Saturday, July 01, 2006

Deborah Tannen recounts her 'Blank Noise' moment ...

... in this NYTimes op-ed, which could well have been her entry to the recently concluded Blank Noise Blog-a-thon project.

After recounting her experience in a crowded train, Tannen goes on to compare the reactions of NYCity women to such violations with those of Greek women in Athens. She identifies one major difference:

The experiences the Greek women described were similar to those I'd heard from Americans. But there was a difference. Most of the American women — like those recently interviewed in the New York news media — told me they had felt humiliated and helpless and had done or said nothing. Of the 25 stories Greek women told me, only eight concluded with the speaker doing nothing. In the others, she said she had yelled, struck back or both.

What cultural differences could explain this huge difference in the American and Greek reactions to molestation? She offers two possibilities:

For one thing, most Greeks, like their Mediterranean neighbors, place value on expressiveness, whereas American culture is influenced by the Northern European and British emphasis on public decorum. That's why Americans often mistake animated Greek conversation for argument. Another cultural difference is how readily strangers get involved in others' interactions. I once saw two men arguing on an Athens street; when one raised his hand to strike, he was immediately restrained by a passer-by.