Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One word: Gender

Our society spends her time trying to find the ideal type of man and woman, from society to another the beauty can be differentiated by some little details. But for every sex there are expectations that basically represent the following.
We expect femininity for the woman; we want them to behave as girls, have a “girly” mentality, the sensible emotions and look good, pretty or attractive. However for the masculinity we expect them to be fitted, to have virile emotions, to look powerful, make some risks, and look handsome with muscle.
In my point of view the following videos show the ideal type of gender in the society.

So as we can realize, some advertisements just make those expectations worse by the amazing video that they show us in our daily life. In fact they are selling the product by using the commercialization of gender ideas. In other words it's the process of introducing products to the market by using advertisement and sales campaigns that draw on socially constructed standards of masculinity and femininity. It makes us dream, and let us hope about a possible chance to be like those mannequins. Or may also promise us “consumers” that we may accomplish our dreams just by buying them.
Those expectations bring a certain tension, and affect some people to always do their best to be accepted in our society. Therefor there will be always something that we can fix to be prettier, and the main gender that is more affected into it are the women. In other words the desire of the humans can be described by the only a simple word: MORE.

Lookism Role in Reality Shows Prevents Stereotypes

One afternoon I was sitting in front of my TV and flipping the channels. I was shocked when something strange was the common thing between three Channels. There were three different makeovers TV shows across them, they all targeted women only. First of all the term makeover is applied to changing one's appearance, sometimes through cosmetics. Makeovers can range from something as simple as a new haircut, to the use of cosmetic surgery, to the extreme of the implantation of dental veneers. Furthermore, this kind of TV show called “Reality Television” too, which is a genre of television programming.

So I chose to watch one of them, it was called “Ambush Makeover” aired from the US. While I’m watching, I noticed that from the beginning the episode’s title was “From Drab to Fab”. The word choice has a negative impact on me, describing the women as a dull because she has her own style wasn’t a quite decent thing. From this TV show, I’ve realized they try to generalize women in an indirect way. They demanding all women to stop them accidentally and put them in the spot. They force them to makeover them according to their beauty scale, which I noticed it appears in being a blond with straight hair, thin wearing full makeup and showing a lot of skin. By this makeover, the TV show leaves no choice to the contestant to choose her own look. It’s like they aiming to stop the beauty diversity in the US, which is extremely a big issue if you really see every women in the streets look alike. Another clue that supports my argument is that when the hairdresser stated “ Blonder, brighter and more golden”, as if he is defining the hair attractiveness in being a blond!

Another aspect they mentioned is that, a new look equals a new life and a new exciting personality. Well I have to argue this because women will become dull if they were all the same. People shouldn’t suffer from lookism, since America is a more looks-obsessed society than many others, and it is more looks-obsessed today than it was fifty years ago, or even ten; plastic surgery has quadrupled this decade, it started to reach our region and in Qatar specially. For a couple of months I’ve receiving a phone calls from new beauty salons in Qatar to provide me with a new free of charge makeover, which they were depicted from the American makeover shows and they try to apply their approach here in Qatar. However, it won’t work perfectly due to the differences in our body shapes and our darker skin, so they have to refashion their concept of being blonder is prettier. At the end the irony is that a makeunder is based on the opposite principle, removing artificial enhancements to a person's appearance to give a more 'natural' look, which is totally different in this situation. It becomes as a surveillance that monitors the women in our society and a way of preventing stereotypes. On the other hand, Blondes do not seem to have lost any of their popularity since the end of the last ice age. Research suggests that percentage of blondes in each type of magazine exceeds the base rate of blondes in the normal population. This would suggest that the selection pressures that shaped the standards of Western female beauty in the late-Palaeolithic are still the same today.

check it out!

Interesting and fun survey!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Plastic surgery, huge hit in China and Japan

In China and Japan self appearance is a big issue. Bigger eyelids is most in demand when it comes to plastic surgery. Also there was a surgery called a leg lengthening surgery. To increase the individuals height. Although China banned leg lengthening surgery after a few unsuccessful procedures that left the patients with physical pain and mental anguish. The procedure was alarmingly high and growing at an even more alarming rate before China’s Health Ministry placed the ban in 2006. In my opinion each persons height makes one unique.

The popular Japanese pop artist named Ayumi Hamasaki during the 90's people did not have much interest in her music and her self appearance. However in 2000 she started getting plastic surgery to make her eyes appear larger and rounder. People started idolizing her and putting posters everywhere. Now people not only like music but also her appearance. In my opinion plastic surgery is a risky business. Ayumi Hamasaki turned out to be very successful. I believe that it can be both negative and positive. In other terms the positive side is that her surgery boosted her career and the negative side is that it can go wrong and give side effects. For example increasing breast size can give a chance of breast cancer. That wraps up the daily blog for today.

Sociological Look At A Family Event

Families play an important role in our lives and those of us who are fortunate to come from loving homes should feel blessed. That’s how I felt this weekend after attending a family event at my uncle’s house. The event was held in honor of a family member who had returned from treatment in Germany, and as a mini-birthday celebration for my younger sister. So, I came to the conclusion that they would be the subjects of my sociological blog.

This event, unlike most, had both males and females interacting together in an informal manner. This is partially due to the fact they are all family members, and aren’t complete strangers. Sitting in a corner of the room I thought to myself what is the most important feature of my family. Ins this culture the family (and not just your nuclear family) functions as the official law enforcers that make sure that no religious/social taboos are broken. Knowing that any member of your family could be watching you anywhere you go makes you think twice about just thinking about doing something that would harm your reputation, and of course the theirs.

My uncles are big on exogamy, whereas my aunts stuck to good old endogamy. Now this isn’t because they weren’t interested in marrying someone “different” to themselves, it’s because they aren’t allowed to. It’s definitely a double standard; men are encouraged and are socially praised (sometimes) for marrying outsiders, while women are shun upon. Three out of my five uncles have married either Europeans or someone from another Arab country other than Qatar.

While watching them all eat dinner I realized that the men were the ones with who did the productive work, and the women did the reproductive work. My uncles work as in the military, one of them is a pilot, and the rest are work as senior executives of organizations. They do all the practical work in order to produce something, take over the “manly” positions in society to look good to their families and the rest of society. On the other hand five of my six aunts are teachers, and one of them is stay at home wife. The women got stuck with the reproductive jobs of being the educators and the caregivers in the family.

My family has its weird quirks but that’s what makes it different from any other person’s family. It’s big family that supports all its members through thick and thin no matter what. Towards the end of the night old family videos were shown and in them I saw just how much my family have helped shape the way that I am, and the way the rest of my cousins. They did their job to the best of their abilities. The home videos showed exactly how they socialized us into individuals that this society would accept, and by looking around me I saw that they set an example of how to take care of the elderly. Life wouldn’t be worth living if you didn’t have people to share it with, people who love you unconditionally, because that’s they were socialized to do.

System of Untouchability

More than 160 million people in India are considered Untouchable – people tainted by their birth into a caste system that deems them impure and less than human.

Indian caste system is a system of social stratification in which communities are defined by thousands of endogamous hereditary groups called jatis. The values and ethics are strongly held by the people belonging to the castes. Their life chances, context, choices and social status in the society largely depended on their caste. There are 5 different levels of the Indian caste system followed over years:-

The untouchables or dalit faced non prejudiced discrimination and were not considered as citizens. Historically, they were associated to odd jobs such as butchering, removal of waste and animal carcasses. They were called untouchable as they were not allowed to come in contact with the other castes. This system has worked in Indian history. But present-day India forbids discriminating and practicing untouchability. Along with this law the government allows positive discrimination of the depressed classes in India. But positive discrimination have created new problems in the Indian society.

The video below is a brief description on the prejudice and discrimination faced by the dalits. The video gives us examples of movements held to destroy the system of untouchability.

Indians have become more flexible in their caste customs. In urban India, the people are less strict about the caste system than the rural. The biggest challenge in India is to overcome the violent clashes connected to caste tensions in remote villages. This will be a big leap to a more developed India.

Weddings in Doha

Family in any culture is very important, it is what shapes up a person. As a Qatari, family always comes first. Recently I attended a family wedding. At the wedding, I thought it would be a great idea to talk about the family relations and how weddings are set in Doha. There is so much to look at in weddings in Doha.
The first thing that I realized was the way the people were seated based on their age and their relation to the bride and groom. The nuclear family and the extended family sat at the very front next to the stage. However others were seated based on their age too. The older the person was, the closer they would sit to the stage. Out of respect the youngsters would let the elders take the good seats to get the best view.
In Qatari weddings, the men and women have separate weddings. However the women’s wedding has much more details. In a women’s wedding, loud music is played with a dance floor in the middle for the young girls to dance. This wedding that I attended was a marriage that was endogamy. Both the groom and the bride were related to each other, and were both from the same social group. However an exogamy wedding does not happen often in a culture like Doha. People tend to marry people from their same group.
Families in Qatar in most cases go with the Breadwinner system

; the husband works and earns the money to support his family. In the wedding, the groom enters the woman’s wedding for around 30 minutes and he leaves. When he enters, the women who are not related to the groom have to immediately cover up. He enters the wedding to take pictures with his wife on his wedding day and with his relatives as well.
When the groom leaves the wedding, the bride leaves with him as well. Women then uncover and the dancing continues. The close relatives usually stay till very late at night, however friends mostly leave early.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Al-Salam Aleekum. This is how we begin to greet people in our culture, translating to “peace be upon you.” The way people greet each other differs from one culture to another. Even within the same culture, there are different ways to greet people. These ways differ in regards to age, gender, and relationship to one another.

When focusing specifically to the Qatari culture, each house or family member has his or her own way of saying hello. Within my nuclear family, the way I greet my family members is very informal, and is different every time. This differs when greeting others. For example, personally, I usually answer phone calls saying “Al-Salam Aleekum” instead of hello. However, in face-to-face communication, the way I greet a person that is my age is different than an elderly person. Out of respect, we kiss the head of those elderly people of the same gender, even if they are not related to us. However, if they were my female and are my age, I would either shake hands or do the cheek greeting, or even hug them.

Let’s talk about the male/female differences in greetings. It is socially unacceptable and is considered deviant to do the cheek greeting with the opposite gender. If it was any of my brothers, my uncles, or father, then it is socially and religiously acceptable. For other males, I would usually just greet them by eyes or by a handshake, even though handshakes are religiously unacceptable. However, since a lot of people do it now, it is not seen as an act that deviates away from the norms to some people.

Also, it is important to note that we usually greet people differently depending on the occasion or the place we are at, on the people we are with, and on their social status. In weddings for example, it is more formal. Therefore, we usually stick to either the handshake or the cheek. In a birthday party, we usually hug each other, as the place is informal.

Another way of greeting people that is very common in Qatar among the guys is the nose greeting. Men tend to greet each other by the nose. It sounds funny, but it happens a lot here in our culture, and is seen a normal behavior.


Deviance in sociology is defined as a behavior that violates the standards of conduct or expectations of a group or society. We are all deviants from time to time. Each of us violates common social norms in certain situations. Deviance involves the violation of group norms that may or may not be formalized into law. One of the most important problems is the violence happening in schools and universities that causes deviant behavior.

Violence is very common among our youth in this generation and it’s spread widely in our society. Violence can lead to several problems in our society.
Now the question arises why does such things happen and what’s the reason behind it?

The constant storm of television programs and violent media channels causes deviant behavior in children. When children are immature or in their infant age, they are very receptive and responsive by the things going on around them. They learn things very quickly and often kids are influenced by what they see. This process of learning in their infancy is called internalization or symbolic interaction by which they accept and adopt the norms, understand their cultural values and beliefs, which has been taught to them in their early stage of life. So we understand how nurture plays an important role in a children’s life.

From an age of three, children watching cartoons or kids based television channels starts imitating someone on the television. There are certain super heroes and characters in cartoons that act violently even for a so-called good reason. For example when characters like batman, superman, Spiderman is shown in a fighting scene to protect a girl from a bad man. This is how the media is playing with the growing minds of children. If the media is showing such stuff to the younger generation, then who knows after a couple of years we might see certain acts of negative deviance in our schools, colleges, universities, on streets and everywhere. As a sociologist, it is the responsibility of our society to impose a law of social control in order to stop certain acts.

These Children, who grew up watching violence on TV, may end up being violent students by fighting or bullying other students or in worst case they might target their professors too which can drag them into worst situations and they might be expelled out from their educational institution and ruin their lives even more. As a social audience, we name this act of violence as a deviant behavior that can occur in a child due to the symbolic interaction that has to be noticed in their early stages of life.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Deviating the Qatari Culture through Art

Deviance is a form of behavior that violates expected rules and social norms. There are various types of deviance. The major types of deviance include: formal and informal deviance. Formal deviance includes deviance that breaks the law such as robbery and rape. Informal deviance is deviance that violates informal social norms and rules such as swearing and burping.
A current example of a deviant behavior occurred within VCUQ premise on November 2011.  The source of this deviant act is an artist from Mexico.  The artist painted a deviant mural painting. Her purpose of the mural painting is to portray cultural transition and women’s empowerment.  She had a good idea but the way in which she portrayed her idea was wrong and deviant.  It was both formally and informally deviant. She painted an explicit painting in public that is socially unacceptable. Such painting has never been drawn in Qatar in public as it conflicts with the Qatari law, social norms and rules as well as our Islamic religion.
Qatari citizens or locals have responded to such a deviant act by various methods; they spread the word via messages, they reported to local newspapers’ Al Sharq’, reported to the Dean of VCU as well as higher authorities.
Finally, we don’t truly know her true intensions of her painting. By seeking other people’s opinions through informal conversations, many believe that she has done this mural painting in a Muslim country in order to get her name out there and to be included in the list of the controversial artists and gain popularity. Others believe that she was just ignorant. And others believe that it’s a mere misunderstanding; the artist comes from a country where such paintings are acceptable. Deviance could be intentional or unintentional. There are many simple ways to avoid deviance if one wishes; the basic rule is just to be familiar with the host/home’s country’s laws as well as the culture.

Examples of acceptable murals in Qatar:

Example of a mural in Columbus representing women empowerment:

This video shows an Egyptian girl posing naked on facebook and twitter to imply freedom of expression during elections. It caused chaos in Egypt because of the conservative people in the country against liberals. The girl describes it as being "screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gender Polarization in Professional Tennis

Many of us enjoy watching tennis matches. We are entertained by the excitement of the game, the gracefulness and probably the elegance of the players. However, it takes sociologists to pinpoint various sociological aspects in professional tennis, and one of the most prevalent of these is gender polarization.

For instance, if you glance at the outfit of the male and female players, you will find tremendous differences. Men usually dress in loose short-sleeved t-shirts and knee-length shorts. This type of clothing identifies the masculinity of the men, which makes them look socially acceptable. On the other hand, women immensely integrate fashion into their sport. Their typical clothing would be short skirts, shorts with tank tops, or a short dress. However, women players wear these garments in attractive colors, exotic designs and glamorous jewelry on-court, which bring a lot of attention beyond their performance. Obviously, women players commit to such fashion statements because they want to remain feminine regardless of the athleticism their sport demands. Sometimes these outfits are very controversial, which was the case many times with the former world number one American tennis player, Serena Williams, who wore a leather-like catsuit in the 2002 US Open. Also, in the same event in 2004, she showed up in boots and a denim skirt.

Another aspect that shows gender polarization in professional tennis, is the game style. Men not only have more powerful consistent ground strokes, but they also like to attack a lot by moving forward to the net and finishing the point with a sensational volley. Also, the speed of men’s serve can reach to 250 kph. In contrast, if you watch the women’s game, you will see a lot of long rallies thanks to their excellent coverage of the court, but you hardly see them introducing exciting strategies as men do. They simply just hit and return the ball till one of the players makes an error or misses a shot. So men are paid more due to their capability to entertain the crowd more with their outstanding game tactics, but also in the grand slam tournaments men play best of five sets while women just play best of three. The idea of sexism fits perfectly in this scenario, as the male players receive more audience due to their high quality matches and they get paid more because they play more sets in major tournaments. As a response to this sex discrimination, many women players underwent a feminist movement to prove that they are just as good and achieve equality. Examples of these feminist acts would be when a number of top WTA players like Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki justified why they should be paid more. They said that they do a lot of endorsements, and that spike up the financial state of the businesses involved in making professional tennis possible. Besides, women tennis is becoming more aggressive and physical, so people start to sense that the women are playing and behaving more manly on the court. For instance, they run faster, hit harder and grunt louder. One of my all time favorite women’s matches, which exhibited the masculinity women players are increasingly integrating in their game was the semifinal of the 2005 Australian open championship between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Here is the video of the match:

Moreover, regarding the feminist actions taken by the female players, the WTA created a global campaign with the tagline “Strong is beautiful.” This campaign featured 38 of the professional players and the advertisement that was produced showed the women wearing very revealing tennis clothing to display their athletic bodies while hitting aggressively their shots in slow motion. The ad clearly illustrated that women players are capable to deliver assertive tennis without any compromises to their femininity.

If you also analyzed how male and female players celebrate their victory on court, you can recognize obvious differences. Men usually collapse on their backs with their legs wide open or jump around very vigorously. As an example of how wild Novak Djokovic celebrated his first Wimbledon title this year, he snatched up some blades of grass and shoved them in his mouth. But for women no matter how exciting the moment can feel like, they still take less bustling actions. Crying is quite common among women who win majors, and that explains that women are more emotional than men.

Besides, the commercialization of gender ideals, which is the process of introducing products to the market by using advertising and sales campaigns that draw on socially constructed standards of masculinity and femininity, heavily influences the type of commercials male and female players do. For instance, male players usually promote technical items like cars, rackets and watches. However, women players would advertise items related to beauty like shampoos and deodorants. And even when these women are featured in commercials about cameras and rackets, they still embrace their feminine appearance mixed with the assertive attitude.

All in all, gender polarization nearly exists in every facet of our lives. It is the people’s duty to conform to their gender ideals in order to keep the socialization process functioning well. But sometimes, gender polarization can be detrimental to women’s growth and success in certain fields. That is why women feel it’s unfair to live in a “glass ceiling” society, and that motivates them to lead feminist movements. In many cases, feminist acts were successful and society gradually started to perceive that it’s “okay” to see women working in areas that are masculine in nature and receiving privileges that they never used to be awarded before. However, it would be considered socially deviant if men started to engage in more feminine-like activities. They would probably receive a lot of sanctions and will not feel as comfortable as women feel working in more manly environments. That is just how society works.

Which door can I take?

Earlier this semester, in our Sociology class, our professor, Geoff Harkness, showed us a video of a sociology experiment that was done in the US. Watch below:

I thought if this experiment was done here in Doha, Qatar no one would conform and we would most likely have different results. On the other hand, our professor had a different hypothesis, where he believed people would conform.

So I went out and actually did the experiment as one of my assignments. I placed “ladies only” and “men only” signs on the Carnegie Mellon building doors here in Qatar. Here are my results:

I thought of many different reasons to why people acted in this manner. One of which is that here in the Middle East, specifically in Qatar, there is a stereotype that women are more oppressed and can’t always do what they wish on doing. So when they saw such signs in Education City, a space with six different American universities, they were disappointed and angry. Instead of being able to express themselves in their universities, they had to deal with the cultural restrictions there too.

Whereas for the men, I believe that the men acted out this way as a sign of masculinity. They refused to walk into the “ladies only” door and confidently walked into the “men only” one. We don’t see any of the men acting out on the experiment as being something they disapprove of. However, in minute 2.47, we see how this young man refuses to be pulled in to the ladies only door and forcefully walk into the “right” door, dragging the lady with him.

Our professor pointed out an interesting fact too, women happen to cross gender boundaries more often than men do. An example of that is, imagine a “man’s” sport, like football- that is usually accepted and women won’t get as many negative sanctions as a man, let’s say, doing ballet- now, THAT is out of the ordinary.

I would love to hear what other people think of this, please share any thoughts on why you think people here didn’t conform to this like they did in the US.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My big fat Arab wedding

Family and marriage are two aspects that are very important in most cultures. In most societies marriage is defined as being a group’s approved mating arrangements marked by a ritual, such as a wedding ceremony, that indicates the couple’s new status to the public. Many people are familiar with the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It revolves around two people overcoming their cultural, racial and social class differences and getting married. The family portrayed as the Greek family of the bride, in the movie, reminds me of Arab families quite a lot. The large, loud and opinionated extended family that somehow always comes as a package.

Most of the time people tend to get married to others who are similar to them in age, education, social class, race, and religion. When someone decided to break that norm and get married to someone with different customs, both partners will receive some form of cultural shock when they meet both the nuclear and the extended family. Exogamy is often not encouraged in Muslim families, as they believe their sons/daughters should marry within the social group in which they belong to, and continue to pass on the traditions and customs of Arab cultures.

This summer my cousin got married to an English guy, who she met while she was studying in London. A small number of the groom’s family and friends flew out to Amman to attend their wedding. The wedding incorporated traditions from both sides of the bride and groom’s traditions.

At the beginning of the ceremony there was the Arab norm of the bride and groom’s nuclear families standing at the entrance to greet their guests. When the bride and groom later arrived they came down an aisle separately and were accompanied with their best man and made of honor, and bridesmaids. My younger cousins even had the roles of being flower girls and the bride’s niece was the ring bearer. After the newlyweds had their first dance together, the Arabic traditions began to kick in. There was the traditional palestinian zaffeh, where men dressed in traditional clothes play instruments and dance Dabke, and later on there was a belly dancer in the center of the stage.

I talked to the groom’s dad and asked him what he thought of the whole ceremony, he was really surprised with the large number of family members and how close everyone was to one another. Having a belly dancer and a Dabkeh dance at a wedding was also an experience that was quite foreign.

Gender Discrimination

A girl born in Qatar starts her journey of life with certain disadvantages due to the prevalence of gender discrimination in the region. Job opportunities for women in Qatar are diminishing diurnally. This phenomenon is not because women are less intelligent compared to men, but because of the mind set and culture of the country. The gender disparity might be reducing, but the stigma is still looming in quite a few institutions.

I came to know about a certain example of this type of gender discrimination in my Public Relations class. The institution in discussion was Qatar Olympic Committee. According to my professor, Qatari men covered all the managerial posts in the institution and all the women were given the title of “researcher” regardless of what they worked as. In such institutions, what we usually notice is that the male managers order their secretaries, or “researchers” in this case, to do most of the tasks. What’s worse is that the managers then later claim credit for the completed tasks.

We discussed sexism in class, also known as gender discrimination. It is the application of the belief that there are certain characteristics implicit to one's gender that indirectly affects one's abilities in unrelated areas (Wikipedia). The term sexism is usually used to describe discrimination against women, in the context of patriarchy.

From this specific example we see that men (maybe only a “man” can be a man-ager?) are unfairly appointed as General Managers and Executive Directors just because of their gender. Therefore, QOC can be considered a sexist or patriarchal institution. Qatar’s culture amplifies this social stigma to an extend, although, I have to admit, Her Highness Sheikha Mozah is an exception and will help tackle this stigma in the long run.