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Women and gender/SAUDI ARABIA LIT - Literature review Example

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Women and gender/SAUDI ARABIA LIT

From the suffragettes early twentieth century Britain to the American feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s there has been a pattern of gradual social change, covering areas like voting rights, education, employment and equal pay and this has continued to the present day in Europe and the United States. Internationally the picture has been more mixed, with some countries moving increasingly towards gender equality and others seeking to maintain a clear and hierarchical distinction between women and men in all aspects of society. Many Arab countries, and Saudi Arabia in particular, have a long tradition of strict Muslim gender roles, and at the same time they have modern industrial societies where women aspire to all of the same rights and privileges that men take for granted. The tensions between ideologies such as patriarchy and feminism are the same, but each country’s religious, political and economic situation is different, and so these tensions are expressed in different ways and with different results. This literature review surveys the literature on the subject of women and gender in Saudi Arabia under the following four headings: theoretical background, Saudi religious traditions, Saudi political context, and Saudi economic context. Theoretical Background: Women and Gender. An important foundation for study of women and gender is to be found in the feminist literature of the 1970s. At around this time scientists had begun to untangle the complex interplay between physical sex, which is biological, and the concept of gender, which is a socially determined construct, affecting all human beings from the moment they are born. (Maccoby and Jacklin, 1974) Terminology such as “the sexual revolution” (Millet, 1970) were used to describe a dawning consciousness of women’s subordination to men in patriarchal societies and many aspects of women’s lives were re-examined in this light. This analysis is similar to some Marxist ideas because it identifies the concentration of wealth and power in one area as the source of oppression: “the position of women in patriarchy is a continuous function of their economic dependence.” (Millet: 1970, p. 40) Another American feminist studied the ways in which women in patriarchal societies are conditioned to adopt domestic and subservient roles, stressing the social constraints which are described as “a comfortable concentration camp.” (Friedan: 1963, p. 438) Later scholars moved away from this confrontational approach and emotive language to develop a deep theoretical understanding of gender relationships so that a more modern definition of feminism is that of Deborah Cameron: As an intellectual approach feminism seeks to understand how current relations between women and men are constructed… and in the light of this understanding, how they can be changed” (Cameron and Kulick: 2003, p. xiii). From an early focus on white middle class women, which largely ignored issues of race and class, feminism in the new millennium has taken a more inclusive turn and now examines the interplay of these factors alongside gender in the experiences of modern women across the globe. Saudi Religious Traditions: Women in an Islamic and Conservative Culture. Islamic texts and traditions lie at the heart of Saudi social conventions. In historical terms, Saudi Arabia has a unique position in the Muslim world because it is the place where Islam first began. This distinction partly explains the country’s adherence to more conservative views, and to the strict Wahhabi interpretations of Shari’a rather than the more liberal versions such as those practised in Egypt, for example. Sunni Muslim ideas prevail in Saudi Arabia, since about 90% of the population belong to this group, and ...Show more

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Women and Gender: Saudi Arabia
Introduction
The subject of woman and gender in society has always been of interest to scholars but it attained prominence in the twentieth century when women in western countries organized protests and initiated debates in order to obtain equal rights with men. …
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