The Arab World’s Silent Feminist Revolution
MADRID – Arab societies often appear rigid and resistant to change to outsiders, because what they see is these countries’ ruling regimes, which mostly do resist development and change. But this image is nearly the opposite of reality in Arab societies, where enormous dynamism is opening doors to many types of change, albeit at different speeds and in complex, contradictory ways – particularly when change from below is held back from above.
Consider Arab women. The predominant image is of a passive, exotic, and veiled victim-woman who reacts to events instead of actively participating in them. She is an impersonal object of communal stereotypes that sustain cultural prejudices.
In fact, Arab societies are engaged in a process of immense and irreversible change in which women are playing a crucial role. During the last half-century, intense urbanization and feminization of the workforce in all Arab countries has propelled women into the public arena on a massive scale.