A University Workshop on Gender Stereotypes and Women’s Situations in the Middle East

Students workshopI organized yesterday afternoon a group workshop involving my students at the Holy Spirit University (USEK, Lebanon) on gender stereotypes and women’s situations in the Middle East. First-of-its-kind activity in the Faculty of Theology and in the university! Here are the results:

1- Defining Gender Stereotypes ( Target Group: Women):

– Women don’t know how to drive
– Women are only housekeepers
– Women should only stay in the kitchen
– Women are weak and depend on men
– Women are talkative and emotional
– Women are considered politically inexperienced
– Women are shopaholics and spend money on useless, trivial things
– Women only care about their appearance, clothes…
– Women are fragile and vulnerable
– Women seek men with money
– Women ask and expect too much
– Women aren’t suited for military services, nor political responsibilities
– Women aren’t fit to be leaders
– Women shouldn’t work when they get married
– Girls are a burden to their parents
– When a child has a bad conduct, it’s always because of his mother’s bad education
– It’s shameful for women to engage in sexual activities before marriage
– Women are not marginalized
– Men are able to reach their goals and to have more potential than women

Students workshop 22- Women’s Roles and Situations in the Middle East:

– Teenage girls aren’t allowed to date at an early age or stay out late
– In many cases, women aren’t allowed to choose their future husbands
– Women’s virginity is sacred and is related to the honor of the family
– Women are unequally treated in most institutions – private and public
– Lack of civil and legal rights (domestic violence, custody issues, personal status laws)
– Women are less paid than men for the same job and qualifications
– Sexism is a social standard
– Women’s voices and opinions are underestimated
– Women have to take the permission from their fathers or husbands to travel
– Women are most of times not handed high responsibilities nor serious tasks
– Lebanon has 3 women parliamentarians (over 128), whereas Sweden has a parliament where women constitute half of the people’s representatives
– Women have diminished roles in everything concerning political views, economical opinions and social relations
– Women aren’t allowed to lead prayers (Islam, Christianity, Judaism) in the Middle East
– Infertile/Sterile women are considered useless
– Women are always referenced to a man: the daughter of X, the wife of Y, the mother of Z
– Women who stay single after 40 are pitied and considered ‘aniss’ (negative connotation)
– In some Arab countries, women are still not allowed to study, to work, to give their nationality to their children, to ride a car… In Lebanon, women have active roles in education for example and half of university students are women. The Lebanese Constitution gives equal rights for men and women as citizens. Unfortunately, women continue to be excluded from senior positions, from political institutions and from decision-making.
– Women are given the role of housekeepers, wives and mothers. They are never depicted as presidents or high ranking officers for example.
– In case of divorce (and repudiation) women are deprived of their basic rights and loose custody of their children
– Excision is still practiced
– Middle Eastern societies are patriarchal
– Women’s situations have a bit improved, and there are organizations fighting for women’s rights, but the path to reach equality is long and arduous.
Students Workshop 3
Students Workshop 4

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