Sunday, March 31, 2013

Men Make Fire.

I went to the beach this weekend with a group of friends to celebrate one of our friends’ birthday. I found that the perfect opportunity to analyze the men and woman’s behaviors in such an environment. The men were particularly interesting to observe. Arab men find going to the beach, a chance to practice their “machismo”, like it was an activity.

The western world is a more free world than the Arab world. I don’t like to generalize but that’s my personal opinion. In the west I guess it has become okay to embrace the different types of men’s behaviors. Like Sutherland discusses in her book, there are many different ways a man can be a man. There’s the heartless tough man figure, referred to in his book as the terminator, after Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie terminator. And there’s the emotional sensitive understanding man figure, referred to in his book as the kindergarten commando. Of course those two are the extremes, there are gray areas in between where other people lie.

In the Arab world, the kindergarten commando is not an accepted way of life, and if a man were anything but a “terminator” they would start to question his sexual orientation. This was reflected in my friends’ behaviors on the beach. I noted “macho” behaviors, or what they considered as expression of their masculinity, like logging heavy rocks and wood around to make a bonfire, cooking the meat (meat is a very manly type of food for Arabs, so cooking it on the beach with the fire they made represents their masculinity), and finally, ordering the girls around to clean, set the place where we’re going to eat and organize the seating area. When the girls offered to help with the fire making or meat cooking however, the men replied with “of course not! What kind of man do you think I am”?

I found it extremely interesting to take theories based on the behaviors in west and apply them to the Middle East. It has proven that what people consider appropriate or acceptable differs drastically between different parts of the world.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Shopping Habits: Women and Men

People’s taste varies from a person to another. It depends on what is your gender. Men usually do not care what to wear as along as it is emphasizing their muscles. On the hand, women likes to wear what can represent them as a sexy cute attractive female that men will keep an eye on. It is a fact that men care about how a woman look compared to her personality. In some books that I read, 80% of men’s attraction to women is based on their looks and 20% is based on their personalities. In contrast, women 80% care about the personality and 20% about the looks. In general, women like to go shopping to look good and keep on track on the fashion revolution that is occurring. Women are usually accompanied with their men or their girlfriends. In the Qatari Society, women here go to shop alone, leaving men at work or home.

I went to Villagio Mall yesterday to observe the sociological pattern of how people go shopping and with whom. I found a lot of interesting facts that I have not known before. Qatari women in Qatar go shopping alone, or with kids and girlfriends. Qatari men do not interact with the shopping process and buying clothes. It is the mother’s mission to buy clothes for herself or the kids. However, non-Qatari people from different nationalities go shopping with anyone they find available. Asians, other Arabs, White, Black and people from different ethnicities go with their wives. Social class has nothing to do with people who go shopping. It is all about the mentality. Qatari men buy their own clothes without the help of women. They have their own tailor.

In Sociology, this discrimination, if I may call it, varies from a society to another. I just wanted to experiment the concept of gender socialization. I found out the norms here. It is interesting that only non-Qatari men interact with women to buy clothes and different stuff for the house. What was not clear to me is that even it was a Friday night, not a lot of children were there. This is made it a bit harder for me to observe another pattern which is the shopping for kids. Who does it? And with who? Overall, I found what I want, and it was interesting to learn these things about the Qatari society.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Feminism phobia

It seems that most of my generation is torn between what feminism is and what people perceive it to be. “There is a very warped view of feminism because the movement has been hijacked by radical activists who soak up all the media attention. They damage feminism the same way that the Westboro Baptist Church hurts Christianity, or Islamic extremists damage the reputation of Islam. Understand that, though there are lots of horrid, hateful women that call themselves soldiers of feminism, the core of the movement is not what they say it is, and will never be” said one of my male friends while expressing his opinion about feminism.

Feminism has been portrayed in movies through the representation of powerful, smart women who are capable of defeating “evil” male figures. This representation made me assume for a long time that feminism truly stands for strong, independent women. The female characters in these movies could be described by two definitions: The Bond girl or the Single girl. According to Hilary Radner in her book Neo-Feminist Cinema, “The Bond Girl represents a change in the women’s position…the single girl, unlike the Bond girl, was not by nature exceptional. Rather, she was an ordinary girl who strove successfully to become exceptional.” Although problematic to some extent, those representations of women in movies reflect a side of feminism that does not seem to form a big problem considering that it is breaking gender stereotypes. So what is the problem with feminism?

In my opinion the problem stimulated from the fact that feminism now encourages the notion of gaining power through appearance and consumption. This is what Radner defined in her book as neo-feminism. According to Radner, “Neo-feminism refers to the tendency in feminine culture to evoke choice and the development of individual agency as the defining tenets of feminine identity.” An example of such form of feminism is presented in movies such as Sex and the City 2. The representation of women in such movies emphasize the importance of their appearance and the power they have through making the right decision in purchasing products (mostly fashion brands). If feminism was only concerned with empowering women and achieving equality, then why is popular culture using feminist movements to advocate for passivity through product consumption?

What we're left with are two forms of feminism: The tomboyish representation of women that is defined as the Bond girl or Single girl, and the autonomous female that has control over her appearance and is defined by the neo-feminism movement. The question is, does either of them represent what feminism really stands for?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Dilemma of Being a Female!

     The gender rules in Qatar are very discriminative toward females in so many aspects. Ladies know these aspects and they also know not to cross them. I’ll provide few examples of those rules in this blog and I’m going to analyze it in such a way to reflect what are those rules. The book "Cinematic Sociology" mentioned how the social construction of any society categorizes how people act toward each other based on gender. This provides the people of a guidance of how to interact between each other as a society.

     The first example, is about the workers in Qatar; all of them are males, like the construction workers and the security guardes in Education City. There are only two exceptions, like, the female security guard in Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar and in Northwestern University in Qatar Studio. Even the workers outside of the studio building are males. The logic behind this is the idea of "building" and "protection" is often associated with males.

     Another example is when I went to the desert with Northwestern Evanston exchange students. There was no Qatari females who practiced falconry, which is a sport exclusive to men.

     However, a Germen lady arrived and I was very impressed by her. She had embraced the Qatari culture by covering her hair with a Qatari scarf that is initially designed to be worn by men. Its not just that she works in a field that dominated by men, but she also embraced the aspect of how men dress. Her ability to redefine the social construction was, again, very impressive.

     In the year that I have driven a car , I never seen a woman in a car wash or drop her car off by the garage, which is the third aspect of how females are discriminated against by the social construction that society created. This is due to the mentality that this is a "man’s job" to drive.  So I decided for the sake of experiment, to go there one more time and see how it is like.

     What I had anticipated was correct. There was no women there. It is worthy to mention that ladies can break the cultural rule sometimes and go there for a car wash, if they are willing to endure the awkwardness of workers and other drivers staring at them with one question at their minds: "What the hell are you doing here?!"

Falconry and women

I don’t even know how I can possibly write this without sounding completely ignorant and sexist. Yesterday, I went on a falconry trip to witness how the hunting process takes place when you have a trained bird of prey. So we drove really faraway and reached out a deserted area in the north.

When I stepped out of that Land Cruiser I was shocked to see a woman holding this beautiful falcon and fixing its cap. The thing is, I’m quite the feminist and I do believe that women are capable of doing everything a man can and vise versa. Everything is possible. But to see a woman, in the middle of the desert (literarily), giving us lessons on falconry and looking so boss was just astonishing.

In a patriarchal society, it is really hard to find women doing things that men do to display their masculinity. Especially when it comes to a sport like falconry. In this culture, falcons are associated with strength, poise and total control and so are the men. The “Falcon Lady” (that’s what we called her because nobody had the guts to ask her again for her name) showed us the ropes and answered all our lame questions with scientific facts and personal experiences. We were very impressed by how much she knew and she wasn’t even old or anything. On the other hand, the men who came with us and tricked us (not intentionally) into thinking that they were going to do the hunting, just sat there and cuddled with their female Chihuahua dog. I guess that is what you would call hybrid masculinity. A combined toughness, decisiveness, and hardness with sensitivity, compassion, and vulnerability. Those same guys brought their younger daughters along to teach them about falconry.

I guess the reason why I was shocked is because of gender socialization. Gender socialization is the process where people learn the norms related to sex and gender. I know that women are biologically different than men, but I was socialized to believe that men are the ones who do the rough, tough kind of sports (like hunting with birds of prey) while women should pick more tender activities. Which is totally bull because she was doing something really amazing and enjoying it.

I am really glad that there are people out here who are willing to break the “rules” society made to pursue what they most enjoy.

Girls in Industrial Area

While one's sex refers to the biological features that determines if they were male or female, gender, on the other hand, refers to "the meanings a the society gives to masculinity and femininity" (Sutherland & Feltey, p.132).

Worldwide, strength, boldness, aggressiveness, ...etc. are seen as masculine traits, while femininity is usually thought of as being emotional, submissive, sensitive, nurturing, ...etc. Despite the major achievements done by women in the Arab world, the society still prefers if they perform within their "feminine" context, as they are mainly seen as nurturing mothers and loving wives only. These gender stereotypes have been negotiated over the years, however, they have not completely vanished.
Nowadays, women can study, work, travel, and do a lot of other "active" things, however, there are still a lot of constrictions that they face everyday.

A few days ago, my friend and I had to go to the industrial area to pick up a phone booth from Qtel/Ooreedoo, a prop that we need for a film that we are making. Industrial area is an area with all the garages, factories, car service companies,... etc., and it's usually a male-dominated area as it is mostly filled with workers and laborers. When we first mentioned that we are going to our friends, they were very surprised that we are two girls going there alone without the company of a guy. Some of our male friends offered to accompany us, but we refused.

It was very interesting to see how our gender was an issue even though our sex was not. We went to the industrial area regardless of all the comments that we got such as: "Better safe than sorry".

We arrived to Qtel on time, and we were ready to pick up the phone booth and load it on to the truck. However, the Qtel representative and the truck driver did not let us, and called some of the workers to do it. We thought that they were being nice so we agreed and left.

However, when we left the industrial area and reached our location, it was only us and the truck driver. He tried to load the phone booth off the truck alone but it was too heavy and it almost broke. Again, we offered to help but he refused, and called a stranger off the street to help him instead.

This incident like many others was just a reminder for my friend and I of how our gender determines the way the society and other people see us.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gender Socialization Conflicts in Doha

Food culture in Doha is one of the most important traditions that people uphold in Qatar. For example: if someone is visiting Doha for the first time, one of the things the citizens of Doha insist on offering the visitor is the food. Although the food recipes doesn’t necessarily originate in Doha, but people in Qatar perceive food as great social icebreakers.  
 Interestingly enough, when I observed the food culture in Doha I realized that the gender socialization notions and its applications in the Arab culture is conflicted. First, let me explain what I mean by the gender socialization. Gender socialization is the female and male genders’ learning process to the socially acceptable behaviors and attitudes to each gender’s role. 
In Doha’s culture, the culinary experience is one of the factors that gender is stratified by. Knowing how to cook in the Arab world is strongly affiliated with being a woman. Men are encouraged to know how to cook, however women are supposed and should know how to cook. They should also know how to serve the food for their fathers, husbands, and guests. From observation, I realized that this ideology conflicts with what’s taking place in the Arab restaurants of Doha. 

When I went to Bait El-sham, a Syrian restaurant,
 most of the waiters were males. I checked with the manager and he mentioned that the chef was a male too. Another Arabic restaurant that I went to is the Orient Pearl, which had very few female waitresses, much like Al Saha restaurant, Tajin, Damasca, and Morjan, which had mostly male waiters. Thus, the gender socialization that both genders were exposed to in their upbringing is conflicted with what’s applied in these Arabic restaurants. 
To further understand the conflict that’s taking place, I analyzed more Arab ideologies and gender socialization patterns that can be connected with this conflict. In Doha and the Arab world, there’s a huge distinction between the private, in the house, and public, outside of the house, sphere. The public sphere is more restrictive towards females. In Doha, part of the gender socialization that both genders are brought up with is that women can’t go out late, and can’t go out all the time, where as men are allowed to. 

 In trying to balance between the two deeply rooted beliefs that Arab men and women are brought up with, what became socially acceptable is that men should cook in these Arabic restaurants because it’s a male dominant society. Never mind the strong belief that cooking is associated with females, if the issue is one that has to do with gender, females are almost always contained in the private sphere of the home, something that we, females, are starting to break free from nowadays.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sensitive Men, and Masculine Women

Our parents taught boys to become men, and girls to become women. It was greatly unacceptable for one to act like the other gender, and if parents find out that their son, or their daughter is gay they would do anything to stop this as soon as possible, or end up kicking them out of the house.

The backbone of culture in Qatar is the religion: Islam. It is forbidden in Islam to imitate a women in action, dress and/or behavior, and similarly prohibits women from imitating men in their way of talking, dress and behavior. Before the Internet and television, it was easier for parents to raise their children and teach them about their gender roles. Parents saw the media as a threat to their children. With the Television and Internet around children it gives them a chance to adapt the gender-specific norms from the other gender. (Leaving aside the psychological or birth-deformations factors). Source.

People in Qatar believe that this is nature: Men are supposed to be masculine, and women should be sensitive and feminine. Even religions believe and encourage the same thing, in Islam and even in Christianity.

However, some people are starting to let go of these values and it became acceptable for men to be sensitive and feminine, and women to be masculine. Jawad AlAli was negatively sanctioned and disrespected by men when he first came out in 1998 because of his “sensitive” songs and the way that he was singing that was very “feminine”; women however liked his songs because they wanted men who were a bit sensitive and actually care about them. This is similar to what happened to Justin Bieber when he came out.

Then came Abdulqadir AlHadhood, who was also very sensitive and feminine in his songs, and was negatively sanctioned and made fun of because of his feminism. Both of these singers were made fun of in tv shows, and on the internet, however, they both became famous of their GOOD songs that people started to like eventually.

Original Song: Thbt Ashkra (I know I'm in love!) - Lyrics in English

Hassan AlBallam, parody: saying that he is doing the housework and is the housewife of the house, while she is watching the news, in a program called "WiFi" that was broadcast on MBC.

Parody Song: Dkht Ashkara (I know I'm confused!)

Not only sensitive men were negatively sanctioned, in fact, masculine women were even greatly sanctioned by both men and women! Therefore we have more people hating and sanctioning masculine women. Shamma Hamdan, an adolescent who participated in the Arabs Got Talent show on MBC, shocked the people from all over the Arabic countries because of her first appearance in the show, where she showed up dressed, styled and acting like a man.

People voted for her, because she was a good singer, but she dressed differently in the latter episodes, where she had some make up and wearing female clothes.

I respect all of the artists I mentioned above, and don’t want this post to be a negative critique about them, but I’m trying to show how some people has changed their opinions about acting like the other gender.

Monday, March 25, 2013

CMUQ event

The Student Majlis of CMUQ had an event that was on Thursday, the 21st of March. A DBQ event (Dodgeball and Barbeque event). For people who don’t know what’s dodgeball game like me; dodgeball is a game in which players on two teams try to hit players in the other team and they must avoid being hit themselves. This event happened in the green spine outside CMUQ building. Many students participated in this event, and the teams had different genders.

Masculine tasks
The male students made all the preparations for the event. It needed the carrying out of heavy equipment such as the BBQ fireplace. According to sociology, all societies categorized people based upon sex and gender. This seems ‘natural’, but it is a social construction. The male students did all the arrangement, setting up the cones in lines for the dodgeball game and prepared all the food and things needed for the BBQ.

A non gender-polarization event
Many male students were saying that this game is for boys only, and girls are not capable of playing it. This game needs masculine actions such as the throwing balls to the other side and hit the other team. However, many female students cross the gender-polarization concept. They think they have the ability to do masculine activities. And so, many female students participated in this game. There was a team called ‘women in black’ that had all female participants, and were strongly excited to compete with other teams.

According to sociology, there trends to be a higher degree of conformity to prescribed gender roles. Those who do not obey the ‘rules’ of gender face social punishment. However, in many societies, it is easier for people to accept the idea that females are the one who cross the gender-polarization concept than male. Many societies are not accepting the new image of the male version, the sensitive and soft man. But remasculinization process is always takes over all boys in their earlier lives. They grow up having the traditional masculinity idea; boys love to be featured strong, competent and powerful males.
Although cooking is known as females’ responsibility, but the male students toke the charge of the BBQ. The boys enjoy doing the BBQ in the trips or the events, because usually they do not cook in houses, so they feel free to do the cooking when they are with their friends. And maybe the reason the chose BBQ is the that it is the easiest way to cook food.

Gender Differences!

In our last sociology class we learned about how does gender affect people’s behaviors, and does genes or environment influence those behaviors. First let me start by demonstrating the difference between “gender” and “sex.” Sex is the biological characteristic of being a male and female, whereas gender it refers to the social roles that men and women play. So, the society and the environment have a great influence on how does male and female act.

When men or a women act the way they does it is not due to genes, in fact it is mostly due to the expectation of the society. When first a child is born and it’s a boy people will start treating him differently that if it was a baby-girl. Though he is just an infant yet his parents will keep saying, “you’re a man you should be strong.” They will start getting him balls, cars, painting his bedroom walls with blue and many other thing that the society have decided that those this are only for boys. If it was a girl on the other hand, they will start treating her more tenderly and getting her Barbie dolls, and pink stuff. But the question is why does the color blue and the color pink are associated with boys and girls respectively?

It is the Gender Socialization effect!
Gender socialization is the process of learning the social expectations and attitudes associated with one's sex. And because people tend to link blue with boys and pink with girls, it is unexpected for a baby-boy to wear pink cloths. Gender socialization gets people to know their roles according to their genders.
Women at the house are expected to do the housework and the men are breadwinners, thus due to gender socialization people tend to do the job that is expected from them.

Driving cars in Qatar
In Qatar Driving cars is associated with men, most Qatari families do not allow their daughters to drive because it is a men task. They’d rather have a driver than allowing their daughters to drive! However, many Qatari girls are breaking those rules that the societies setup. However, it is unusual to see a man breaking the gender rules. Men do not get involve in activities that are seen “girli activities” by the society! It is their masculinity that is affecting their actions. Masculinity is set of qualities that are considered to be characteristic of a male. This explains that it is easier for a female to gross-gender boundaries than for a male!