need, and I don't need the restrictions it would bring to me. But as long as it helps people, more power to it. But when it interferes with human freedom and harms freedom of thought, I feel it is one of the most harmful things in America.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
J. Bilbrey, 26, white male <
slingblade@qconline.com>, Quad Cities, IL
To respond
BACK TO TOP


THE QUESTION:
R614: Why do some male Mexicans feel as if their girlfriend/wife is there to serve them? I don't mind getting things for my man, but why do they have to expect it?
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
Young Mexican woman, San Diego, CA

ANSWER 1:
I don't think this is a Mexican male problem. This is a man/woman problem. As a young wife, I fell into this trap. I wanted to do things for my husband to show him I loved him, and I assumed he would return the favor. It hit me one day that the man had no idea where anything was in the house because I always went and got it for him when he asked where it was! I stopped. It was rough on him. I wondered how I'd gotten so stupid - until I found out by talking to other women that many young married wives seem to make the same mistake.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
Colleen, 38, white female <
congdon@illuminet.net>, Quantico, VA

FURTHER NOTICE:
A better question would be: Why do some Neanderthals in every culture feel women are there to serve them? The problem is not unique to or especially worse among Latinos or Mexicans than among other - probably all - cultures. The false "machismo" stereotype of Mexican culture has been used to justify all kinds of wrong treatment of us. We should not be spreading such a lie about ourselves. Having said that, it was probably the way they were wrongly raised, and someone should teach them better.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
A.C.C., Mexican and American Indian <
bigi__@yahoo.com>, San Antonio , TX
To respond
BACK TO TOP


THE QUESTION:
R481: To me, many people of Middle Eastern and Indian background tend to have offensive body odor. Is there a cultural reason for this?
POSTED OCT. 9, 1998
Darrell E., 56, white, Camarillo, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I have some half-Pakistani relatives by marriage (I am a white European), and I used to share a car to work with one of them. She was a typical modern young lady, very conscious of her looks and personal hygiene (probably more so than me). However, to me she would occasionally smell of excrement. This amazed me, but I of course never said anything. A few years later I heard that many races smell peculiar to each other, one of the better examples being that the Japanese often find that Westerners smell of sour milk (the Japanese have far less cow's milk in their diet than Westerners). I now think that something in my relative's diet must have produced the unpleasant odor (probably one of the spices).
POSTED FEB. 23, 1999
S.P.H., white, European male <
s.p.hodges@openmail.uena4.sukeplon.simis.com>, London, UK

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
I think you should never generalize like this. I am a Middle Eastern male and had two American roommates during college. If they did not take a shower, they usually "smelled." If they did, they usually did not.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
Mohammad, 30, Arab (Middle Eastern) male <
alibaba1969@yahoo.com>, Kalamazoo, MI
To respond
BACK TO TOP


THE QUESTION:
RE145: I recently heard the following about a friend who became an Orthodox Jew before her wedding: Reportedly, she is unable to sleep in the same bed as her husband while menstruating, bought a wig to cover her natural hair and is not permitted to dine in her parents' home because the plates, food, etc., have not been blessed. Is there any truth to what I've heard?
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
April , 25, white female, Catholic <
alwew3@aol.com>, Tallahassee , FL

ANSWER 1:
Yes, this is true. When an Orthodox Jewish woman gets married, tradition states her head should be completely covered. Wigs are one method. Some prefer to wear hats instead. An Orthodox Jew also will not eat in a home or restaurant that is not kosher. If your friend's mother's home is not a "kosher" home, then unclean food has been served on the dinner plates at one time. I mean "unclean" as far as Jewish dietary laws dictate. As far as not sleeping in the same bed during menstruation, the woman is considered unclean during these times.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
Alan, 39, male, non-Orthodox Jew <
alan4433@hotmail.com>, Atlanta , GA

FURTHER NOTICE:
You've got some things right, although not necessarily for the right reasons. Some Orthodox Jews do have special prohibitions about women's bodies, hair and functions, and these are often also the groups that, for example, only permit intercourse through a hole in the sheet. Please notethat this is not mainstream Judaism, just like a prohibition on dancing is not mainstream Christianity. As for the dishes: That's an extension of kosher laws on food purity. For some, part of keeping kosher means keeping meat and dairy separate - totally separate, to the point of using separate dishes for each (as well as separate dishes for the Sabbath and certain holidays). It's not a matter of being blessed, it's a matter of the dishes being ritually unclean.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
A.B., Reform Jew, OK

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
The Torah states that a woman is "unclean" during her period. Accordingly, any man who touches her is also rendered unclean and must undergo ritual purification after touching a menstruating woman. Accordingly, married couples sleep apart when the woman is menstruating. There is Jewish law that commands a woman to "dress modestly" so as not to excite Jewish males. The prohibition against dressing provocatively permutated into a custom (not a law) that married women either crop their hair or (in the extreme) shave their heads, and then wear wigs. I will not discuss the absurdity that an attractive wig can be as exciting as natural hair. As to eating at her parents' home, if your friend is Orthodox, she may not eat unkosher food. To be kosher, the food must be purchased from sources known to sell kosher food, be prepared in a kitchen that is maintained according to the laws of kashrut, and be served on kosher dishes. Her parents apparently do not do this, so she may not eat the food they serve. By the way, kosher food is not blessed; its preparation is supervised to make sure it conforms to the law.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
Jerry, Jewish male <
gmt@GTE.net>, Tampa , FL

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
First of all, I would urge you to talk to your friend about this. None of these are shameful subjects in Orthodox Judaism. As with many other religions, people can be more or less stringent. Even within the Orthodox community there is quite a bit of variation in the level of observance. What you have heard about your friend might not be what she practices. Yes, for reasons of family purity, men and women do not touch during menstruation and for approximately a week afterward. Yes, covering of married women's hair in public places is part of Jewish tradition. This is sometimes done with a hat, sometimes with a wig or a bandana. If her parents are not observant, she can indeed not eat from their plates. However, it has nothing to do with blessing. Jewish dietary law restricts people from eating certain foods and adds details about both the utensils and the person who cooks it. She probably can eat fruit in her parents' home, for example.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
David, 32, Jewish male <
degraaf@genome.wi.mit.edu>, Cambridge, MA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
All true. My brother, who is Orthodox, lives by those rules, many of which are spelled out explicitly in the Bible.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
Andrew, 35, non-believing Jew <
ziptron@start.com.au>
Huntington , NY

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
Yes, very possible. In the extremely Orthodox world, women are unclean when they are menstruating. In strict cultures, there were huts for the women to sleep in during menstruation. There are also mikvahs, which are ritual milk-baths used to cleanse after their periods. As for the wig, after a woman is married, only her husband (and I guess children) is permitted to see her real hair. It's a modesty thing, with hair considered to be sensuous. As for dining in her parents' home, they may not keep kosher. Kashruth (kosher) laws require that meat and milk be eaten separately, and there are separate dishes, utensils, pots, pans and even ranges, and ovens and sponges for each. I've even seen a dishwasher that allows for kosher living. Everything is blessed by a rabbi. She may not feel comfortable eating on plates that are not kosher.
POSTED FEB. 24, 1999
Lori, 38, Jewish mother of two <
frumkin@compex.com>, Annandale , VA
To respond
BACK TO TOP


THE QUESTION:
GD62: Why is understanding other cultures important?

POSTED FEB. 17, 1999
Lance C., male <
gmc@almatel.net>, Broxton , Ga

ANSWER 1:
You could also ask, "Why is avoiding misunderstanding and hatred important?" If you do not understand why someone else is doing something, then you are very likely to make a negative judgement about them. This can easily lead to condescension and dislike, or outright hate. And that can lead to oppression and violence. Secondly, from understanding another culture's perceptions and discoveries, you can often make innovations in your own culture. Strangely, from the discoveries made in the Crusades into the Mediterranean, the Renaissance was born. Algebra comes from the Middle East, from Al Gibre (sp?). Many of the ideas of Enlightenment, from which the U.S. was constructed, came from Greek and Roman thought. One of the reasons the United States is strong is because of its large immigrant population. I assume that if you do not have black hair, dark brown eyes and brown skin, you are a child of one of those immigrants.
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
White male <
delorimier@yahoo.com>, San Francisco, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
It is important to learn about other cultures because of history. History shows us over and over again that wars, mass exterminations and persecutions on both a national and individual level are largely due to either lack of understanding or misunderstanding.Without cultural understanding, from which respect and appreciation arise, it is easy and convenient to make a judgment on differences. Hence it becomes easy to refer to Native Americans as "nits," or to Jews as "vermin," or to Viet Namese as " gooks." Behaviors soon follow. The other reason is simply that knowledge of other cultures makes life more interesting. How boring would the table be without pizza, moogoogaipan (sp?), baclavav, etc.
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
Mox, 49 <
tekippe@mailcity.com>, Tampa

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
In my opinion, the most important thing about understanding other cultures is the ability to be tolerant of and tolerable to other cultures. If you know where another person is "coming from," you are less likely to be offended by them. You are also less likely to commit social offenses around others. In short, it allows us all to coexist more harmoniously.
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
Michell, white chick, 31, Panama City, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
America is changing, and we must learn to get along with everyone. We must learn to be aware of how our words and actions can be perceived and how they can hurt if we don't understand another person's point of view. Understanding another's culture is not just for the benefit of another person, it is to prevent others from hurting and using you as well.
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
Renee C. , female <
weldedlife.com>, San Francisco, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
It's good because it helps me understand more of the world and - by comparing the "other" with my own - it helps me understand more of my culture, too; and to see where it is in the world. We're all in the world, which is a big place, and we may have to bump up against other people, and it's good to have knowledge outside our own back yard. And because I'm curious and nosey. I do African-style hand-drumming and am able to meet ordinary-looking black guys who are hugely respected as the carriers and handers-on of their songs, rhythms and history, and who tolerate and encourage my efforts to play what they play; I have a Japanese e-mail pen-pal, and I can ask him how life is in his country, how he feels seeing English people at a "Remember Hiroshima" vigil, and whether/how Japanese workers speak to bosses. He asks me about things here that intrigue and puzzle him - like are we all individualists and are Japanese all groupists. It's just fascinating, and it makes me see how Y? Forum started.
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
Steve H., 54, white single English male <
steve.hill@stevehil.globalnet.co.uk>, Leeds, UK

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
The United States is becoming increasingly multiracial. Tolerance and sensitivity is a major issue. Many European Americans have either no tolerance for difference or view difference as synonomous with negative. It is important that as Americans we all understand the many contributions minorities have made to the mosaic of this country. Why shouldn't we all learn about each other so that we can respect and be sensitive as human beings living in the same country?
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
Taliba <
aja6311@unix.tamu.edu>, female, Houston, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
You can learn a lot about who you are by learning about who you're not. You understand night a lot better by understanding day, illness by understanding health, childhood by understanding adulthood, one religion by understanding another.
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
B. Hale <
halehart@aol.com>, Hartford , CT

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
Iit is important to study other cultures because, by having done so, we realize we are all the same. After having taken the time to study the indigenous activities of these cultures, we can than see the parallels to our own. And with any small use of our heart or soul, we can realize that within all cultures there are those who accept and those who reject differences. In the end, I think the only difference important in people is not their gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or religious belief, but their use of love or fear to face the world. All groups have their good, evil, bad, benevolent, prejudiced, poor, rich, etc. Let the good uplift the good, and let the fearful condemn the fearful.
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
Matthew, male, New York, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
Because it's a sure thing that you'll be dealing with someone from another culture someday, some time. And when you do, it will help you not be offended by the way that person looks, acts or talks, and it may help you avoid saying or doing something that would offend that person. Other than simple human courtesy, avoiding unnecessary offense has business, social and political advantages that seem pretty obvious.
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
Andrew, 35, white male <
ziptron@start.com.au>, Huntington , NY

FURTHER NOTICE 9:
Understanding leads to tolerance and, more importantly, to the avoidance of misunderstanding, which leads to hostility by way of ignorance and fear. I believe this to be true of all human relations. I also believe it to be the basis for determining the progress or digression of each attempt at human interaction at every level
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
J.B. <
cierron@hotmail.com>, Jacksonville, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 10:
I study cultures because it allows me to get to know myself better. It also allows me to be more tolerant and understanding of others, more varied in my responses to others and more appreciative of the cultural factors that shape individual identity. In the process, I deeply enhance my own appreciation of the privileges I have been given, and become more committed to ensuring that others are provided with equitable opportunities as well.
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
Celia, 45, Filipino-American female, Clinton, IA
To respond
BACK TO TOP


THE QUESTION:
GD61: To people of different demographic backgrounds: It seems that each decade has been marked by a theme. The 1960s was the "hippies," the 1970s was "disco," but what was the theme of the 1980s, and with the 1990s almost over, is there a theme for this decade?
POSTED FEB. 17, 1999
Michele P., 22, female <
polit002@mailhost1.csusm.edu>, Vista, CA

ANSWER 1:
As far as I know, the consensus was that the '80s was the "Me Decade." You know, greed is good, Wall Street rules and all that.
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
Hanofer, Seattle, WA

FURTHER NOTICE:
The 1980s was a decade of pop music, punkers and yuppies. The 1990s will probably be remembered as dominantly "alternative" and "Gen X." With so many different themes going on in the 90s, it will be hard to categorize. Think about it, there are "ravers," "punks," "gangsters," "Dead heads (hippies)," and so on. The list of people's "titles" are endless, so we'll just have to wait and see.
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
Female, white, 20 <
Bettie10@aol.com>, Escondido , Ca

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
When I think of the '80s, I think of yuppies, money, success, shallowness, etc.
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
C, white female, 21, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
The '80s was the "healthy body" decade, with jogging, exercise and natural food topping the list of interests. The 90s is the PC (politically correct) decade, with people using the proper words without actually changing their attitudes. I am hoping that the next decade will be the "back to basics" decade. where we realize that our families are the center of the universe, and our jobs and social life are secondary.
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
Tina M., 34 <
tinamena@ao.net>, Oviedo , FL

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
A recent TIME magazine article, the one with the rap/R&B artist Lauryn Hill on the cover, addressed the question of what kinds of music best describes the '90s. If you take a look around, elements of hip hop (the culture and music) have become extremely popular, so much so that it even surpasses country music in annual album sales. It's not just the music of African Americans anymore. Just look at all the white R&B teeny-bopper groups who've adopted (and maybe even "bastardized") the sound and the image. Of course, it's always difficult to characterize a decade as one thing or another (Internet boom, economic prosperity, etc.). It'll probably be easier to do in another 10 years...
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
Marc, 24, male, Baltimore, MD

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
The 80's does have semi-official labels: the Me Decade, and the Greed Decade. A lot of wealth built on shady Wall Street and real estate deals. Conspicuous consumption. What's in it for me. The '90s don't have a semi-official label yet as far as I can tell. The theme that gets kicked around is "Everybody is a victim, nobody is to blame, everything is relative." The defining moments of the decade are O.J.'s acquittal on criminal charges, and the public brushing off the Clinton scandal.
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
B. Hale, ready for a new decade <
halehart@aol.com>, Hartford, CT
To respond
BACK TO TOP


THE QUESTION:
RE143: To Muslim women living in the United States: Do you feel less liberated than other women around you who are not confined by having to cover their hair? And what is the purpose of that in your religion?
POSTED FEB. 16, 1999
Shannon, 22, white female <
shannonrae@collegeclub.com>, San Diego, CA

ANSWER 1:
I am a 25-year-old Muslim woman born and raised in the United States. To be honest, it is all a matter of the woman's background. Some women who may resent the fact that they wear the hijab, as it is called, may feel "less liberated," as you say, because they may feel the need to compete or join in with other women in cosmetically managing and displaying their hair. I, on the other hand, as well as other Muslim women I know, feel very dignified to wear the hijab. First of all, I don't see it, and people shouldn't see it as being "confined." This is one of the biased media terms used to describe the hijab from a subjective standpoint. It isn't like being in prison; it's only a piece of clothing! It's not a straightjacket or tether. And to explain its purpose, the hijab is used for the purpose of modesty. We cover the hair as well as the body. We also wear it to distinguish ourselves from those who are not Muslim. These reasons are agreed upon by the majority of Muslims and Islamic scholars. From my point of view, dressing modestly also allows the woman to be viewed for her abilities and intelligence instead of for her sexual/physical attractiveness, which is for the eyes of her husband/family/other women only. I feel much more liberated now that I cover than I did when I was a rebellious teenager, with my thighs, hair, etc., all showing. I no longer have to impress others with my hairstyles (although many of us do get our hair done) and I very, very rarely get disrespected by men's catcalls and other unwanted advances.
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
Atiyah, 25, Muslim female <
niassi@hotmail.com>, Detroit, MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
In my opinion as an Arab and a Muslim, Muslim women cover their hair because it has been a tradition in the Middle East before even Islam. It is more of a culture than religion. Islam doesn't value the physical beauty of a person. The important thing is to be healthy. Muslims value the character of the person more. Men also cannot wear jewelry such as gold because the beauty of men is in their character and deeds and not in the way they look.
POSTED FEB. 22, 1999
Arab man <
benzahra@physics.spa.umn.edu>, Minneapolis, MN
To respond
BACK TO TOP


  Copyright and disclaimer