Monday, September 10, 2012

Abayas In Qatar

The recent readings we had this time were so broad that it made it difficult to decide what to write about. However, words such hegemony, material culture and cultural relativism stood out to me when I started to apply those terms to real life situations here in Qatar. We are not passive when it comes to the media. We, humans, tend to critically analyze and interpret what we see, read and hear. In this case, abaya trends and fashion in Qatar emphasize this theory because most women here are using abayas as a way to resist and protest against the old traditional culture. At the same time, they’re conforming the culture by resisting western influence. In order to observe and have a better understanding, I decided to take a walk in Landmark Mall and observe abaya stores and women wearing abaya.
First of all, we should keep in mind that wearing an abaya is symbolic of the Qatari material culture. By material culture, I mean everything that is part of our construct within our physical environment, basically, anything that we can touch. While walking through an abaya store, I noticed how most women bought what was either advertised through the media outlets such as posters and magazines, or custom made abayas that had some touches of western fashion. This goes back to my point, women here are resisting the western influence, but simultaneously protesting against traditional and simple culture of wearing a black abaya. In other words, abayas have become a form of expression and cultural relativism.
Another factor I noticed was the ideology behind wearing an abaya. By ideology, I mean the system of concepts and relationships by accepting its causes and effects. In other words, wearing an abaya is embedded within the Qatari culture and society if you don’t wear it, you will be looked at as either foreign or just different. It seems to be part of the social norm to wear an abaya. From what I observed tonight, most young women in their teenage years were wearing fancy abayas, whereas older women were wearing more simple and elegant abayas.
Before walking out of Landmark Mall, I noticed a group of young women wearing fancy abayas with westernized designs that looked almost like dresses. In sociological terms, that could be a possible hegemony. Yes, women here are resisting western influence, but the West has already used its power to cause voluntary consent, as it seems the natural order of things. Some abaya wearers tend to wear the abaya just because of the societal norms and for the respect of the elderly. One of the girls i talked to said, "I only wear it cause of my father. I take off my abaya when i leave the country. I design most of my abayas from most fashion trends in Europe, i guess that is a way for me to express my taste in fashion." All in all, we should keep in mind that “Culture” is socially constructed.

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