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Get Full Essay Get access to this section to get all help you need with your essay and educational issues. Elizabeth Fernea provides an survey of the traditions of an Iraqi village in her book Guests of the Sheik.
Within this book, Fernea explores the element of gender and its impact on the roles of women in Iraq, directly in the village of El Nahra. She also encounters the expectations based on the gender-specific social constructs of polygamous families.
Another woman author, Leila Abouzeid, explores similar elements in the work Return to Childhood, which is based in islamic Morocco. This provides for Guests of the sheik essays interesting perspective about the different roles of men and women in distant eastern cultures.
Abouzeid also comments on family structure from the eyes of a child and how she viewed the role of the woman also within the eastern culture. Even though Fernea and her husband were both well respected westerners, Fernea herself recognized that the role of a female within the Iraqi community would require her to conform to some of the gender-based social norms.
This was evident in her expectations of their first meeting. Fernea is also forced to conform to the dress appropriate for woman, the abayah, to avoid insults and her own self-conscious about how she was being view a woman. Within both communities spoken of these books, there are three elements of life that appear over and over and underscore the gender differences within eastern culture.
These elements are also apparent when Abouzeid recalls the conversation and action of the men in and around her family. The women share not only their husband, but elements of bringing up a child and a concern for the social consistencies displayed by their interactions.
Fadhila, who is a wife of another village member, not the sheik, shares her greatest sorrow in life, her childlessness. Though no determination of her infertility was made, the societal norms pointed the finger at Fadhila as the woman and the bearer of children, rather than at her husband. Even though Fadhila appears in good health and is a vibrant lively individual, her value as a woman and a wife is depleted by her lack of children.
Through Abouzeid memories women are placed in the community,not to go to school and learn but to raise a family. This also can reinforce the understanding that women are not to excel but to be part of and serve their family and desires of their husband.
It is interesting that the members of the harem share a common understanding of the importance of children, but also attempt to dismiss the gravity of the loss of a child, accepting that it occurs within the scope of their child rearing process.
The ceremony and practices surrounding the wedding also demonstrated the differences between western culture and the culture of the Iraqi village and support the belief that women were truly subjugated to their husbands.
After a couple is married, the community shares in the ritual of their consummation and the determination of the girl as a worthy wife for her husband.
As the community waits outside, the husband and wife has sex for the first time, and determine if the girl is a virgin. The family of the groom share in this by celebrating a blood stained sheet following this act, and the community supports the determination made by the groom and his family. When Fernea and her husband Bob were introduced at the home of the sheik, Fernea was ushered into the room with the harem and Bob was taken to away to visit with the men, and at no time during their visit was the couple allowed to share in discourse at the same time.
In essence, there was no way of introducing modern american culture to the sheik without causing offense, and so the couple utilized the knowledge of their worker Mohammed to demonstrate the ways to support both the customs and respect for the sheik.
Even in her own home, Fernea is not allowed to feast with the sheik and her husband, but instead cooks for days and allows the sheik to be served both lunch and desert before she can leave the kitchen for a brief introduction. It is interesting to note that Fernea was not as much impacted by the sheiks remarks, which were directed as inquiries about her father and their structure of her family rather than discourse about herself, but instead by what was not said following the meal.
It is common in american culture for guests and family to compliment the cook, sharing enthusiasm about the dishes prepared at a meal. But this is not the case within the social expectations of the Iraqi culture of this village, and instead, it was believed that the excellence of the food was suggested by what was eaten.
Instead, the empty platters suggested what dishes were enjoyed, and the less successful foods were sent back to the kitchen after the meal.
There was a considerable double-standard within this culture as well as the one described by Abouzeid, and few of the expectations of women were also expected of the men. Instead, the account provided by Fernea, known as Beeja to the women of the harem, demonstrates the way in which ancient cultures have supported the subjugation of women and the differences that are inherently created when comparing these constructs against western culture.
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