When I wrote last month about western stereotypes of Arab men, several commenters, including WeAreTheWorld , suggested that Arab stereotypes of western women would also be worth exploring. Just as Arab men are stereotyped and pigeonholed in the west, western women hover somewhere between myth and fantasy in the Arab world. Like the traditional orientalist image of the harem , Arab views of the contemporary western woman are also highly sexualised. In fact, many Arab men, particularly those with little contact with the west, have this fantasy of western women that comes straight out of Playboy magazine or the grainy images of pirate pornos. In this view, western women are oversexed, promiscuous and have revolving doors in their knickers. This can lead to hassle and harassment for western women travelling or living in Egypt and some other Arab countries, although in places like Yemen men will either just stare or the western woman will become invisible like the local women, as my wife found while travelling alone through the country. Of course, given the potent mix of sexual repression, poverty, ignorance, the growing disappearance of the traditional model of respect for women and the failure to replace it with a modern equivalent, you don't have to be western to be harassed on the streets. Some men will hit on western women out of the conviction Ahmed described, while others who understand the west better will do so out of simple opportunism, hoping that they will "get lucky" with a woman from a society where sex does not carry the same heavy restriction for her as it does for her Arab sisters.
The 28 pages
5 Things Considered Rude in the Middle East
Despite fundamentally disagreeing on a multitude of issues -- from human rights to intervention in Yemen and Syria -- the U. It is strategic friendship -- Saudi Arabia is, after all, the world's largest oil exporter. But as President Obama touches down in the Middle East kingdom on April 20, , a bill on the floor of the Senate is creating new tension between the two nations The pages contain details about a possible Saudi support network for the hijackers while they were in the U. What's more, the Senate is considering a bill, which would make it possible for Saudi interests to be held accountable in U. Public spaces in Saudi Arabia are so segregated by gender that, in February , when a wall to separate men from women was temporarily taken down in the Riyadh Starbucks, women were banned entirely from entering the establishment. Instead, a sign informed them to send their drivers in to order beverages in their place. For decades, Saudi women have been prohibited from driving cars , due to the kingdom's strict version of Sunni Islam. However, the ultra-conservative kingdom announced on September 26, that women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive for the first time in the summer of Here, Saudi women get into the back seat of a car in Riyadh on June 14, , three days before a nationwide protest against a driving ban.
15. Gender lines
Arab societies suffer from deep misogyny, but the problem is not as particularly Arab or Islamic as you might think. Picture a woman in the Middle East, and probably the first thing that comes into your mind will be the hijab. You might not even envision a face, just the black shroud of the burqa or the niqab. Women's rights in the mostly Arab countries of the region are among the worst in the world, but it's more than that. As Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy writes in a provocative cover story for Foreign Policy , misogyny has become so endemic to Arab societies that it's not just a war on women, it's a destructive force tearing apart Arab economies and societies. But why? How did misogyny become so deeply ingrained in the Arab world? As Maya Mikdashi once wrote , "Gender is not the study of what is evident, it is an analysis of how what is evident came to be. But they both matter, and Eltahawy's lengthy article on the former might reveal more of the latter than she meant. There are two general ways to think about the problem of misogyny in the Arab world.
The Middle East is a large region, made up of many different countries — and hence cultures. As such, a behaviour that might be tolerated in one part of the Middle East, might not be viewed so flexibly in another. The soles of your feet are considered dirty as they are the lowest part of the human body and the part of the body that touches the floor. To sit and have the soles of your feet showing is bad manners, even if you happen to be showing just one sole by crossing your legs.