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Saudi Women's Role in Respect of Raising Family Within the Male-Dominated Culture
The present study reports an interview with a Saudi woman on the changing role of women in the Saudi society in regards to raising a family within the male-dominated culture that characterizes the Saudi society. Attached to this study are an informed consent form as well as the interview transcript marked Appendix A and Appendix B, respectively. This study will review the narrative contained in the interview to this study and will conduct an analysis and interpretation of the interview findings answering the question of what areas of inquiry can this personal story lead to and as to the types of theories that explain the situation faced by Mrs. K.
The first question in the interview with Mrs. 'K' asks about the daily routine of the interviewee as a Saudi woman 'right now'. Mrs. K stated that she used to work full time but not she is a full-time housewife spending the largest part of her day inside her home raising her young daughter. Mrs. K describes her relationships with her other sons and daughters as friendships. Mrs. K reports that she does volunteer work in more than one charity organization scheduling these activities around her family.
Mrs. K has a strong sense of obligation toward the community and specifically its development relating to education. Mrs. K states that she has four sons and three daughters and that three of them are married with four still living at home. Mrs. K has been married 60 years. During the earlier years of her marriage, she reports having worked outside the home but she reports that her view matured and that she realized that the mother "should be the foundation of the family and should be based in the home. Even if she wants to work, she must do it from within the home and not be at the expense of her household and family." Mrs. K additionally stated as follows:
"I used to work full-time until I realized that there was a gap between me and my older children. However, I tried to rectify this, but it was too late. That is why I am trying not to make the same mistakes with my younger children. Now, they are my priority. I advice the mothers that their children should come first ahead of everything else, including their careers. The role of the mother is very important in the home. She can work from home, if she wants. There are many job opportunities now for anyone who wants to work from home."
When Mrs. K is asked if she has received any societal pressure for changing the methods she used to raise her family, she states that she has always been driven toward perfection. Mrs. K states in regards to raising children:
"boys are allowed to go out more than girls, and I allowed my sons to wear whatever they wanted. However, when it came to my daughters, I controlled their clothing styles, the entertainment they watched, and their styles of makeup. Despite my full confidence in my daughters, there are legitimate controls, culture and traditions that have power over us and we must adhere to them. I do not want hear anything bad from my community about my daughters."
Mrs. K states of her childhood and how before religious fanaticism entered the picture in their lives that they could as children
"…go outside freely, because there was no religious fanaticism as there is in modern times. I remember going into the desert with my friends, both boys and girls, and climbing mountains, exploring and having adventures of all kinds. We would have such happy times and were not restricted by social or religious rules as is prevalent today. We lived in a village where houses were all close to each other and everyone knew each other. I remember in the afternoon I would go out to the big courtyard of our small village to play with my brothers and sisters, along with our friends and the neighborhood children. When I picture that in my mind, I feel happiness and beauty; it was really a great time. Each family in the village considered all of the village children as their own children, and everyone participated in their upbringing, which was as the norm among the people in the village and in Saudi Arabia in general." Mrs. K believes that the reason for the breakdown in society are such as "…the different advances in communication and entertainment, such as modern satellite systems, in a way separated the world, where societies and families are disconnected from each other. This led to a considerable disruption in the raising of children, which is a very big problem that we are facing now and that society needs to find a solution for.
Analysis and Interpretation of Interview Findings
Running throughout the fabric of the interview in this study is the theme of social norms and socially constructed gender expectations of women and mothers in the Saudi society both traditionally and as the Saudi woman has matured and gained insight into matters of family and motherhood and what is important in the choices that present to women within that society. Mrs. K. is satisfied with her lot in life and with her role as a woman and a mother in the Saudi society and feels that had she accepted her role earlier in life that she would have been a better mother to her older children. It is reported that Saudi society is "largely conservative and religious" with Islam playing a central role in the culture's definition and in the determination of the "norms, values, attitudes, and practices of society." (Al-Saggaf and Williamson, 2004)
Every aspect of public and social life is influenced greatly in Saudi Arabia by the segregation of the sexes, which is maintained "physically, socially, and psychologically." (Al-Saggaf and Williamson, 2004) This segregation is of the nature that "does not permit women to mix with unrelated men in Saudi Arabia." (Al-Saggaf and Williamson, 2004) The practice of segregation is stated to be "an institutional mechanism designed to regulate women…" (Al-Saggaf and Williamson, 2004)
The work of El-Solh and Mabro (1994) entitled "Muslim Women Choices" states in regards to women's views on their role in society that there are three reasons why Muslim women find difficulty in adopting the Western model of feminism: (1) Muslim women do not necessarily perceive 'family ties and kinship ties [as] a hindrance to women's liberation'; (2) secondly, there is a resentment of 'the West's identification of "the problem" of Muslim women as a religious problem'; and (3) wages have not necessarily functioned as a liberating force' in the sense advocated by western feminists." It was stated by Fatima Memissi as follows "We Muslim women can walk into the modem world with pride, knowing that the quest for dignity, democracy and human rights, for full participation in the political and social affairs of our country, stems from no imported Western values, but is a true part of the Muslim tradition." (El-Solh and Mabro, 1994) The analysis of Leila Ahmed of how the role of Muslim women and their status has been perceived results in the argument that while Islam, "…similar to Christianity and Judaism, was predicated on a hierarchical social structure, it also preached an ethical message regarding the equality of human beings. 'Arguably, therefore, even as it instituted a sexual hierarchy, it laid the ground, in its ethical voice, for the subversion of the hierarchy." (El-Solh and Mabro, 1994) It is reported that the choices of women in Saudi Arabia may be "relatively limited, while in others they are more varied." (El-Solh and Mabro, 1994) It is stated that in reality "…that even in Muslim societies where the boundaries of their lives are rigidly prescribed, women may wield a modicum of power which enables them in various overt and subtle ways to 'influence factors related to their situation in order to serve clearly defined personal (or family, or community) interests." (El-Solh and Mabro, 1994)
It is revealed by Mrs. K. In this interview that the Western world and its values have trespassed on the Saudi society and that this trespass accomplished in the form of media and communications has changed the previously free and unfettered existence she experienced as a child into a more restricted world.
The work of Sadik J. Al-Azm entitled "Time Out of Joint: Western Dominance, Islamist Terror and the Arab Imagination" states "There is no running away from the fact that the Arabs were dragged kicking and screaming into modernity on the one hand, and that modernity was forced on them by a superior might, efficiency, and performance on the other. Europe made the modern world without consulting Arabs, Muslims, or anyone else for that matter and made it at the expense of everyone else to boot."
Al-Azm states that the contemporary Muslim or Arab "…is so sad and vexed…because…[continue]
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Steps were also taken to organize a stock market in Lahore (Burki, 1999, pp.127-128). Also organized during this period were the Pakistan Industrial and Credit Investment Corporation (PICIC) and the Industrial Development Bank of Pakistan (IDBP), both of which were important to industrial development, obtaining "large amounts of capital from the World Bank, the former for investment in large industries, the latter in relatively smaller enterprises" (Burki, 1999, p. 128). This