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Gender Role Stereotypes on Saudi Arabia’s Women, Research Paper Example

Pages: 9

Words: 2599

Research Paper

There are several theories that attempt to explain inequality against women.  However, according to Falah, and Nagel (2005), the dominant theory to explain for instance the unfair representation of women in a leadership position is socialization and sex stereotypes roles. Gender stereotyping is accountable for the slower advancement of women in an organization (Gregory and Elizabeth, 2014).  In Saudi Arabian women are nowadays exposed to many gender role stereotypes that create a wrong image about them.  Due to certain gender stereotype roles, Saudi women are seen as weak citizens, who have no equal rights. In fact, Gody, (2006) observes, the Saudi rule does not treat women and men in the same way in term of education and justice. The gender stereotypes promote inequality against women in Saudi Arabia. It is wrong as women play a key role in the society. What people should understand is that Women just like men are capable of changing and achieving many tasks if treated fairly.  Falah highlights the importance of treating both men and women, and Nagel (2005) when they reported that the challenge of delivering long-term economic growth that benefit all citizen can only be met if all the available resources are put to best use. Leaving women behind is, therefore forsaking the crucial contribution that women make to the economy. This paper discusses the various gender stereotypes that women experience in Saudi Arabia. For the issue to be understood, the paper begins by defining important terms such as gender role and gender role stereotyping and how this links to inequality. The paper will also highlight the Saudi culture that is believed to be the underlying cause of gender role stereotyping and the social, cultural and educational impacts to women.  In addition, the paper will highlight the role of the media in endorsing gender role and stereotypes in Saudi Arabia.

Gender role is socially and culturally defined beliefs and recommendations about the behaviors and emotions of men and women. Gender is a social contrast that is affected by other social categories such as race, class, ethnicity, religion and languages.  Gender role forms the basis of for the development of the gender identity.  Gender role stereotyping occurs when a person is expected to enact a particular set of behaviors or norms based on their gender.  In most of the societies, including Saudi Arabia, gender roles are divided into male and female behaviors and norms. That is, behaviors are characterized as being either feminine or masculine. Gender stereotyping may lead to what is called gender inequalities. Gender inequality refers to unequal valuing of the roles of women and men in the society. On the other hand, gender equality refers to the equal treatment of women and men in law and policies as well as equal access to resources and services within the families, community and the society. Achieving gender equality requires that different behaviors and aspirations of men and women are considered valued and favored equally. It does not necessarily mean that men and women become the same. It means that the responsibilities, rights and opportunities of each person will not depend on whether they are born male or female. According to Falah, and Nagel (2005), Gender inequality has many implications for human lives. Gody, (2006) reports that one of the most consequences is that gender inequality acts as bias between persons.  The system of inequalities persists in many countries including Saudi Arabia. For instance, in Saudi Arabia the inequalities toward women are manifested in instances such as forbidden driving, clothing, rights to divorce, right to travel, access to education and many others.

In Saudi Arabia Islam, religion is the main factor that contributes gender role stereotyping. For instance, women in Saudi Arabia are expected to wear the abaya in all public places where men are present.

Being the custodian of Saudi Arabia, Medinah, and Mecca is often considered as the keeper of the Islamic religion.  For the conservation of the Islam religion to be promoted, the country adopted the Quran and prophet Hadith teaching as its basic law of the government.  The law is based on equality and in agreement with Islamic law or sheria. The role of the state is to protect the right of men in agreement with the Islamic law. There has been a misconception especially from a Western scholar on the position of women in the Islamic law (Gody, 2006). According to the majority of western scholars, the Islamic laws form the basis of the discrimination of women in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, it is important to highlight what the laws say about the role of women in the society.

The Quran give women equal but not identical rights with men on personal, civil, social and political levels.  Women have the rights to attend prayers. The Islamic law does not forbid women to join public places; however, Quran warns that mixing opposite sexes could lead to seduction, which has evil consequences.  Regarding the clothing, the prophet Mohammed was a proponent of modest dressing but did not specify veiling of the face.  Furthermore, Quran believes in mandatory education for both men and women. In particular, woman needs the education to achieve perfection.  Additionally, the law states that women have the right to work in commerce and agricultural industry as long as the work does not them and their family. As we can observe, the Islamic law promotes equality among men and women.  According to Gregory and Elizabeth (2014), the issue of gender, stereotyping and inequality arise from the interpretation of the law.

Arabs took the Quran warning about mixing of sexes by tightly restraining any interactions between unmarried and unrelated women and men.  The culture of veiling the face was adopted from past civilization where the elite members of the societies used to cover their head as a sign of prestige and status.

The strict observation of the Islamic law has led to inequality against women in many ways. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, women, including foreigners, are not allowed to drive. In addition, women risk arrest for riding in a vehicle not driven by a close relative who is a man.  Furthermore, while men can travel anywhere, Women are not allowed to travel to different part of the country or abroad without the consent of their closest male relatives.  Moreover, women are restricted in the use of public transport in the presence of men.  For instance, women must enter the public transport bus through a separate entrance, on the back and must sit in designated seats.  According to Rambo and Liu, (January 01, 2011), the Saudi believes in such strict mobility restrictions due to the honors, pride, and respect that they have to the family.  According to Adlbi, (2015) the pride and honor of a woman is directly related to her chastity called ird. In fact, Gody, (2006) report that the Arab culture is so sensitive to ird that the way of life is built around it.  Besides, the Saudi society is structured to restrain women within limits that make it difficult for them to lose their sexual virtues.  These restrictions have been the subject of debate for long. It is believed that the restriction has strong adverse impacts on the employment and education of the Saudi women. However Adlbi, (2015)  notes that the case of unequal treatment in of women has drastically reduced in the recent past. Nevertheless, cases, where women are treated unequally, are still many.

The observation of the sheria law in Saudi Arabia has negatively affected the women rights in many ways. One major implication is that women are treated as minor’s citizens.  For instance, every woman in Saudi Arabia must obtain permission from her male about travel, work, marry or even seek medical treatment.  In addition, a Saudi woman is deprived of making most crucial decisions on behalf of their children.  The system is supported by the strict observation of Islamic law such as restriction of sex segregation that limits the ability of women to participate in public life in many ways.  The government of Saudi Arabia strictly monitor sex segregation law, and it violation is punishable.  Furthermore, Afkhami (2012) reports,  women receive more brutality than men for violation of the segregation rule.

Saudi women in their daily lives experience the implication of the segregation law and male guardianship. In the education sector, The Islamic law is embroiled in the Saudi education programs. The general framework of the Saudi education system is tailored to reinforce discriminatory gender role.  In fact, one of the main roles of the Saudi Arabia education system is to instill particular standards of moral and religious life to Saudi society.  One way in which the Saudi education promotes the Wahhabi culture is through segregation of sexes in classes. The system ensures that male students and female students do not interact. Similarly, female students do not directly interact with male tutors and vice verse. Moreover, the Saudi Arabia’s education system treats sexes differently due to different society expectations. For instance, a female student is directed to courses where they are taught about their nurturing roles as mothers and homemakers.  Furthermore, the problem of mobility for women as by the Islamic law restricts women from receiving an education.  For instance, since the Islamic law restricts women driving, women will need to have a close relative male to drive them to the education institution. While some university offers on-campus accommodation for women who do not live near the campus, very few families allow their daughters to utilize this opportunity as girls’ living alone away from the family is seen as a disgrace. Therefore, the problem of mobility for Saudi women completely restricts some women success in education.

Another way the Saudi education system upheld the Sheria laws is using video conferencing. The technology allows a female student to receive lectures by the male instructor, without direct interaction.  This technology was proposed due to a shortage of female lecturers.  Some of the disadvantages of such teaching arrangements include, the discussion is not possible, boredom may set in due to lack of direct participation and communication may be hampered due to noises.  Furthermore,  Salhi (2013) posits that while such teaching arrangement impacted positively to the comprehension of female students, it adversely affected the comprehension of male students.  Furthermore, the study quotes that much of the time was dedicated to female students; also, male students felt that most of the time was wasted repeating instruction for female students.

Additionally, the Saudi education system maintains the Islamic law through the roles imposed on male and female professors.  For instance, the roles of a female professor were not taken seriously, as the female professor is required to submit the grade student exams to male professors for review.  Women tutors are thus systematically treated as minors. Moreover, the treatment of a teacher represents the conservative nature of the Saudi society.  However, as Adlbi, (2015) states, while the implementation of the Islamic laws such as sex, segregation in education system undermines the women rights to equality in education, it has some advantages.

Until 1950, women were marginalized in education in Saudi Arabia. Women primary role was viewed as nurturing mothers and homemakers. However, after the establishment of schools that support girl’s education from primary to doctoral level the number of women graduates has increased.  In fact, by 2011 the number of women graduating from university has rose by 2.5 times higher compared to men. To explain the trend Gannon, and Pillai (2013), reports that social and professional restriction of women enables them to stay at school longer than men thus receiving a higher degree of education. In addition, the use of video conferencing promotes female student education since it improves their comprehension. Despite these advantages, the use Islamic law in education such as the sex segregation undermines the women rights to equality in education (Johnson, September 01, 2010).

In the field of job opportunities, the Saudi Arabia labor code is also embroiled in the sheria laws. For instance Article 149 of the Saudi labor code enacted in 2006 state that women shall work only in the field that are suitable to their nature. The implication of such law is that Saudi women tend to be marginalized and only form a small percentage of the Saudi Arabia’s workforce.  For a woman to work in some sectors, she requires permission from a close male relative. In addition, employers can fire a woman if her close male relative feels that it is no longer necessary for her to work outside the home.  Moreover, the segregation in the workplace restricts women to interact without limits.

Furthermore, the Sheri laws, especially the male guardianship also restrict the fundamental rights of women to health.  For example, in some cases, women are required to provide the permission of the close male relative for her to be admitted or treated or for her child to be administered with certain medicine.  In most of the cases, Saudi women are denied legal capacities are making them unable to make certain decisions for themselves or their children.  Moreover, women are seen as legal minors, which limits their engendered with the courts and government are severely constrained by some Islamic law such as sex segregation and male guardianship.  These have huge consequences especially in cases of domestic violence. In addition, according to Mendelson and Darling-Wolf, (January 01, 2009), it is very hard for women to seek and receive legal protection from an institution such as courts because the law requires them to show their guardian’s permission to file a criminal complaint. For instance, it is practically impossible to obtain the permission if the guardian is the abuser.

Media plays a crucial role in the modern world. In the past few decade media has been broadcasting information that promote equality. As a result, the case of more and more women who have defied the gender role stereotypes has increased.

It is conclusive that while the Islamic law promotes equality among men and women, the issue of gender stereotyping that leads to inequality against women arises from the interpretation of the law. In particular, imposing strict Islamic laws such as guardianships and sex segregation, leads to the inferior look of Saudi Arabia’s women and their traditional role in the society.  The restriction by the laws has strong adverse impacts on the employment and education of the Saudi women.  The situation has made women live as perpetual minor segregated by the law from their male counterpart’s citizens. While the situation has greatly improved in the recent years, women are still treated unequally in Saudi Arabia.

Reference

Falah, G.-W., & Nagel, C. R. (2005). Geographies of Muslim women: Gender, religion, and space. New York: Guilford Press.

Salhi, Z. S. (2013). Gender and Diversity in the Middle East and North Africa. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

Gannon, M. J., & Pillai, R. (2013). Understanding global cultures: Metaphorical journeys through 31 nations, clusters of nations, continents, and diversity. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.

Afkhami, M. (2012). Faith and freedom: Women’s human rights in the Muslim world. London: I.B. Tauris.

Gody, A. E. (January 01, 2006). ICT and Gender Inequality in the Middle East

Gregory, A. M., & Elizabeth Aranda,. (2014). Negotiating Muslim Womanhood: The Adaptation Strategies of International Students at Two American Public Colleges.

Mendelson, A., & Darling-Wolf, F. (January 01, 2009). Readers’ interpretations of visual and verbal narratives of a National Geographic story on Saudi Arabia. Journalism, 10, 6, 798-818.

Rambo, K., & Liu, K. (January 01, 2011). Culture-Sensitive Virtual E-Commerce Design with Reference to Female Consumers in Saudi Arabia.

Johnson, M. (September 01, 2010). Diasporic Dreams, Middle-Class Moralities and Migrant Domestic Workers Among Muslim Filipinos in Saudi Arabia. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, 11, 428-448.

Adlbi, S. S. (January 01, 2015). Narratives of Spanish Muslim Women on the <i>Hijab</i> as a Tool to Assert Identity.

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