Women Too Unstable For Leadership? A Blogging Conversation from the Mid East

One of the benefits of being a part of the blogosphere is getting a ‘fly on the wall’ perspective of other cultures.  One of these perspectives recently caught my eye and has been in the back of my mind since.

One of the bloggers I follow is a young educated woman in the Middle East, whom I believe to be early twenties in age. She is a lovely writer who has written about such things as her impending arranged marriage.  She is accepting of that, and has great respect and confidence in her parent’s decisions made on her behalf.

EqualRIghts allShe recently posted another view in regard to gender equality that said she does not support the idea of equal rights for women, preferring instead the idea of equal respect for both genders.  This certainly piqued my interest.  What did that mean exactly?

I was further intrigued by the number of readers who liked the post, some declaring it her best yet, and other comments that were highly in favor of women knowing where they are meant to be as women. Some congratulated her on her mature and reasoned outlook. Some made me sad about the way they disparaged other women.

The much shortened version of what she said was essentially that men and women are different with equal value, but not equal in strengths such as leadership.  Women are really meant to grow families, and men are meant to rule.  One of her replies to a comment on the post said: “Yes I know some of history’s greatest rulers were women but ruling is an attribute of men because they are more emotionally stable than women”.

I don’t think I have to point out how most of us in our part of the world would react to that statement, nor to any of the comments that followed.

I wrote her for some clarification, offering circumstances where their ideals might not suit all women’s situations.  She said she understood Western ideals and agreed with most of what I had to say, but she was speaking from her own cultural stance and to what is important in her part of the world.  She said she felt the issue for them is not so much about ideas like equal pay, as they are already paid equally there, but more around social interaction like those that use humiliation to coerce and make women feel badly.

I thanked her for explaining herself to me, but I still came away feeling a little uneasy.

I’ve been a self-sufficient woman for the majority of my life, and I have been dependent on a husband for part of the balance. In either case, I firmly believed that I had full and equal rights in all decisions and responsibilities in my home and in all realms of our society.

Along with the power of making one’s own decisions is the burden of responsibility for them, and of any consequences.  I wonder how the idea that women make poor leaders, or whether or not women have ability, is a justifiable statement from a place where one does not yet have full responsibility for decisions. What kind of fear(s) is this based in?

The bottom line is that I believe that making decisions about your own life is the intrinsic point of a ‘right’.  It is a right that belongs to all people. It is all having a voice in all that matters.  Certainly that involves exercising it or giving it away at will.

To hear, and see it supported, especially from young women, that women are not equal to men and to imply they should not have equal rights, is disheartening to me.  Regardless of culture, to have it stated that women are equal in value to men, just not in strengths is puzzling given the amount of history easily attainable. One woman’s ambitions are another woman’s weaknesses?

I hope someday they can compare all the amazing and inspiring women leaders the world has known to all the numbers of men who have failed miserably in the same role and see that it all had nothing to do with gender.  Maybe there will even come a time when they will see that some men make exemplary stay at home parents too.  It’s their ‘right’ to be whatever they feel best suited for; it’s their right to act upon that.

It was very interesting to get a personal glimpse into a part of the world I’ve never been, and to get to be a part of a discussion I might never have had outside of these blogging contacts.

In the end, she and I respectfully agree to disagree.  It’s an enormous conversation and not one that was going to be completely resolved or understood in a few emails. This will be about eventual circumstances and time to see what is to evolve.

I am curious though, about the things they do want to change about their culture.  In particular those things that they said were hurtful to women. Who will pick up the lead on those changes if not themselves?


Referral post:  foodpeopleloveandstuff.wordpress.com/2013/10/12/you-say-equal-rights-i-say-equal-respect/

11 thoughts on “Women Too Unstable For Leadership? A Blogging Conversation from the Mid East

  1. Thanks for your post. I found her perspective very interesting… I think living in the USA’s West Coast I mostly encounter people who share similar views- much like yours on this issue of women’s rights- but you are right- not all women feel this way and that is important to remember even if I don’t agree.


    • Thank you for the read, the comment, and the follow. I have to say it took a little effort to remind myself that what I believe isn’t required to be always taught. We’ll see if things change over time for her. Thanks again.


    • It really does test your reflexes doesn’t it Jaye? I had to keep my eye on the picture of these young women simply growing up with what they’ve been taught in a place so different from mine. I hold out a little hope though, that as the world continually opens up and becomes smaller via our technology, critical eyes may spring up yet.

      Thanks for the comment and the compliment!


  2. Such a calm response! Really, I don’t think it’s a complicated issue at all – those kind of sweeping generalisations are nonsense, no matter who they’re about.

    I too find it absolutely astonishing the number of women I see responding to misogynistic nonsense online with comments welcoming “honesty” and “understanding the differences between the sexes”. I can at least see where that comes from in a Middle Eastern context – if only that were the only place from which those kind of comments originate!

    I admire you for engaging in a positive way with the debate. I do find myself often just clicking off the page in disgust.


    • Thank you so much for your comment. Normally when I read something like that post and it’s comments, I also tend to just move on, especially if these sort of comments are from Western countries that have the benefits of so much knowledge and day to day experience with liberties not afforded the young woman who wrote that post.

      I guess I’m at a point that I can see all the layers of influence over her – from her familial upbringing, to religious and societal expectations ( I see them more as indoctrination seeing as how they aren’t allowed to question them). I realize now how much of a huge wall that is for anyone to question, so I can only hope that we have an opening here and there to start some discussion.

      I also have to say the recent efforts of the women in Saudi to defy the driving ban on them is really uplifting!


  3. Hey Robyn, it’s been a pleasure to read your posts and I’m glad to have found your corner of the blogosphere 🙂
    I agree with you and share your opinion when it comes to women’s rights. I went over to the referred post, and eventhough I do not agree with her, I understand where she’s coming from. I guess that’s because being an Indian woman, living in India, I live among people who sound just like her. So here’s my two cents’ worth 🙂
    In my opinion, the problem faced by women in Indian society is rooted in cultural norms. There is a lot in Indian culture that is beautiful, but some of it encourages a patriarchal society in which a woman is expected to be confined to the roles that are most befitting to her gender. That society underestimates the potential of a woman in her family and in society.
    Upholding culture and tradition (Read:Conforming to traditional standards even if they are detrimental to her achieving her fullest potential as a woman) is respected by many in India. And sadly, some women choose to conform because their society lauds those traditional values they uphold; because it guarantees the support of the society they live in. If conformism receives positive feedback from the majority , the woman might eventually believe the majority is in the right, and then sadly, join them.
    But, I must say that we have seen change for the better. I’m among the lucky few. My life as an Indian female has been as privileged as it would be if I were born a male. We’re baby-stepping towards an India where women are safer, happier and empowered. And that means we can hope for more improvement. So, I hope.


    • HI Sara, thank you so much for this thoughtful and enlightening reply. I’m really happy to hear that you are feeling some movement forward for women. This is especially in the forefront of my mind as only yesterday was International Women’s Day and I was in the middle of the city dancing the dance of the One Billion Rising movement. It was so meaningful to be out with with many others of both genders willing equality in social and justice centres for all women.
      Thank you so much for this visit.


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