The Patriarchal Bargain in a Context of Rapid Changes to Normative Gender Roles: Young Arab Women’s Role Conflict in Qatar
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Social norms in patriarchal countries in the Middle East are changing at differing rates. In Qatar, expectations about education have shifted, and women’s participation in higher education is normative. However, women’s participation in the workforce remains relatively low, and women still are expected to perform all household and child-rearing activities. Interviews with 27 18–25 year-old Qatari women enrolled in college in Qatar are used to illustrate the conflict between norms about education, workforce, and family. Many young women resolve this normative conflict by giving preference to family over work and education. Other women hold conflicting norms and goals for their future without acknowledging the normative conflict. Overall, young women in this sample feared divorce, were uncertain about customary family safety nets, and thus desired financial independence so they would be able to support themselves if they were left alone later in life due to divorce, or the death of their husband. The Qatari government should revisit the appropriateness of continuing to emphasize the patriarchal family structure and socially conservative family norms, if they desire to advance women in their society.
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