Middle Eastern Women Essay

972 words - 4 pages

Middle Eastern Women By the standards of Western civilization, women living in Middle Eastern cultures, such as the Bedouin culture whose cultural practices are outlined by Lila Abu-lughod in her book, Veiled Sentiments, live under a patriarchal system of male domination. That cultures, such as the Bedouin's, are patriarchal is beyond dispute. The women, themselves, would be highly insulted if it were inferred to them in any way that males did not fully lead their society, and this is where the Western stereotype breaks down.In the West, there is the conception that middle eastern women as passive victims of male domination. These women are dominated by males, but theirs is not a passive acceptance. The truth is that patriarchy would never have lasted for the thousands of years that it has dominated society if women weren't willing participants in the system. . Although they thoroughly realized that the men hold the power in their society, they looked on this as the natural order of things and felt superior to other Arab cultures such as the Egyptians who have become more Westernized in their views.Many times during her stay with the Bedouins, Abu-lughod heard the following sentiments from menóbut from women as well.Among the Arabs the man rules the woman, not like the Egyptians whose women can come and go as they please. When an Egyptian family goes out, the man carries the baby and the wife walks in front of him. Among the Arabs, a woman must get permission to go visiting (Abu-lughod 47).Bedouin standards of modesty are so extreme that husbands and wives do not share the same bed if the household has guests. In such cases, they sleep with members of their own sex. If a visiting couple express a wish to sleep together, it is considered an indecent public admission of active sexuality (Abu-lughod 49).Despite the existence of patriarchy, women are not without power in Bedouin society, although this power is still generally comes through a woman's male associations. For example, if a Bedouin has grown sons within a community setting, she can at last become comfortable within the environment of her husband's tribal associations. Even though Bedouin women marry and go to live with their husband's tribe, their primary associations and ties always remain with their original home and the familial ties to their father lineage. However, if she has sons and they live to adulthood, she has established enough of a blood tie with that tribe that if her husband should die, she would assume the role of head of the household (Abu-lughod 54). One of the least understood topics regarding Middle Eastern women and the Western mindset is relative to the topic of wearing a veil. For Bedouin women, Abu-lughod points out that veiling is both "voluntary and situational" (159). She also stresses the women involved certainly do not perceive this custom as one that was...

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