Thursday, January 31, 2013

Amanda Todd: Killed By Society

Her story and her struggle was one of most talked about stories worldwide. Her name was Amanda Todd. From the outside she looked like a healthy 15 years-old teenager who is having the time of her life.

Every person is allowed to make mistakes. Honestly we all did it, we were all exposed to circumstances that cause us to make mistake. However, in her case her mistake haunted her till the end for her incredibly short life. That mistake happen when she was 12. She was video chatting with an older male stranger. When he convinced her – a child – to uncover her breasts to him. She - being naively young - approved.  He captured that moment of her mistake and a year later 
he contacted her Facebook threatening her to expose the photo, unless she make a “show” for him. Amanda refused, so he sent her photo to her classmates in school. There she was exposed to a lot of hurtful agents of socialization

Agents of socialization are the factors that effects how we act and who we are in society. In Amanda's case, the agents of socialization were her friends and her classmates in school. Firstly, she was teased in school by here classmates. Secondly, all of her friends abandoned her after her nude photo got public. Due to those hurtful interactions her parents decided to move her from her school. But the bullying continued, so she moved again. There Amanda was manipulated by a male friend to have a sexual intercourse with him. When his girlfriend found out, she was furious about his unfaithfulness, so she got it out on poor Amanda. It was infront of the entire school where she was left to bleed on the floor. Being the young age she was, and going thought the painful social interactions she went through, she couldn't handle it, so she attempted suicide. She was rushed to hospital and she survived. The entire time she was suffering from severe clinical depression, she was on anti depressing’s and moved to another city again. There she posted this video telling her story to help others.

 Unfortunately, She couldn’t escape the past in her mind. On October 10th 2012 she painfully committed suicide, she hanged herself.

Amanda had a very fragile identity. The circumstance that happened to her permanently destroyed her. And the agents of socialization around her did help her through it. She didn’t have the support system of her friends. Also, she faced a lot of hurtful social interactions from school that followed her to the comfort of her home by the hurtful online social interactions. Amanda Todd was killed. Yes killed and I use the word very strongly here. She was effected by the society that didn’t embrace her for the mistakes she made. She was easily manipulated for her young age and fragility.

In the end, we all make mistake and we learn from them.
Rest In Peace Amanda Todd. 

 Sadly for Amanda, it is too late. </3

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Recreation Room … Is It Excluding Qatari Girls?

Carnegie Mellon University’s recreation room was built for students to hang out during their breaks or after their classes’ time. It is equipped with many facilities like a table tennis, foosball, video games, a vending machine, a computer cluster that includes a printer as well, and a couple of couches for the students to relax or do their homework. However, if you’ve been there you will notice that a wide range of students uses the rec room except Qatari girls, you can barely see them hanging out there! In a response to a question I asked them, Ghaya Al-Sulaiti and Sara Al-Sulaiti, whom are both CMUQ students, expressed that among the places in CMU they mainly like to hang out in the atrium (The Majlis) or the library. ‘I had to go to the recreation room once for a book club meeting that was hosted there,’ said Sara.

In a deeper context, the Qatari girls are raised in a culture that forces them to have certain limits between them and the others (boys), but that doesn’t mean they aren’t socializing with others. The agents of socialization for Qatari girls are usually their parents. Their parents are raised in a community that doesn’t allow the interaction between girls and boys. However, the Qatari girls now are engaged in a constant balancing between modern and the traditional way of life; they don’t want to cross the “red lines” between them and the boys, as they don’t feel that they belong to this room, they need their own space. Thus, their interactions with others are commonly less, as they want for their identities to be known as protected ones.

On the other hand, Akhmed Sungorov and Khalid Allouba who go to the rec room everyday, think that the place is ‘fun and convenient’, as Allouba likes to describe it. ‘We sometimes see some Qatari girls in the rec room. They come only for either the vending machine or for the computer cluster,’ added on Sungorov. Khalid thinks that the reasons Qatari girls don’t come to the rec room is because it is loud, there are lots of guys hanging out over there and the girls don’t want to be around them. He also pointed out that he heard from some of the girls that the smell of the rec room is bad but he doesn’t think it is. Till this moment, it seems that there is no proper explicit answer for this question that continues on being raised every now and then.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

It's 2013 and We're Still Alive!

I recently watched the movie 2012, and it was basically about the world coming to an end. The movie “was inspired by theories that the calendar of the ancient Mayans foretells the end of civilisation on Dec 21, 2012” (Philip Sherwell and Hernando Garcia 2009). Hollywood spent more than $200 million on creating this film as it was meant to attract a global audience. The end of the world is considered a big catastrophe affecting every individual on this planet. Since Hollywood is a tool of capitalism as our Cinematic Sociology textbook described, all it cares about is making money. The whole story of the movie 2012 wasn’t realistic and convincing, and yet the producers managed to create the film through using visual effects to portray the natural disasters seem real. Now let’s analyse the movie from a sociological perspective. For example, from the conflict theory lens, we see that in the movie there was a portrayal of conflict between social classes. The bourgeoisies were the elites and people with power who managed to get on the spaceship without any problems, where as the proletariats weren’t able to get on the spaceship because they weren’t rich and they were from the working class who built the spaceship. The bourgeoisies were able to protect their interests and arrange society in a way that most benefits them, at the expanse of the proletariats. This means that the elites and the people with power had the resources to afford getting on the spaceship by purchasing the boarding tickets ahead of time. The proletariats were less fortunate since they were the labourers, and didn’t own the means of production. Social inequality played a role in the 2012 movie. The innocent ordinary people in the movie were left behind and weren’t notified to evacuate ahead of time. They weren’t also informed about the spaceship to rescue themselves. It was interesting to watch 2012 and analyse it from a sociological perspective. I happened to learn about the Mayan calendar, and I learned that Nasa ended up writing an article dedicated to answer people’s inquiries and to clarify the fact that 2012 is not the end of the world.

Monday, January 28, 2013

"Modern Abaya"

The culture and traditions of the Middle East are wildly different than they are in the west. Due to the majority of the Middle East being Muslim, the differences of cultural behaviors and social norms are drastic. Women in the Middle East are held under certain expectations that they’re anticipated to follow. The cultural “norm” of how a Middle Eastern woman dresses and acts is considered to be very conservative. We’re expected to be “covering” ourselves from head to toe when we’re out in public or are around men; that however is partly due to religion. Nevertheless in the Gulf, that is considered part of their tradition, and not just for religious purposes. In the Gulf women are expected to wear the Abaya. The Abaya is a loose black robe that covers the women from their neck down to their toes. The original purpose of the Abaya is to cover up the woman, and be loose enough in order to hide the shape of her body, and not attract attention to her.

In the media, Muslim Arab women are often portrayed as very conservative, veiled, and regularly, if they’re from the Gulf, wearing Abaya’s. However, what are also portrayed in the media are ideas of urbanization and modernization. In the recent years, due to the globalization and modernization theories, traditions and cultures in the Middle East are being thrown out the window. For the purposes of being “modern” and transitioning into urbanization, cultures and traditions that we once followed for essential reasons are being forgotten or drastically changed. The Abaya that was once supposed to serve the purpose of covering a woman up and concealing the shape of her body is now turned into a fashion statement. That may be due to the fact that the women here feel alienated from themselves. Marx’s theory of alienation helps us understand that. It basically states that due to the social structure and social class stratification enforced on us by society, we eventually begin to feel detached from our work, from our life activities, from ourselves, and from the people around us. We can use this theory and apply it to the situation here. Because the women are forced to wear the Abaya and look like every other woman around them, they’re beginning to feel invisible. They can’t express their personalities through fashion; they can’t stand out. This makes them feel alienated from themselves and from society, and I believe that this may be one of the reasons for the invention of the “modern Abaya”.

A variety of designers have turned the Abaya into beautifully designed dresses. I cannot deny that the art and thought put into designing those items of clothing is spectacular, but they’re not Abaya’s. Many new designers have come up with “modern Abaya” collections, a few Arab’s and a few westerners. The students of VCU in Qatar have come up with a project called the “Abaya Project” where they all contribute their beautiful designs of modern Abaya’s.

Here are some examples to demonstrate my explanations of today's modern Abaya.

The following video highlights a Modern Abaya Exhibition held in Katara’s Art Center here in Doha, displaying their beautiful designs.

I do agree that these new designs are very inventive, and can allow a woman to highlight her beauty whilst still being conservative. It allows them to express themselves and present their personalities through fashion. But going back to our original values, cultures and traditions, this is defying the purpose of the Abaya and hence defying our cultures and traditions.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Why are women obsessed with becoming thin?

The power of media boosted with the help of technological developments and has been able to shape the society and public opinion. For the past few years, media has been successful in setting their standards of beauty that the public has to unwillingly conform to. The perfect image portrayed of women in magazines, through the use of image manipulation, contributes to the societal and mental image of a beautiful woman. The problem lies in the fact that such images are usually fabrications and set unrealistic expectations.
A stereotype of skinny bodies, flawless faces, pearly teeth, fair skin tones and many more is being reflected on society. What people perceive and compare to their own appearance is strongly related to what the media advocates. Unfortunately, many people will go to extremes in order to be considered ‘normal’ or simply fit in. The media has multiple means by which they are influencing what the society should imitate. Products that are promoted come with a subliminal message that we ought to buy them in order to fulfill our insecurities and feel better about ourselves. They are alienated by society which usually ignites all those problems.


The media has been using subliminal messages to prompt weight loss and advertise products that almost never work. Viewers will still purchase them just so they can meet the beauty standards, which the media has established. Countless people have died as a result of extreme dieting, starving themselves in order to shed the extra pounds. There also have been many incidents of models dying due to anorexia and bulimia, risking their lives just so they can meet the requirements of modeling agencies. This issue is not only associated with models, many girls feel like having an eating disorder is completely normal and required to be able to have the perfect size. Having an eating disorder is being portrayed as normal thanks to celebrities and the way the media interprets it. Likewise it is mirrored on society as we notice many girls becoming victims of bullying because of their appearance.

The obsession with losing weight has also taken its toll on men; they too tend to have low self-esteem and self-image. Whether it was diet pills or extreme diets and workouts, men also have a stereotype that media created.

Media’s influence over public opinion should be used to endorse healthy lifestyles as well as have no specifics when it comes to beauty. Many modeling agencies started up with no special requirements when it came to weight and height. Beauty shouldn’t be limited to a certain type and the society should embrace imperfections and boost positive self-esteem with the help of the media.

The question is, Who benefits from creating a certain image for women and beauty that seems to unrealistic?

Because we live in such a capitalist world, where thousands of new products are introduced to the market on a daily basis, advertisements and movies tend to force these things upon society. Movies ares supposed to reflect the society however, they are shaping what everyone should dress, eat, listen to, watch, look, and live like. Those ideologies are transmitted through media outlets in an indirect way, and to our brains they reside and dwell.

I would like to end this entry with a quote from one of the one and only and the eternal goddess, Marilyn Monroe. She also believed that imperfections are beauty.

Sealine Desert in Qatar

Over the past few weeks, I frequently visited Sealine, the desert area outside Doha, and spent time at my friend’s camp. This active blog will attempt to highlight the cultural norms, values, lifestyle, and activities of interest of those in Sealine.  

Although it is located just 50-60km from Doha (with the last 5-10km being on sandy roads), the lifestyle of those that frequently camp there is noticeably different from those living in the big city. Life is very simple, and sometimes all you need to cheer you up is a cup of tea coupled with a random say-whatever’s-on-your-mind conversation with a group of friends seated around a warm fire that prevents the winter’s icy breeze from getting through your bones.Some of the activities people perform for entertainment purposes include the extremely popular cards game known as Barazeleyya (Brazilian), barbequing, showing off by driving up over steep sand dunes with your SUV, and then there's the occasional weirdo that drives on top of the sand dunes to willingly get his car stuck in the soft sand, just so he can learn how to get it out of there. 

Almost every time I’m there, someone makes us one of those killer Arab dishes, such as Chicken Machboos (Rice served with chicken) or Prawn Biryani (Rice with prawns). Add to that the fact that on those days it was about 15 degrees Celsius (which is equivalent to -10 C for people not living in scorching deserts), and you can’t help but eat like there’s tomorrow. It’s somewhat unexpected of a male Qatari to be able to produce such a delicious and moderately difficult-to-make meal. This is because in our culture, women hold the “traditional” family role as homemakers, as they are expected to be able to cook well, at least up until the last century.  However, I believe that being able to make such a meal can really come in handy sometimes, especially when you are in the desert with twenty starving young men. Maybe that is part of the reason why I suddenly took a lot of interest into being able to replicate such a fine meal that can simultaneously feed a large group of people.

Whenever I visit, there are usually at least about fifteen young men, most of whom I barely know on a personal level. This barrier between us requires social interaction on our behalf, resulting in the development and adaptation of our identities for "strategic purposes". 

After having been to Sealine several times, I haven’t seen a single Qatari female camp present in Sealine, or any female camp for that matter. This speaks to the gender issue in Qatar and the Gulf Area in general, where there are only about a thousand rules women are expected to abide by. I am not saying I’m against these social norms, I am simply acknowledging their existence in our society.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Where is the Saudi Woman's Public Identity?

      With the relatively recent uproar about Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving, many questions concerning the Saudi Arabian woman’s freedom have been brought up in Western media. Most of the Western outrage is specifically directed at the ban on driving, as driving is generally considered a basic right. The situation gradually seems more bizarre to Western audiences when one learns that countries neighboring Saudi Arabia, such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, allow women to drive despite the fact that these countries are also Islamic countries that abide by Sharia law (albeit not as strictly as Saudi Arabia). To these Western audiences, denying this simple right is immediately perceived as an almost barbaric oppression of freedom. As a Saudi Arabian woman myself, though, I realize that the means of finally obtaining freedom for Saudi Arabian women stretches far beyond the right to drive. In truth, I believe that the entire driving dilemma is quite petty in comparison to more dire issues that are hidden behind the fanciful dream of women driving in Saudi Arabia.

      As a Saudi Arabian woman, I am not only banned from driving. I cannot issue a national ID without the permission of my male guardian. I am unable to travel without my male guardian’s permission, and as soon as I leave the country, my male guardian is notified of my departure via a text message from the government. If I were a divorced mother with children, it would be impossible for me to create a bank account for my own children without the permission of their father. In addition to that, I am not allowed to work without my male guardian’s permission, regardless of whether the workplace is public or private. The aforementioned issues are merely scratching the surface of this heavily male-dependent governmental system. The sociological dilemma for women in Saudi Arabia, though, does not lie in the evident case of gender inequality. Instead, the sociological dilemma lies in a problem of identity resultant from gender inequality.

      Many blame the strong presence of religion in the country’s governmental protocols as the reason for the Saudi Arabian woman’s lack of a public identity. The truth is that religion does not in any way cause this severe case of gender segregation (or, in this case, gender dependency). The culprit is the governmental protocol alone. Assuming that women are allowed to drive at some point, integrating what would be a new phenomenon for Saudi Arabians (particularly Saudi Arabian men) would still be difficult. It will be nearly impossible for most men to accept it when the country’s political structure forces female dependence on male guardians. If change is to occur in the country, then Saudi Arabian women should at least be given the right to issue their own national ID card, without the approval of a male guardian. Only then can the right to drive be more safely integrated to society.

      This issue of identity greatly affects the way we are perceived by others, particularly Westerners. Chelsea Handler of the comedy talk show Chelsea Lately criticized the travel limitations enforced on Saudi Arabian women, as shown in the video below.

      Fortunately, the identity problem in Saudi Arabia has been gradually improving. For instance, many Saudi Arabian women from the cosmopolitan city of Jeddah have been challenging limitations on creative expression through various means. Several Saudi Arabian fashion lines have been launched and artists began to collaborate on various gallery displays, and even created their own community. A group consisting of four Saudi Arabian girls even went as far as to completely challenge both social and religious customs by creating the very first all-female Saudi Arabian rock band: The Accolade. The band’s first single Pinocchio (linked below) lead to both outrageously negative responses from religious officials and unyielding support from Saudi Arabians, both young and old.

A bag from the Saudi Arabian brand Fyunka

      The Saudi Arabian government has also begun to offer more opportunities for women to become a more active public force. Recently, women were appointed in the country's Shoura Council. The ban on women working in public places has also been lifted. Now, women can work as saleswomen and as supermarket cashiers, among other jobs. Although this has obvious positive implications on the socioeconomic statuses of many Saudi Arabian families, it also heavily impacts the public identity of the Saudi Arabian woman. As she becomes a more active public force, the preconceived (and horribly misguided) Saudi Arabian notion of women being frail and helpless without the support of a man gradually diminishes. With this commendable support from the government, there may be hope for the Saudi Arabian woman, after all.

Saudi Arabian women working in supermarket cashiers