Sunday, March 10, 2013

Where are the girls?

Popular representations of gender roles in movies affect the way in which we think and behave. Although we tend to assume that the idea of a patriarchal society doesn’t apply anymore to several countries in the Middle East these days, it could be argued that it still does exist. One simple form of examining gender roles in most Middle Eastern countries is through observing the structure of the restaurants. According to Karla A. Erickson in the book Cinematic Sociology, “The restaurant becomes a site where workers and consumes navigate the boundaries between individuals working and living in a service society.” So, I decided to go to a restaurant in Doha called Afghani Brothers and clearly from the name, it’s not a restaurant you would find women in. I went to the restaurant with my friend who was a girl as well and the welcoming gesture was stares from everyone who was in the restaurant. All the workers in the restaurant were males as well. The waiter immediately told us to sit in the second floor and didn’t explain why or ask if we mind. 

The fact that my friend and I were the only girls in the restaurant made it extremely uncomfortable for us because although there was not indication that women are prohibited from entering, it was just unacceptable for women for eat there. Being in this restaurant made me wonder, why is it unacceptable for women to walk in? Could it be because the restaurant is not a highbrow restaurant? Or could it be because there isn’t any female waitresses or workers there?

On the contrary, restaurants that are more westernised have females either working there or as customers. One example is Jones the Grocer, although there was a number of male workers there, the majority of the workers in the restaurant were females and so were the customers. Although women do work in restaurants, those restaurants often tend to be westernized to some extent.

From the restaurant Mamic in Katara. Although there are females who work in restaurants here in Doha, those restaurants tend to be Westernised to some extent.

Through being in those two restaurants, it could be argued that the idea of the patriarchal society or the breadwinner system is not applied when it comes to a western environment. On the other hand, in restaurants such as Afghani Brothers or Turkey Central, there are no women working there and their main customers are males. Although there is no set rule that forbids women from going into these restaurants, the social norm works as a motivation to stop women from being customers in such restaurants. 

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