Best of the Week
of Aug. 6, 2000

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Aug. 6, 2000, as selected by Y? These postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from previous weeks, also can be found by accessing Y?'s new database using the search form, or, in the case of answers posted before April 24, 1999, in the Original Archives (all questions from the Original Archives have been entered into the new database as well). In the Original Archives and the new database, you will find questions that have received answers, as well as questions still awaiting responses. You are encouraged 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 Y?'s guidelines pages for asking and answering questions.

 


Question:
I was watching Big Brother on TV with a friend. I said I thought Eddie was really great. My friend said, 'How can you look at a man with one leg gone?' It doesn't matter to me - he's strong, funny, open and handsome. Why would girls not want to go out with Eddie?
POSTED 8/11/2000
Jayne, New York, NY, United States, 24, Female, Catholic, Asian, Straight, media planner, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 7142000100446
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Question:
My brother-in-law says people from Arab countries wipe their behinds with their bare hands. Is it true?
POSTED 8/10/2000
Mary M., Jacksonville, FL, United States, Female, White/Caucasian, Straight, Mesg ID 8100054002

Responses:
Not only Arabs, but most Muslims, wipe their behinds with their hands. They believe it is cleaner as long as there is plenty of water and soap available. I would ask: Would it be better to use toilet paper but leave some behind that has not been completely wiped off?
POSTED 8/13/2000
Kemal, Antalya, NA, Turkey, Mesg ID 8112000110626

I spent some time in Senegal, a predominantly Muslim country. There, most people use their left hand along with water to clean themselves after going to the bathroom. Toilet paper is a rare find in rural areas. As to whether this is common in all Muslim countries, I do not know. The fact that the left hand is taboo in Arab countries leads me to believe that at one time it was common. But, this is only an assumption. Anyone else have any ideas?
POSTED 8/13/2000
G. Smith, New Orleans, LA, United States, 40, Male, 2 Years of College, Mesg ID 8112000123255

Only in Western countries is it usual to use dedicated toilet tissue for anal ablutions (washings). Asian countries (including, I guess, the Middle East) mostly use water. This ensures a thorough cleaning, eliminating the 'klingons' and 'widgets' that plague Western behinds.
POSTED 8/13/2000
Ian, Durham, NA, United Kingdom, 32, Male, White/Caucasian, researcher, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 8112000125030
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Question:
Why do people in the West try to say that Egypt is not black? The ancient Egyptians originated from the land of Punt, i.e Somalia, and Somalis are not white, but are black Africans. We have Caucasian or Mediterranean features identical to the Nubians, as we have the same origins, while Egyptians are more mixed than Somalis and Nubians and have more Sub-Saharan African mixture than Somalis and Nubians. I think it is stupid to look just at color, as today's Egyptians are so mixed in their constitution, i.e they have West African, Sudanese, Libyan, Syrian, Ethiopian, Somali and Arab mixtures in their make-up.
POSTED 8/11/2000
Ahmed, Cardiff, NA, United Kingdom, <alia@cardiff.ac.uk>, 36, Male, Muslim, Somali, Straight, Chemist, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 8100083334
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Question:
Which restroom do transsexuals use? I mean, a man who tries to be a woman? Please excuse my ignorance, but I am trying to open myself to the world. Also, does transsexualism have anything to do with homosexuality?
POSTED 8/10/00
Robert, Phoenix, AZ, United States, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, Gay, Less than High School Diploma , Middle class, Mesg ID 890085908

Responses:
People who are transgender have a disparity between physical sex and psychological gender. Frequently - and I'd guess these are the trans folks you're asking about - they choose to live full time as their psychological or 'true' gender. Sometimes that involves gender confirmation/sexual reassignment surgery, and sometimes it doesn't. However, it does mean that all aspects of that person's life correspond with the gender they present. Which is to say, trans people living full time as women use the women's room, and vice versa. As to homosexuality, someone put it very succinctly by saying, 'Sexual orientation and gender identity are different things.'
POSTED 8/11/2000
Kathryn, Roanoke, VA, United States, Mesg ID 8100045343
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Question:
Why do people in places like North America generally wake up early and go to sleep early, whereas people in places like Hong Kong generally wake up later and also go to sleep later? I've read that people in North America wake up at around 5 a.m. and go to sleep by around 8 or 9 p.m. When I lived in Los Angeles, I'd wake up at around 5 or 5:30 a.m. so I could watch cartoons (I don't remember what time I went to bed, but I didn't have a bedtime). Now in Hong Kong, I go to sleep around 2 a.m. (on school nights) and have to be up by 7:45 a.m.
POSTED 8/10/00
Elaine, Hong Kong, NA, Hong Kong, <muck@netvigator.com>, 14, Female, Atheist, Asian, Straight, Student, Mesg ID 890045445

Responses:
I think part of it is size, layout of cities and the state of public transportation. Many cities, like Houston, are geographically spread out, and the public transportation system does not serve suburbs well at all. So, a lot of people drive their own cars. The result is horrible traffic. At one time, I had to leave my house at 6:15 a.m. to get to work by 8. I also suspect that the rural/farming tradition in America plays a role in our early morning orientation.
POSTED 8/11/2000
Stacee, Houston, TX, United States, 31, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, TV production, Over 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 81000102306

In the United States, a standard work day starts around 8 a.m., so people who work those hours need to get up early so they can get to work on time. I think the tradition of starting work early began with agriculture. Until a few decades ago, many people in this country were involved in farming. In that industry, people have to take full advantage of daylight hours to get everything done they need to. That means waking up when the sun comes up and going to bed soon after it goes down so you will be well-rested for the next day. There is also the factor of respectability. Traditionally, people who were not respectable would be out late in bars and clubs gambling and drinking. If you were up and out early in the morning, it meant you weren't out causing trouble the night before.
POSTED 8/11/2000
Lucy H., San Jose, CA, United States, 25, Female, Hispanic/Latino, Engineer, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 81000120639

I usually go to sleep at 11 p.m. and wake up at 6 a.m. All my friends do the same. I don't think most Americans go to sleep before 10 p.m. because all the good shows are on from 8-10 p.m. (Primetime)
POSTED 8/11/2000
Michelle, New York, NY, United States, 17, Female, Mesg ID 811200033102

Where did you hear that North Americans slept early? Most of my friends (university age, mind you) hang out at clubs until 2 or 3 in the morning if they're out clubbing, and sometimes pull all-nighters. I generally go to bed around midnight and get up at 7 or 8 in the morning.
POSTED 8/11/2000
Cynthia, Kingston, Ontario, NA, Canada, 21, Female, Asian, but all Canadian!, Student, 2 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 8100052305
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Question:
Do male coaches of female athletes freely walk in and out of the locker room? If not, where do they go during half time? Do they stand outside the locker room while the women/girls are changing and then walk in when everyone's decent? That seems very inefficient, especially when a lot of half-time adjustments are in order. Also, don't male coaches have to be sensitive to female problems as well? How do they deal with them?
POSTED 8/9/00
David, Orange, CA, United States, 34, Male, Straight, engineer, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 880013517
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Question:
Is it true that everyone on the East Coast is incredibly class-conscious and elitist? Why does it seem that they so completely look down on everyone else in the country, and even the world, who did not attend private preparatory and university schools, come from a wealthy family or have access, financially and socially, to exclusive places in Europe and elsewhere on the globe? Having lived in D.C., I was appalled by the behavior I witnessed on a daily basis. What is at the root of this? Why are their lives so preoccupied with money and status? It is very disturbing to me because this is where the decisions about our country are made. It has made me believe that the perception of the government as unconcerned about the plight of the little people is not just a perception, but almost unquestionably real. It is disturbing to me not only as an American, but just as a person trying to get by in this world. It has deeply saddened me and turned me off to our political process and the nation as a whole.
POSTED 8/1/2000
Orlando P., Meridian, MS, United States, <Orlandopage@hotmail.com>, 30, Male, White/Caucasian, Straight, Student, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 812000110912

Responses:
I've lived on the East Coast and in the Midwest. Yes, there's more money on the East Coast, and more things like nice department stores, fancy restaurants, extravagent weddings, Prada bags, etc. However, it's definitely a stereotype to say most people live like that. In addition, along with the greater extremes of wealth, there are great extremes of poverty on the East Coast. Washington, D.C., may be full of status-oriented people, but it's also full of areas that look like Third World countries.
POSTED 8/9/00
Rhiannon, Eden Prairie, MN, United States, <hyena@visi.com>, 30, Female, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 822000110036

I feel I am in a fairly good position to answer your question. I grew up in New York and spent years as an adult on the East Coast, and I now live in rural Oregon. I come from a wealthy New York City family, yet I too was appalled by the things you describe. It seemed unnatural that people were either very prosperous or very poor. I felt quite uncomfortable living on the East Coast. People seemed so separated by class, religion, etc. I moved out West in 1980, and I have enjoyed a liberating sense of freedom since I've made that decision. Here, in Western Oregon, people tend to judge you more on who you are rather than your backround.
POSTED 8/9/00
Caren, Corvallis, OR, United States, Female, Mesg ID 822000110040

Class-conscious, elitist people, private preparatory and university schools and wealthy families are not peculiar to the East Coast. I was born and raised on the East Coast and served more than 20 years in the Air Force, including three overseas tours. Snobs were found everywhere I was stationed, from the East Coast to a poor province in Thailand.
POSTED 8/9/00
Redeemed1, Newport News, VA, United States, 52, Female, Black/African American, Administrative Coordinator, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 822000121938

First, let me say I am SHOCKED that you saw elitist attitudes in Washington, D.C. - especially considering the fact that the mayor of D.C. did time in prison on drug charges, and D.C. was, in the not too distant past, the murder capital of the country! Have you been in downtown D.C. past dark? Elitist? As for the rest of the East Coast, I think it depends on where you are. You may run into that kind of thinking in a very wealthy East Coast neighborhood, just as you might in posh Beverly Hills. I don't think it's the coast that makes the difference, but rather the socioeconomic standing.
POSTED 8/9/00
Danielle, Forked River, NJ, United States, 25, Female, White/Caucasian, Systems Analyst, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 822000122605

Are you sure you are being fair? To paint the entire East Coast as having conceit is being too liberal with your brush. You may simply have been around too many rich, snobby people in D.C. Did you live/work anywhere in the East?
POSTED 8/9/00
Natasha, Capitol Heights, MD, United States, Female, Christian, Afro-Caribbean, Straight, receptionsit, Technical School, Mesg ID 832000112932

I was born and raised in Concord, Mass., right outside Boston, one of the hubs of Eastern snobbery and class consciousness. Other such 'hubs' can be found all throughout Massachusetts, in Connecticut, and in upstate New York. In regard to all the negative characteristics listed in your post, I think one can say fairly that they exist in a few places. The rest of New England (Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island) and the East Coast (New York, Pennsylvania maybe) is primarily blue collar. They are millers, factory workers and fishermen. That's where those funny accents ('Do you drive yah cah in Hahvahd yahd?') originate. That's where the whole Irish-Italian thing comes from (and regrettably a lot of racial strife historically.) I have lived in D.C. as well, after college. In my opinion, it is NOT the East Coast. It's below the Mason-Dixon line and west of all of New England. Remember who you're meeting in D.C.: Clearly not the 80 percent-plus Afro-American populus that actually live in the city, clearly not the huge influx of Midwesterners trying to make their way, and clearly not the Southerners who live nearby. You must be meeting the small group of Ivy-Leaguer grads who were raised privileged and move out to D.C., subsidized by the family, to work in 'politics,' whatever that may be. Please be careful with your generalizations. As to who's making decisions in politics, I say wake up! It's been an elitist group for a a while now, with few exceptions (our current president being one of them.) Opportunity is in direct relationship with means. Maybe you should spend more energy noticing the people who don't have the power, because that's where empowerment begins.
POSTED 8/9/00
Lisa, Los Angeles, CA, United States, 25, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 83200082039

Do you really feel every person in an entire region is rich, extravagently educated and snobbish? If that's the case, who were all those people in my public schools - Canadians? Where do the homeless people in Eastern cities come from - Montana? Do the jobless people in Rust Belt cities all come from Alabama? I think your assumption could have been avoided if you had ventured off Capitol Hill while in Washington. Your assumptions show an inability to observe what's right in front of you. I grew up in the Northeast, and I sure wish I had access to all the things you insist I do. That would be nice. But it ain't true. Not one of your assumptions has even a whiff of truth to it. Two more things to think about: Although Washington is in the East, the power structure is not. The president, the two white men running to replace him and the majority leaders of the House and the Senate all are from the South and West. When you complain about injustice, look in your own back yard. Secondly, the most class-conscious, elitist, private-school-educated city I've lived in (and I've lived in several around the country and overseas) was New Orleans, buried deep in the South.
POSTED 8/9/00
Andrew, Huntington, NY, United States, <ziptron@start.com.au>, 36, Male, White/Caucasian, Reporter, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 85200013916

Unlike most responses, I have to agree with you. I am originally from Ohio and just moved to the East Coast last year. The people here do seem snobbish and uppity. I constantly feel that the people I come into contact with do not accept me for who I am. If a person is not in their world and doesn't do the things they do, they look down at them like something's wrong with them. They can't accept that there are different types of people besides the ones in their world. Ohioans accept all types of people for who they are regardless of the things they do. It seems people on the East Coast are concerned only with making money. They don't have time to meet and get to know me because they're too caught up in other things.
POSTED 8/10/00
J. Wallace, Roselle, NJ, United States, 25, Female, Methodist, Black/African American, Straight, Customer Support Administrator, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 890054031
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Question:
I hope the following question does not offend anyone: Why do African-American people make up first names like Keisha or Towanda? I know of a little girl in school named Clinique - the name of the company that manufactures my cosmetics. Often, a 'normal' name like Tonya will be prefaced with a 'La' to make it African-American suitable - i.e. 'LaTonya.' Men are much the same - Darnell, Latrell, Anfernee. I don't get it. Again, no offense intended.
POSTED 8/1/2000
Beth, Buffalo, NY, United States, 33, Female, Jewish, Mexican/Eastern European Ashkenazic, Straight, Advertising Agency Manager, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 731200042650

Responses:
I hate to say it's race or class, but it's mostly a combination, and both perpetuate and are perpetuated by the name thing. From what I've observed, many low-income blacks (i.e. 'more than likely of West African ethnic makeup') seem to think that names like LaTonya and Kwaneesha are 'ethnic' or 'African,' when in reality the names just sound and look incredibly stupid/fabricated, not African. I rarely hear educated/mid-/upper-class black people naming kids bizarre, made-up names, and I'd be willing to bet you never hear of Latino, Japanese or black British children with names like Kwaneesha, no matter their economic level. I'm all for giving kids ethnic names, especially when it shows the child's ethnicity. I think it's very nice and a great way to honor their past. For example, I'm part Bavarian, English, Croatian, Osage and Irish. I am proud of my ancestry and I appreciate (and someday might even give to my kids) names from those languages - i.e. Rynleah, Eostre, Níall, Níçka, Zaba. But there's a point, beyond personal/social preference, when a person has to ask themselves, 'Is this child abuse? Would anyone take my child/eventual adult seriously? Would they be respected as they should?' You mentioned Keisha, an Americanized form of Kiswahili (an East African language), words for 'cassia juice,' 'cinnamon, and/or 'night vigil.' Also, something I don't understand is when black Americans use Arabic names in order to show African ethnicity, so to speak. Such as with the lovely name Latifah. Or when they adopt French names like Andre and call them 'their own.' (I believe all names belong to the whole of humanity, but I don't see why names are appropriated from one culture and claimed by another in this way.) It makes me wonder if people who name their children these things know the history of the names, or if they can have 'proper' appreciation of the names. Relating this to my name: in Europe and North America, Lisa is mainly used as a short form of Elizabeth. For a West African tribe, it's their sun god, and in another, it's their chameleon goddess. Lisa is full of culture, meaning and pleasant sound. Why don't more people of West African descent use this? Is it just that they don't know/care about their culture? As I mentioned to begin with, there's even more to it than that. (By the way, I don't believe in hyphenated names. Either someone is American or they're not; it does not matter where their ancestors came from. If they think they aren't Americans, they should pack their bags and move to wherever they think 'home' is.)
POSTED 8/9/00
Lisa, Raytown, MO, United States, <kaeori@lymax.com>, 19, Female, Atheist, Straight, student, Mesg ID 83200044409

Why do little white girls have names like Ashley and Jessica and Amy? These names aren't any more 'normal' than the popular African-American names you listed - they're just more 'white.' White people sometimes are accustomed to thinking what we do is the 'norm,' and that names like Ashley and Brittany and Brooke are culture-neutral, while names like Yolanda or Juanita or Fatima are culturally specific and 'abnormal.' Just as white people often choose common 'white' names, people who are not white often choose names that are popular in their own communities and reflect their own traditions. Oh, and it's my understanding that Keisha and Towanda are fairly common African-American names, so they're not the least bit 'made-up.'
POSTED 8/10/00
Rhiannon, Eden Prairie, MN, United States, <hyena@visi.com>, 30, Female, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 822000104120

The name Keshia is a variation of the Biblical name Keziah. Names like Towanda, Tameka, etc., are given in an attempt to be unique, although they aren't too unique now. I even know of a child named Jodeci. The 'La' prefix goes back to the French Creoles. I forget exactly why, but it was an accepted practice. See the baby name book Beyond Jennifer and Jason, Madison and Montana: What to name your baby now. It goes a bit more into detail.
POSTED 8/10/00
Senetra, Anderson, IN, United States, <sen24@yahoo.com>, 26, Female, Black/African American, 2 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 832000114141

I wasn't going to answer this question until I started anwsering another question and brought up JonBenet Ramsey. I had no choice but to realize the absurdity of attributing 'invented names' to African Americans. JonBenet? Come on; it doesn't get much better than that. I was reminded of an episode of 'Designing Women' when Anthony (the lone black male in a business with white women) was talking about old TV shows and then said '...Opy, Beaver? Where do you white people get these names for your kids?' Anyone who thinks about it will realize that 'unique names' come from everywhere. Furthermore, all 'normal names' were 'unique' at one time. How many women over 50 do you know named 'Heather' or 'Tonya'? Some people do get ridiculous, but if no name ever got created, we'd all be named 'Eunice' or 'Ethel'(no offense intended for anyone with those names).
POSTED 8/10/00
Amanda, Boston, MA, United States, 21, Female, Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, student, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 83200012556

My uneducated answer to this question has always been, "because they are not 'plain, ordinary, white' names." I believe this phenomenon is primarily a hallmark of the lower socioeconomic classes. It would seem to be a way to stand out or be noticed in a society that does not 'see' this group of people. If you give your child a name that is atypical in larger society, it attracts 'special' attention - maybe the only attention members of the larger society will ever pay to the child/person
POSTED 8/10/00
Barbara, Atlanta, GA, United States, 44, Female, Black/African American, academician, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 872000114046

It seems odd to me, as well. I grew up in a fairly middle-class area, and went to school with girls named Passhun, Cinnamon, etc. These were beautiful, intelligent girls, but they didn't have the opportunity to share that side of themselves with a lot of people once they graduated from high school. I understand the idea of wanting to give one's child a unique name; I want to give my kids unique names. But to give your child a name that won't allow them to get past leaving their resume at an office, never to receive a return call from the white, upper-middle class manager because he thinks they are going to be low-class people, isn't right. And no, it isn't right that that bias exists, but it does, and why bring any hardship onto your children that isn't necessary?
POSTED 8/10/00
Sarah, Cape Coral, FL, United States, 23, Female, White/Caucasian, Straight, Office Assistant, 2 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 890024339

I am not offended by Beth's comment. I do, however, have a problem with Lisa's comment. First, how does she know why we do the things we do? She can't speak about a culture she can't even relate to. Furthermore, she couldn' be further from the truth in stating we 'don' care' about our culture. When we pick a name for a child, it's because we like the name. It doesn't necessarily mean we're doing it to represent some cultural belief. It just so happens that we don't like common names. We choose unique names for our children. We choose names we feel will allow our children to stand out. It's just that simple.
POSTED 8/10/00
J. Wallace, Roselle, NJ, United States, 25, Female, Methodist, Black/African American, Straight, Customer Support Administrator, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 890055052
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