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Monday, December 22, 2008

NYT Condescending View of Arab Women

The New York times is running an article on how Arab Women are Making Progress ... by becoming stewardesses:

Marwa Abdel Aziz Fathi giggled self-consciously as she looked down at the new wing-shaped brooch on the left breast pocket of her crisp gray uniform

I'm a little confused as to why an article on the progress Arab women are making has to focus on flight attendents! Not intending any offence to flight attendents, but the achievements of Arab women in recent years have been much broader than this. 

As one of the comments on the story said:

Wonderful. We're bringing our sexist roles to the Arab world. The Washington Post just ran a story celebrating the first Baghdad beauty contest. Bring on the freedom, bring on the sexism!

It is, to be sure, a great stride forward that women are respected enough to hold jobs; unfortunately, it seems like those things being rewarded in our elitist papers are those things that are from a more sexist American past: beauty contests and female flight attendants.

I've just done a quick ask around of my colleagues to ask them what jobs they knew Arab women were doing in Qatar, and they came up with the following:

  • Nurses
  • Bank Staff
  • Pharmacists
  • Heads of Schools
  • Teachers
  • Special needs teachers
  • Director of a Further Education College
  • Business Women and Entreupeneurs
  • Minister of Education
I think it is true that opportunities are still more limited for women in Qatar. Some women told me that a man leaving school in Qatar could be assured of a 20,000/month job, whereas a women with a degree was more likely to get a QAR7000/month job.

They also complained that they were likely to end up in empty jobs - i.e. a company where they were just employed to fill the Qatari company.

And that's if they are allowed to work - a women needs the permission of the male members of her family before she can start work.

Nevertheless, there are still plenty of women achieving in almost all areas of life - and in Qatar law women are only prohibited from taking jobs with hazardous duties. 

So it's just a shame that New York Times has to focus on giggling young girls as evidence for the growing freedom of Arab Women... 

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