Monday, April 30, 2012

Separate but Equal

A paradox in the making of the world has shone light on a topic that the world suffers most from, Racism.

Racism is the belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others. For this blog post, I’m not only talking about Racism in the area of Race, but also in the area of stereotypes.

How can one be called a racist? Well, one must not tolerate the other race. Anyone can be called a racist these days. This is because everyone has ideas about other people. They are all socialized to believe that they are of one race and the others around them are different. Some people teach their children not to socialize with other children from different ethnicities or even races due to the fear of “Identity loss”.

How can one have an identity when one lives in such a diverse world? There are people in the same family that are of different races, let alone your next-door neighbors or your friends. Everyone is different; people need to seriously start realizing that!

My latest project in my major class was about Labor workers in Qatar and how they live their social life. Out reporting for hours on end in this mild spring weather, I realized that there’s a lot that people don’t know about this place.

The workers had one day to socialize and they use that day to do their shopping, play cricket with friends and make the longest phone-call to their home country.

They are seen as single workers who are not allowed in on Fridays to Malls. Well, in this country, Friday is Family Day. They are seen as the workers who people don’t want to associate themselves with all the time, unless they have to.

If we actually think about it, these people are the ones putting their sweat and blood into building our nation and we repay them with what?! Little money! One day off! Living in poor housing, complexes outside the main city. They’re fine with all of that trust me! But then you even take away their privilege of being free to roam in the country they are building? Why?

An anthropologist, Ms. Rico said that it is “Violent” that these workers cannot enjoy the privileges that they are building for us. It really is a sad image to see when a worker builds the mall and when it is finally open, he is not allowed in to see his work complete.

Sociology has played a huge part in making this issue come to reality. The more people are socialized from their birth to be with the people they look like; this would never be a world with no discrimination, racism or hate!

Stereotypes are given to everyone from all races, there are even jokes made about these stereotypes. Humor and movies are used to shine light that not everyone is equal, but not everyone is separate either. I guess that’s what the workers would witness time and time again, they are equal with people, the citizens, but they are also very separate and living separate lives.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Good vs. Bad

We’ve been talking about Arab stereotypes quite a bit recently and how Hollywood portrays us in several different negative ways: the most prominent being as terrorists. When we see these images, we usually (as expected) criticize the film and the filmmaker for having such prejudiced views against us.

But, when we were watching the film, Amreeka, which was directed by an Arab woman, I realized there were a lot of stereotypes about Arabs in there as well. These stereotypes, however, had a much different effect on me.

For me, a lot of the comedy in this film came from recognizing these stereotypes. My favourite one being the cute, sarcastic grandmother that tends to worry a bit too much.

I started to wonder why these were stereotypes different. Was it because they had nothing to do with portraying Arabs as backwards and violent people? Or did it have more to do with the fact that these were stereotypes I faced on a daily basis and were written by an Arab herself?

I think who the filmmaker or the screenwriter is makes a huge difference. Usually, when Hollywood uses Arab stereotypes, they use it to create an outgroup – they make the Arab the “other.” They use this to socialize the viewers and fill them with fear, hatred, and discrimination, When an Arab filmmaker uses an Arab stereotype, however, they create an ingroup, allowing other Arab viewers to identify with what’s going in the film and better connect with it.

I even caught myself writing a very stereotypical portrayal of a Palestinian mother who only cares about her daughter getting married in one of my scripts. When my friends read it, they found it absolutely hilarious because they could all almost relate the character to their own mothers. When I took a second look at it myself, I criticized myself because I know that there is a lot more to Arab mothers than just being an obsessive and psychotic matchmaker. But for some reason, I was reinforcing that stereotype.

I guess the important thing with all stereotypes, whether they’re “good” (I’m not sure they can be) or bad ones, is to recognize the fact that they are stereotypes and to interrupt the process of socialization. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"Don't let a few people shape your view on an entire faith."

I just recently watched a film about Muslim Americans and how 9/11 took a toll on their lives. The film, Mooz-Lum, was released in 2010, and was written and directed by Qasim Basir . It is one of the few American films that don’t portray Muslims in the usual light that they are put in, as terrorists. I noticed several things regarding to the storyline of the film and how it was produced. It explores ingroup and outgroup functions, cultural criminology and the culture of fear.
The film fights everyday notions that we see in Hollywood movies. To begin with, we see two groups. Muslims represent the ingroup and non-Muslims represent the outgroup. The outgroup is the group toward which members of an ingroup feel a sense of separateness, opposition, or hatred. We see this grouping when Tariq(Evan Ross)’s classmate makes fun of his Muslim name in class and everyone starts laughing.
The media creates a cultural criminology. Cultural criminology is the study of crime and deviance that places criminality and its control in the context of culture. It injects people’s brains with ideas that certain people what them to believe in. Cultural criminology against Muslims was even more evident in movies after the 9/11 attacks, when Muslims started being seen and represented as terrorists. In one of the scenes, we see Tariq’s own friends trying to attack his sister and her friend because they are both Muslim. Mooz-Lum demonstrates how even Muslims were chocked from the attacks that happened in New York City and it is unjust to punish them for what a group of extremists did.
The media also created a culture of fear, it created exaggerated threats in the public’s mind that some believe are designed to achieve political goals. Politicians create the fear of Muslims in the minds of the public and that can give them the rights to start wars under the name of defending their people.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Externally vs. Internally

In today’s blog post, I will be discussing how the portrayal of reel Arabs in movies affects the image of Arabs and Muslims in Westerner’s minds. Also I will discuss how these portrayals create fear and false expectations in Westerners who visit the Middle East.
Reel Arabs in movies are portrayed in four ways:

  1. 1.     Villains and terrorists
  2. 2.     Maidens
  3. 3.     Sheikhs
  4. 4.     Cameos

For example, in Sex and the City we saw Maidens and Sheikhs. In most post 9/11 movies we usually witness the  “villains and terrorists” of reel Arabs. For people who have never been to the Middle East or have no constant interactions with Arabs or Muslims will get the wrong picture painted in their heads of Middle Easterners.

In the final game of the football league, Carnegie Mellon Qatar was playing against the Community College of Qatar. After the game, the players and the fans socialized over a small reception following the awards ceremony. As I was socializing with the fans, I happened to meet 1196 Carnegie Mellon University graduate who was visiting Qatar on business. He graduated from the main campus in Pittsburgh, and this was his first trip to the Middle East. I decided to engage in the conversation he was having with some of the other students. They asked him what he thought of Doha and if it met his expectations. He responded by saying that he was quite astonished with how developed Qatar was and how back home in the states, people planning on visiting the Middle East had completely different expectations, in the negative sense. He said that back home, people expect the Middle East to be dangerous, filed with bombers. Also, they expect that women do not, under any circumstances socialize with a male Westerner. We all laughed as he said, “man was I surprised.” I looked around to see if people were genuinely laughing, and to my surprise they were –because I wasn’t. I was in fact slightly offended.  However, it was nice to see that no one takes such matters too personally because if they did then there would be so much resentment towards Westerners.

After my encounter with this man, I couldn’t help but wonder, are the Arabs and Westerners that different? We speak different languages, we dress differently, our traditions are different, our cultures are different, and our appearances are different. On a different note, we are also the same. We want to be happy, we want to be safe, we want to obtain a good education, and we want good health for our loved ones and ourselves. Just because externally we are different, it doesn’t mean on the inside we can’t be the same ordinary people, living our day-to-day ordinary lives.

The Sensitive Man

In a sociology class this month, I decided that I would dive into the world of Woody Allen films. I had just watched Annie Hall and felt like my world was changed and then, I only wanted to watch movies with interesting plots and stories.

So I started with Manhattan and Small Time Crooks and I was more than entertained. My mother, who had no idea that I had been spending my time at college watching movies, told me over the phone once about a new movie named Midnight In Paris I soon found out that Woody Allen had directed it.

The beauty of Woody Allen’s movies is that it has not only taught me a lot about the sensitive man but the women in his movies and what they want. In all the relationships that his character enters into, the women are at first attracted to his sensitivity and quirkiness, but then grow bored of how his life is without any excitement.

Considering that I was already on a roll with all of these movies and my picky mother herself said that the movie was “sweet,” I could not wait until I could watch the movie for myself.
I borrowed the DVD and slipped it into the CD player on my laptop the minute I got to my room. I fell in love with the Paris like I never have before. Images one after the other filled the screen.
Owen Wilson is the new Woody Allen. The awkward manner in which he walked and the way he constantly over analyzed things, was true to the character of the now 77 year old. Throughout the movie, Wilson’s character Gil is a man who is in love with the glorious 1920’s American literature age. His emotions and thoughts are at the center of the movie’s agenda the way a chick flick would be for it’s female lead. Because of people like Gil, women have begun to accept and even embrace a new definition of man. It has become alright that men should be emotional and be able to cry at any moment and movies like this have been crucial to this change in society. I don’t know how I feel about this change. Sometimes I wish men would just own their manhood and be more stable than a woman but then, too many times I’ve wished that men could be a little less brick-like. I guess that’s why the hybrid man was invented by society.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sociology of Nail Polish

Yesterday, I turned 19. I can’t even wear heels properly or paint my nails in a non-outrageous color.
After a lovely evening of dinner with my family, I spent the late hours of yesterday night, painting my nails the wildest shade of purple, and then Instagram-ed the experience.
But, alas, I am 19 today. It’s our final day of Sociology of Cinema. It seems only fitting that I write about my obsession with colored nail polish and how it relates to three things I learned this semester in class. 1. I’ve always had an obsession with outrageous shades of nail polish. I rarely ever painted my nails red. At my cousin’s wedding last year, the entire crowd got a French manicure, all prim and proper. I added a gold lightning bolt and green rhinestones. Nails are a character statement, and they so vividly stand out as an emblem of personality. Yet at the end of the day, this is a societal construct.
Girls are socially conditioned to put paint on nails. All the greats do it, from TV cooking hosts to musicians on stage. 2. I have a gigantic box of nail polish, stowed away in a Mickey Mouse tin lunch box.
I may even over-consume, especially when I find a good sale. When we talked about the traits of girly films, one of the most prevalent themes was the female ability to shop skillfully. Our consumer culture encourages such behavior through films. It’s an image, repeated over and over, until we treat it as natural behavior. 3. I usually do my nails at home, unless I am in Lebanon, in which case, I go to the salon and bring my nail polish with me. Of all cultures obsessed with beauty and image, my experiences in Lebanon take the cake. People visit the hair and nail salon often, and expect visitors (such as myself) to do the same. Its nice to get all dolled up occasionally, but keeping up with the routine is way too labor-intensive for me in the hot summer months. How often do Westerners see this image of beauty-conscious Arabs in the media? Other than Caramel, the film by Lebanese director Nadine Labaki, none come to mind. Quite a few people were shocked to learn that 2010’s Miss America was an Arab American/Muslim American woman. We are a multi-dimensional bloc, just like any other culture or ethnicity. The day that Hollywood respects the complexity of Arab characters will be quite a celebration.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fear of Camera Phones

While I was reading Scripting An Enemy by Susan Williams and Travis Linnemann I noticed that their conclusion had such a strong message that could be related to every fear we face in our society. No matter who we are, or where we live, media representations of a specific culture can create a resented image that would cause fear in the society perceiving it. “What are the implications of a culture of fear perpetuated and enhanced, perhaps even created, by a celluloid image. We are too often afraid of the wrong things, we focus almost exclusively on a country and a people or our idea of them, when in actuality they pose little threat to our way of life.” (p. 205) I went to my cousin's wedding last week. I've always known that cameras and phones with cameras aren't allowed inside the wedding halls, but I never understood the reason behind this lack of trust amongst women in the society.
I decided to go ahead and see what would happen if I took my camera phone with me. I had to tie the phone to my leg and cover it with a long dress to get pass the security. I was able to get it inside. My next objective was to see people's reactions when I take my phone out. People started looking at me differently, some even came up and asked me if I was related to the bride or groom (closely related). Luckily I was. I would have gotten kicked out if I weren’t. Some might say that close family members are allowed to bring their phones inside the wedding halls. But in that specific wedding, people didn't even seem to trust anyone with a camera phone. Later my aunt asked me to take my phone to the security, or if I wanted to keep it with me I would have to hide it so that other people wouldn't see it because that might cause her a problem.
I asked her why does she think that everyone's untrustworthy, and would try to sabotage the wedding by taking a picture, or a video? Why are we living in a culture of fear that was caused by people carrying camera phones? We are afraid of the wrong things. Instead of getting security in weddings to actually protect us if anything “real” happens, we get them to collect phones. This fear of camera phones began in late ‘90s and is still here for a couple of good decades: the great fear of someone seeing your celluloid image with someone else.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sociological analysis through pottery

By having a full chapter about Gender and a long discussion about this topic during this week, I decided to talk about Greek Potteries. Because they show within a moment; the huge difference between males and females in that ancient civilization.
            Based on many survived artworks we can see the clear difference between the two genders. The following Greek Potteries show women activities, how they dress and look like.

            A woman sitting on a chair looking at her self through a mirror. That shows the importance of appearance to Greek women.

This Image shows 2 women carrying pieces of clothes and a large bowl in the middle between them.  This scene is about laundry.

This scene is divided into 2 friezes; the first one is for a group of women weaving. And the small one above shows women in a wedding ceremony.

We can see a strong connection between all the images of the women. Almost all of them are about Domestic and indoors activities.  In general, the house and children was the responsibility of the women.
            On the other hand, her are some images of men on Greek potteries. 

             In this Image, we have two men, perhaps athletes, fighting or sparring each other. While someone is just observing what is happening.

An Image of a man carrying a bow for hunting with his hound. As we can see, it is an outdoor scene. 

A scene of a group of warriors marching toward a battlefield. 

The scene on this pottery shows a young man, on the right, listening to an old man, on the left, playing music. Maybe the scene is about a musical lesson. So, we can say that men had more access to education than women.
Greek potteries are a key factor to look at Greek people’s social life. Just from few examples; we can see the big and clear difference between the two genders. Woman are for domestic activities and indoors obligations. Men are all about masculinity, power and outdoor activities. Also, they  have a better chance to get education than women.
From a sociological point of view, ascribed status, sex, determined a lot in the Greek’s life. Females are inferior to males. However, even though they are restricted their role is still very important. Despite how we look at their Gender Polarization right now, they found their own way to divide their social role. Each gender carries a role that supports the society and helps maintaining it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012



How would you mathematically clarify the important elements required to succeed in world sports, particularly badminton?


Skill+ 2(strength)+ resolution+ practise= Prerequisites for any sport

Endurance+ agility+ confidence+ good control= Necessities for badminton

Optional: Interest in sociology of sports

It turns out that yet another component plays an influential factor in a game like badminton—a person’s gender.

Badminton, one of the 8000 varied sports in the world, shares the common feature of being an inherently male dominated sport. As of 2004, the number of male badminton players (in the 16-34 age-group) was almost double the number of their female counterparts (retrieved from sports.espn.go).

Originally traced back to 16th Century Japan and Greece, badminton as we know today, was a 300-year-old European innovation in India. Then, elite men and women somberly playing shuttlecock and battledore were a very common sight.

Over the years though, the formula has changed dramatically as restrictions in movement have completely vanished.

Present day badminton= verve+ vitality+vivacity [B= 3V]

There is a certain degree of ease for those with a strong and supple body that is fairly well-built and amply energized. Men naturally have an upper hand in such a fast racquet sport that requires continuous exertion.

Here is how these gendered processes related to sports can be justified by hegemonic masculinity:

To summarize (and, once more, grossly to simplify) such positions, sport is a crucial site for the reproduction of patriarchal structures and values, a male- dominated secular religion that has celebrated the physically aggressive and often violent deeds of men. Sport has been an integral element of self- sustaining forms of exclusivist male culture, lubricating a closed system of male bonding and female denigration. (Rowe, 1998)

The last game of badminton I played was at EC, barely a few hours ago, and I must say I still feel dizzyingly tired. In the 45 minutes I spent at the game, I left the court four times to get a drink of water, and spent a total of about 15 minutes being an "audience," simply because I was too tired to play. Which brings me to the next formula:

Energy Level= Exhaustion- (Spirit + Motivation)

Towards the end of the game, my right hand ached as if it were bloated. Physical discomfort aside, I couldn't help but notice that throughout the entire span of the game, a majority of the shots were
a) exceedingly fast-paced;
b) usually directed upwards (because of the amount of strength expended on each shot, the shuttlecock would sometimes reach the ceiling, which was several feet high).

Every five seconds in a game of badminton, you are guaranteed to be doing either one of the following: jumping, running, skidding, stretching, hitting-as-hard-as-you-possibly-can. (And occasionally saying “Dayyum!” when you miss a shot because you are too distracted by the lights overhead, but that is an altogether different matter). Badminton is a reaction sport that can drain energy levels very easily, so sufficient physical strength is a must to stay buoyant.

That established, the following statistic is not particularly surprising:

Total number of badminton players in Rec Center on 18/04/’12
= 13
= 12 Males + 1 Female

Yes, I was the only female.

There are usually an equal number of women around though, said my badminton partner, Kee Guan NG. Although he agreed that such a sport involves intense physical activity, he stressed that the you-should-constantly-be-on-your-toes part of the game has not lugged back women in any way, at least in his home country, Malaysia. I learned that badminton is Malaysia’s national game and that the world’s leading player, as of 2012, is a Malaysian Lee Chong Wei.

Kee, a regular player at the Recreation Centre, continued about the relatively negligible gender segregation and equal woman proactivity in badminton, even in EC.

But I noticed that while he mentioned Wei as being the foremost international competitor, Guan said nothing about a similarly top-ranked woman player.

Which can be explained by the fact that badminton definitely has a manlike connotation attached to it. Wikipedia-- one of the most frequented websites around the world-- is proof enough of this: of the six coloured pictures of badminton players, only one shows (and rather vaguely) a woman player.

But it’s not just badminton.

For most of us, the term “Woman’s sports” is fed into our mental lexicon, while the term “Men’s sports” sounds deviously wrong.

Imagine, for example, Men’s cricket, or Men’s hockey. Or Men’s badminton. Somehow, the former part is taken for granted-- if it is a game, it is assumedly men’s.

Another interesting trend I noticed was that most players played for points

i.e. Men playing a game ∞ Level of competition

Throughout, the intense games were heavily peppered with split-second conversations like:

“What is the score?”
“Six to Seven.”

The competitiveness was amusing. Interestingly though, my game with Kee was a score-free, casual one-- the only competition-bereft game he played. Perhaps this can be explained as follows (retrieved from

The competitive hierarchy of athletic careers encouraged the development of masculine identities based on very narrow definitions of public success. The fact that winning was pre- mised on physical power, strength, discipline, and willingness to take, ignore, or deaden pain inclined men to experience their own bodies as machines, as in- struments of power and domination—and to see other peoples’ bodies as objects of their power and domination.

Men, masculinity, speed, competition, women, socialization, badminton.

The math is really simple.

NUQ vs Hollywood

This week I am going to focus on how Northwestern University in Qatar is a perfect example of an initiative that is trying to break down the stereotype that Hollywood has been portraying about Arabs being either villains, terrorists, or maidens. According to “Guilty, Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11 by Jack G. Shaheen. Northwestern University is one of the strongest universities in America, known for it’s strong journalism, and communications programs. Qatar Foundation deciding to partner with Northwestern University and have a branch campus is a rotted solution to the negative portrayal of Arabs being terrorist. Northwestern University, Qatar is now teaching young minds from all over the Arab world how to send their message across, to the media, and journalism world. According to a recent interview with Everette Dennis, CEO & Dean of Northwestern University, Qatar he said “One student’s film, “A Falcon, a Revolution,” used the symbol of the falcon in Arab culture to illustrate and understand what was happening with the Arab Spring” when he was asked over what made him proud of NUQ students. This is a great example of how NUQ students are now showcasing in their own perspectives to speak up and express their opinions or even other people’s opinion in the Qatari, or even Arab Society.  While Hollywood can represent the Arab world negatively in most of it’s films, Qatar is starting it’s own fight against Hollywood, by producing it’s own future filmmakers, and maybe “Inshallah” the next Hollywood.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bombers or Billionaires?

When I lived in Canada I witnessed many different kinds of stereotyping. It seems like after 9/11 there was an increase in negative sanctions towards people of darker skin tones. Despite the actual ethnicity of the person, as long as you had a brown complexion you were targeted.

In our last Sociology class we discussed how the American film industry has projected these extreme images of people who live in the Middle East in order to escalate a culture of fear. Although there were always distorted images of Arabs in American movies since the late 20th century, the impact of these images became even more profound on audiences after 9/11.

Although Canada was not affected by 9/11, airports worldwide tightened security measures as a result of the tragic event. In general, elementary and high school kids are mean. But somehow the incident of 9/11 justified their meanness. In the narrow minds of these kids, everyone of a brown skin tone was Pakistani. And they would bully these poor kids, telling them to go back to where they came from, and even asking them if they were related to the Taliban. North American children were highly susceptible to moral panic. Moral panic makes exaggerated media images and messages so much more believable.

Arabs in the film industry are normally portrayed as “bombers, belly dancers and billionaires,” the three B syndrome. Prior to the 9/11 attacks, these images were extremely dominant. Living in Qatar for the past five years only showed one trait to be quite accurate: billionaires. Although there is more to the Arab culture than money, it is quite a distinguished characteristic. If Americans showed other aspects of the Arab culture in their movies, like their food, how they love shisha and how they are actually quite normal, it would result in a major loss to the film industry and not support the American justification for intervening in the Middle East.

The movie The Kingdom, released in 2007, is about a terrorist attack on a U.S. compound in Saudi Arabia and how American special agents go in and investigate. This movie depicts how Islamists are extremists and fanatics and justifies American resolve to be in the Middle East: Arabs are evil, and Americans are heroes. Arabs can be classified as folk devils, particularly for Americans. A folk devil is a term that’s applied to outsiders portrayed as responsible for creating social problems.

The film industry usually reflects American foreign policy. During the Cold War with Russia, many films depicted communists as evil and invoked a sense of fear, again contributing to this culture of fear. However after the Soviet Union collapsed, the U.S. changed its foreign policy to target the Middle East and coincidentally films reflected this change.

Why Maz Jobrani is so famous

In high school one of my closest friends lent me one of his CDs and told me that it would be one of the most amazing stand up comedy shows that I will ever watch. He was right. The “Axis Of Evil comedy tour” was probably one of the funniest shows I have ever watched. I love stand up comedy, but I had never watched Arab Americans talk about their experiences in America and the concept of being both American and Arab the way these comedians had.

And that is how Maz Jobrani was introduced to me.

The bald headed Iranian man was all over the stage, limbs flailing in the air, being goofy, talking about the stereotypes of Arabs, the American government, Bush and his own experiences with co-workers.

The crowd went wild. The sub-culture of Arab-Americans from all over the country were finally able to laugh about the things that they had experienced after 9/11. The experiences that had brought them less business and more social persecution was the thing that tied them together. And now they could laugh about it.

I think Maz is famous because of how many people can relate to the things he talks about, not only in America but among people in Arab countries who can relate or understand what it is like to be Arab in a world where they are nothing but belly dancers, bombers and billionaires in the media.

The media has been so successful in making Arabs seem dangerous, primitive, evil or stupid that people rarely find stories about normal Arab families and people who are not belly dancers, bombers and billionaires. Maz joked in one of his comedies that news channels would not show an Arab man doing something normal like baking a cookie unless a “cookie bomb” exploded somewhere.
It is because of the negative image of the Arab community in media that Maz Jobrani and his colleagues decided to begin the tour. “I want people to understand that middle-easterners are normal people too. I want them to say “Hey, I heard this Arab guy the other day and he was funny, and he dint try to hijack the place or anything,”” Jobrani said in a video.

Maz was hilarious in the 12 minutes he spent on stage. Being an actor and a comedian, he was spectacular in his performance. My family and I spent hours and hours laughing and talking about the things he said during the 12 minutes he spent on stage. He made us talk about the negative image of the middle east and Arab men.

We hope that someday this will change when my friends and I become journalists and filmmakers. And make films like “Amreeka.”