How The Middle Eastern Culture Can Be Toxic

By: Rhonda Nemri

Now I know some people will take this to offense, and say “how could you say this?” Or that I am not prideful of my culture. If that’s your first instinct about this, then you’ve already proven my title. However, there are many ways in the Arab culture that people depend on because it is “safe”, and a better excuse for getting away with their hostile behavior. I will explain what “culture” does to people, and how it affects our society; mainly the Arab community. The list will predominately focus on the Arab/Middle Eastern Culture, but can relate to the general idea of culture.

1. Culture is established by a group of people’s norms, and their own perceptions of life, and something that usually sticks with them for a lifetime.
2. Culture brings people together, and creates traditions that can be passed on to generations.
3. Culture allows you to identify with a group/race.
4. Culture is something good, but when taken too far, it can actually create toxicity among family, friends, co-workers, etc.
5. Saying “this is how it is supposed to be” is based off of what someone created to be the norm. Therefore basing everything you do in your life a norm that you only live by because someone else told you this is how it is supposed to be.
6. Culture makes people become hostile towards those who do not fully abide or engage in cultural norms.
7. Culture puts a timeframe for when to be married, when to have children, and requirements on whom you should be with/shouldn’t be with.
8. Culture creates an identity crisis. Arab/Middle Eastern culture versus other cultures can cause one to conflict between being authentic versus being what someone else wants.
9. Culture creates a sense of fear for living authentically. The constant thought that people are monitoring your behavior, and being worried of what other people think of you.
10. Culture makes people believe that because specific norms have been around for so long, that they are correct or acceptable.
11. Culture has created strict tendencies and traditions that have been the cause for separating family units, or has hindered the quality of life.
12. Culture has repeatedly made women to be the lesser equal. Invoking certain lifestyles, do this and don’t do that, limiting career opportunities, etc. As well as creating standards for men to be and act a certain way to appear masculine.
13. Culture for Middle Easterners has been a reciprocated understanding between several religious faiths. (Examples: Christians/Catholics and Muslims). Thus prohibiting many ideas, and new values from different men and women.
14. Culture does not allow mistakes, because your reputation is a representation of your family, and is always accounted for. If you make mistakes, then the people in your family also live through repercussions. People then bad mouth, or speak badly about each other.
15. Culture makes religious people focus more on cultural values, than religious values. This can be detrimental for those who try to live through their religion as Godly-like beings.
16. Lastly, Culture would be something great if people allowed each other to live freely, and not have to live for other people.

Final thoughts:

If we would see the negativity of our culture and become more positive we would be happy individuals. Stop paying attention to other people, and grow as an individual. Making someone suffer because of what you think is right, does not make you right. It’s bad enough we have to live to see the Middle East falling apart because of control, power, and greed. So why do this to the people who you call your family, friend, acquaintance, or someone you vaguely know. Give each other a chance to live life, and a chance to know them before you let culture dictate your every move in your life. Culture is important to have, but not to make you hostile towards humans.


Communication Strategies for Equality: A Discussion on Middle Eastern Women Lacking Education and Career Paths

By: Rhonda Nemri

When it comes to education, some of us are sure with what we want to do after receiving a college degree; others are left wondering what the future holds. Even though most of our destiny is not fully understood, we still have some sort of direction of where we would like to be. However, some women are put in a place where education comes easy to them, but the aftermath of receiving the degree becomes a complicating matter. In many parts of the world, many people lack educational backgrounds due to societal roles, or not having the ability to afford such opportunities.

Women who hold some type of familial values tend to cater to the needs of their conditioned beliefs, and expected destiny. The women I speak of are Middle Eastern women, who tend to include themselves in educational experiences, yet find it hard to include themselves in a career path based off of many cultural norms that do not allow them to explore, and work in such industries such as math, science, medical, communication, and other fields. While being an educator and a Middle Eastern woman, I too found it hard to choose a career path, based off of family, and cultural expectations for me. I will discuss (1) The issues Middle Eastern women experience when it comes to education, and career paths, (2) my experiences highlighted through my lens as a Middle Eastern woman, (3) strategies for women to take part in education, and careers, and finally (4) offer some conclusions about this topic.

The Issues Middle Eastern Women Experience with Education and Career Paths

The question that I tend to ask myself is why are there many Middle Eastern women in the classrooms at universities, yet not many in the field they choose to study? There are many reasoning’s behind why a person chooses certain things for their lives. However, the main answer I can accumulate for this specific question is the cultural influence, and strict traditions the Middle Eastern culture tends to have on women versus men. The idea of women in this culture comes down to specific roles that she must acquire throughout her life. The main ones are marriage, children, and house duties. Her duties as a young lady are to learn these basic norms, and use it as a reminder of how to be successful as a woman. Even though there are many women who choose to have careers over this type of lifestyle, they are still eventually expected to fulfill these main roles as a woman in their life.

Women’s status in the Middle East has been one of those controversial matters that one cannot seem to understand what is essential to fix. In the Middle East there are different laws that are posed that show more leniency for men to do whatever they want. Nevertheless, for women this does not come easy for them, because she is to maintain a flawless image. Very few Middle Eastern Women get jobs once they receive their cap and gown. “In Lebanon 54 percent of university students are women, but only 26 percent of the labor force and 8 percent of legislators, senior officials, and managers are female” (Baker, 2012). “Sixty-three percent of Qatar’s university population is comprised of women, but ladies make up just 12 percent of the labor force and only 17 percent of legislators, senior officials and managers” (Baker, 2012). “But in Jordan, enrolment is excellent at 86 percent – however, girls drop out in secondary school because of early marriage” (Faisal, 2003).

Women in the United States who come from different countries become International Students, and have similar ways from the Middle East. Most of them come to the United States to receive a different atmosphere of education, however these women move back to their country, and get married once receiving their degree. Some women are already married, and attend a university with their spouse, and are expected to have a similar major as their spouse; taking similar classes together. Once their degree is received she is more socialized in the home, than in a career path.

As the influence of culture begins to rein on options, women in different parts of the Middle East have been given privileges to work in specific fields, or take part in political action. “Egypt has recently granted women the right to divorce their husband, in Tunisia abortion is legal, and polygamy is prohibited” (bakerl, 2012). “Women have served as ministers in the Syrian, Jordanian, Egyptian, Iraqi, and Tunisian governments and as Vice President in Iran” (Baker, 2012). With all of these different opportunities given to women in the Middle East, there are still conservative, and extremist interpretations of religious laws, that have kept women from even stepping foot into the workforce (AbuKhalil, 2005). These laws and prohibitions on women, have led women to believe there is no purpose for her to fight for her right to achieve such goals and aspirations, because religious laws, and governmental laws perpetuates the stereotypical notion that women stay home, and men are the breadwinners of the family. “While women do have a luxury of attending college, men who are traditionally expected to be family breadwinners can’t afford to devote time to their studies” (Jezebel, 2012).

The problem arising in these situations, are that women are negating their true identities, and becoming the stereotypical weak-minded individual that is expected from them. They fear exploring their own lives and finding different paths that will benefit their social skills, and opportunities to be in the workforce. Philip Rushworth (2013) states:

Feminist activism in the Middle East is prey to two shared ideological discourses. On the one hand, scholars in the West have in the past denied the possibility of an indigenous feminism in the Middle East. At the same time, conservatives and others in the Middle East argue that feminism is anathema to the region, considering it an importation of Western and colonial ideas. These two discourses feed on another, denying women in the Middle East their agency while simultaneously asserting that feminism belongs solely to the West. (p. 8)

According to the Population Reference Bureau (2000) 42 percent of women in the Middle East and North Africa are illiterate, compared to 22 percent of men who are illiterate. About 73 percent of men enter the labor force, and 20 percent of women who are in the labor force (Population Reference Bureau, 2000). As we can see there are women who are educated, but the idea of working is a problem for women. There is gender discrimination that comes into place against women. Family laws, or civil codes usually requires women to get “permission from their male relatives, usually a husband or father, before seeking employment, requesting loans, starting a business, or traveling” (Population Reference Bureau, 2000).

“Even in the 1990s there was a big gender gap in education. However there’s a paradox that we have a lot of women getting higher education and they are still too absent from the workforce and politics” (as stated in Davies, 2012). So why do women go to school, and do not work afterwards? As education is an important factor for growth, it has becomes a reason for socialization, and friendships to be made. They meet their girlfriends there, or future husband. It allows them to explore opportunities, but at a minimum.

In Iraq, women have been forced to leave their jobs, and dismiss ever being involved in academics, or careers. “Women have also been prohibited by Shia militias from teaching other women. The threat has become real after two teachers – one in the mostly Shia Sadr City district and one in Kadhmiyah neighborhood – were killed after giving lessons to illiterate women near their homes” (Humanitarian News and Analysis, 2007). Khalid Hassan (2007), a Mahdi Army officer in Muthana Governorate quoted, “girls and women don’t need to read. They should be good mothers and housewives. The schools are just imbuing them with new and modern ideas that are inconsistent with Muslim women’s duties”. There are pressures that Jordanian women go through that keep them in a small social environment. “While growing number of Jordanian families—even low income ones—are buying cars, usually it’s the husbands who takes the car to work, leaving women stranded at home. When a woman dares to take a bus, she faces sexual harassment…which then restricts her movement” (Guarnieri, 2013, p. 3). So the thought of being educated, or career oriented for these women begin to be questioned, and becomes impossible in their mind. “Family matters in countries as diverse as Iran, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia are governed by religion-based personal status codes. Many of these laws treat women essentially as legal minors under the eternal guardianship of their male family members” (ListVerse, 2008). Family and citizenship laws throughout the region demote women to an inferior rank paralleled to their male counterparts. This is something that is apparent overseas, and currently in the U.S. Middle Eastern families. “This legal discrimination undermines women’s full personhood and equal participation in society and puts women at an increased risk for violence” (ListVerse, 2008).

Middle Eastern women create these boundaries for themselves as well. They do not engage in dialogue with other cultures, do not speak up in the classrooms, and are not aggressive in social situations with their peers, or professors when it comes to academic and career opportunities. These reasoning’s are quite understandable, given the idea that they have been conditioned to feel, and act this way. Then there are young women, who are born and raised in the United States, which really are different than women from the country side. Women in the U.S. are free to choose what they want; however, there are still restrictions and expectations from them.

A lot more young Arab women are expected to be in various fields which predominately deal with the medical field, or mathematics fields. It is hardly perceived that young Middle Eastern women engage themselves in a college career dealing with communication or creative arts. Perhaps the reasoning behind this is the idea that women are taught to not be very expressive, or speak up. This brings me to discuss my own experiences in the classroom, and as an educator in the communication field.

Experiences Highlighted as a Student and Educator in the Communication Field.

Being in a field that allows one to explore new ideas and enhance my social skills, has been one of the most pleasant experiences. However, before becoming an educator, I had my previous perceptions of how to act in the classroom as a young Middle Eastern woman. A few years ago in 2004, when I first entered a college classroom, I still had my notions that I should not really speak up during class discussions, or be the social type. This is mainly due to the way I was brought up, and how a young lady should carry herself in public. I definitely had to hold my comments, and bite my tongue, because I was trying to avoid saying something inappropriate. This method of social skills still stood with me through most of my college experience.

Firstly, being in the communication field was questioned by others. They had no idea what field that was, and they didn’t know what kind of job I would be working in. Most of the time fields such as biology, math, or medical fields were accepted among Arabs. I chose a different route, and engaged more and more in the communication field. I was able to understand how much more interaction I needed to have, in order to succeed. What the communication field did for me is something I probably wouldn’t have learned in any other field. It taught me to speak up, and to rationalize my thoughts, and voice my opinions the way I wanted. This is something that many young women like me do not experience, because they are afraid of reaching out, and learning something such as communication studies. It isn’t that they can’t do it; it is because they are afraid to do it.

Speaking in front of large crowds, or even small crowds becomes a hassle, because women like me should be more reserved in my language choices, and seem more passive aggressive in situations. I have learned to still be reserved in certain situations, and I have not let loose completely. However, indulging into rhetorical theories, and interpersonal theories, has taught me how to be ambitious, and speak up in times I wouldn’t have spoken up.

Being an educator in this field is a bit different than being a student. I am a different person when I stand in front of the classroom, compared to family, and certain friends. I feel this sense of empowerment, and allowing my students to see who I have longed to be. However, I have experienced some Middle Eastern women in the classroom, who are very compassionate, and reserved. It has been apparent to me that these Middle Eastern women come from the Middle East, and are extremely timid in the classroom, but have very good writing skills. Their ability to express themselves is more on paper, rather than in person. They are reserved because of cultural reasoning’s, which really limits their interaction with people they do not know, or male counterparts.

Taking an introductory level speech course, and being new to the United States is a challenging experience for many international students. However, when women are in these groups, they are usually distant, and when they speak it is hard to hear them because they are afraid of saying something wrong. This method of communication that these women use remove them from decision making methods during group projects, deny authoritative roles, or do not give any input or suggestions to others. This will then affect their behavior in the work industry, if they do not allow themselves to integrate in a working environment. I have never dealt with an Arab woman who wasn’t international, however, I am sure that more (not all) do not like to be engaged in more communication, and creative arts sects. The Arab men that I have dealt with are opposite, and become more dominant with education, and sharing comments. However, this isn’t always the case given the fact that having English as a second language is a barrier for some. But there is definitely a difference between the way men socialize, and the way women socialize.

Experiencing the communication and creative arts department more in-depth has helped in many aspects. It has helped me tremendously when interviewing others, job interviews, professional portfolios that highlight my work experience such as, teaching, public relations, writing and editing, and public speaking. Being an Arab woman, has been a struggle to try to be all this because there are set traditions I must fulfill such as marriage, and family. However, I have been able to move past that to make me a better person. So since I have done this, and have gained success, I will now offer some strategies and solutions to how women like me, whether from the Middle East or from the United States.

Strategies to Help Middle Eastern Women Progress in Education and Career

The point of these strategies is not for women to rebel their culture, but to slowly integrate themselves in courses that will allow them to have a different perspective on education and careers. There are many Middle Eastern feminist groups that fight for these women’s rights; however the conspiracy of silence has left women in a position to not speak up when they see something wrong. Middle East versus the U.S. should be given different strategies, because the Middle East population has stricter policies, and prohibit womenfeminism_definition from engaging in social settings, even if it is education. The improvement of certain areas in the Middle East that deal with women and education has changed. But there are still women who are left alone, and not given any attention. Women first need to accept the fact that they are useful in academia, and labor force.

If women continue to believe they are useless in these types of situations, then they will have their mind set on the stereotypical ways women should be treated. Middle Eastern women’s liberation is quite harder than most liberation movements, because the government holds these strict laws and codes that prohibit women from working, and being more socialized in the labor force. This should not just be a Middle East problem. Feminist Movements and Human Rights Organizations need to consider this specific issue as a human issue, rather than a cultural issue. As an Arab American feminist I find it difficult to reach out to certain Arab women, who deny or resist taking action to become educated because they are afraid of the consequences of speaking up. From a financial standpoint, women who are educated and work, allow for a second income in the household, which could be a benefit for them.

Women who reside in the United States find it a bit easier to take on different roles, and become independent. However, their voice is not fully heard. These young Arab women need to include themselves in more communication, and creative arts. This will enhance their social skills, become more determined to be successful, engage in public speaking with confidence, and articulate better in more oral and written situations. This is not to say they are not intelligent, it is to allow them to be more open-minded about making a difference in their lives, and to help other Arab women, who find it a struggle to be educated.

I am beginning to notice a lot of women who participate in social movements, such as protesting for their right to achieve and be successful, similarly to a man. These ways will help women become more liberated. The following strategies listed are suggestions women can take, in order to find better ways to be successful, rather than see success as just marriage and family.


1. Women need to start a dialogue with other women in their position, to begin to feel more comfortable stating their issues, so that they can hear it at loud, instead of holding it in. They need to come to terms with their issues such as gender inequalities, and not deny that there is a problem.

2. Arab families need to be exposed to more educational and career opportunities for women. They need to understand that these opportunities create a quality of life for women, and not the exaggerated assumption, that they will be more Westernized, and lose their values in the process of educating themselves.

3. Women need to get more involved in politics, whether local or national. The more they understand what is happening in their country and other countries, the more they will communicate to others about the issues happening. This opens a lot of doors for them to be educated in various issues that matter to them.

4. If women are in educational settings, they need to take more communication, history, and cultural courses that help them become more diverse in their thinking skills. They shouldn’t drop their field of choice, but to explore different departments, and have a broad perception of different studies.

5. If women are in educational settings, they need to join or attend university meetings for various organizations. This could be their student government organization, women organizations, religious organizations, or department organizations. This will help them network better with people similar to them, and allows them to have a broader perspective on communication. Along with university meetings, they can attend community meetings about the economic and political standings of their community. They can be more active, and approach situations differently.

6. Young Arab women, who do engage themselves in the communication and creative arts programs at their universities, need to pave the way, and inform women in their family, friends, and other peers about the benefits of these programs to their lives. We need to be able to make an awareness of the different opportunities for success, rather than hold it in to ourselves.

7. Married individuals who are having trouble accepting new traditions need to begin to dialogue about different needs, and wants. If couples are able to discuss future plans dealing with education, and careers, this will open the door for them to understand what needs to be done. Women need to talk to their husbands about their future in education, and have a set plan about what they want to gain from being educated. If women continue to see themselves as weak, and uneducated, then they will not have any confidence in speaking up.

8. Women should remove themselves from any situation that brings their value down. They need to surround themselves around positive people, who do not consistently tell them how to act and who to be. The more they are around successful women, the more they will want to strive to be successful.

9. If women find it hard to find ways to do all of these, perhaps using technology such as computers, smartphones, or local newspapers to find out more about current issues. If having technology is accessible, then they can allow themselves to read, and write more frequently. This will also help them become more open-minded to being successful the right way.

10. If women are having trouble finding ways to explore, then Feminist movements, and educators from all over the world need to see this as a problem that needs to be taken care of step by step. Using educational tools and techniques can help these women better themselves. Women like me should teach them, and get more involved, by exposing them to a better lifestyle, rather than see themselves as invaluable.

11. Middle Eastern men need to understand the value of women in this culture. There also needs to be educational tools to help men accept the idea of women becoming educated, and working in a field of their choice. Men need to learn to dismiss the idea, that women are inferior to them. Even though not all men behave this way, they can be the ones who support women rights movements, and create a positive outcome for women in education, and the labor force. They too, are part of the issue, and can be part of the solution as well.


This discussion on the issues of women who are from the Middle East, or are Middle Eastern is an issue that needs to be solved. There are many different social movements who bring up the question of women who are not educated. Even though many countries, including the United States deal with gender discrimination within universities, and workplace, there are women who are not given the same opportunity at all to even become educated or work. This does not mean their issues are more prominent, but it does mean that we cannot ignore the rights of these human beings, who deserve a chance at success. There is also the issue that people think because it is “cultural” norms, that we as Americans do not have the right to help alter the perceptions of these individuals, because it is none of our business. However, these should be natural human rights that women should attain. Let us not look at this issue, and count it off as an irrelevance to us. There are many global issues that arise in many different parts of the world; however, I find education to be something very valuable, that it would be a shame to dismiss it as important.

I have met many women in my life, who tell me they can’t because they have kids, or they can’t because they have marriage duties, or they can’t because their father does not accept it. I have come across many instances in my life where I was told I could not do something because I am a woman. As a Master’s degree recipient from the communication and creative department, I realized that it is definitely not impossible to achieve, because I have built a plan for myself, and did not allow others to intrude on my educational background, and work experience. It was hard for me at first to accept diversity, because I always assumed my culture is the only thing I can go by. Meeting people and networking with others who are different than me, has taught me a great value. It has also allowed me to articulate, and write well about subjects that I am interested in. It allowed me to be a more socialized person in different settings.

Being an Arab feminist is also not an easy thing for people to see. Conversely, because of education, and working with others, it has allowed me to verify myself as a feminist with no doubts. Being a feminist, has also allowed me to venture out, and find ways to give the voiceless a voice. I am glad to say that my academic ventures and career choices have influences my younger sisters, and various female cousins to want to be successful in either academia, or career wise. I hope to make a difference in something so dear to me, by allowing myself to engage with other women, and become an advocate for their well-being. This is something I have been working on, and doing for the past year, and will continue.


AbuKhalil, A. (2005). Women in the Middle East. Retrieved from

Baker, K. (2012). Why aren’t educated Middle Eastern women joining the workforce? JEZEBEL. Retrieved from

Davies, C. (2012). Mideast women beat men in education, lose out at work. CNN. Retrieved from

Faisal, S. (2003). Muslim girls struggle for education. BBC News. Retrieved from

Guarneieri, M. (2013). Women and the Middle East part II: Jordan- on gender education and the limits of the western imagination. Retrieved from

Hassan, K. (2007). Iraq: Women forced to give up their jobs, marriages.Retrieved from

Humanitarian News and Analysis. (2007). Iraq: Women forced to give up their jobs, marriages. Retrieved from

ListVerse. (2008). 10 extreme examples of gender inequality. Retrieved from

Population Reference Bureau. (2003). Empowering women, developing society: Female education in the Middle East and North Africa. Retrieved from

Rushworth, P. (2013). Women in the Middle East. Retrieved from


Feministtalk Celebrates One Year Anniversary of Publication: Middle Eastern Women Making A Difference

By: Rhonda Nemri

Achievement is one of the things that stick with us for a very long time. We strive to be successful, and be seen as successful. Being a Middle Eastern woman who is educated with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, receiving my Master’s of Arts degree in Communication (focusing in Women’s Rhetoric and Rhetoric) in May of 2013, and Teaching Fundamentals of Speech Communication at Purdue University Calumet, has opened my insight on what it means to be successful. Teaching a communication course for the past three years, has opened my eyes to how important it is to work hard, and how easy it is to lose focus. I have dealt with many students of many different backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions. Having this diversity has helped me grow as an individual, and have an open-mind about embracing the differences around us.

Rhonda Nemri

Rhonda Nemri

I am proud to announce that I have been given the 2012-2013 Teacher of the Year Award. Which I will be thankfully receiving in April.

Being a Middle Eastern woman can be challenging at times inside the classroom, and outside of the classroom. However, I know that the obstacles that I go through as a young Middle Eastern woman, has made me want to strive to be successful, and empowering.

I have done numerous research on the treatment/mistreatment of women in many different cultures. I mainly focus on the Middle Eastern culture, and historical background to help me as a credible scholar. There are many double-standards in society that prevent women from trying to succeed. This then creates the stigma of how we should portray ourselves. Feminist theory, and research has enhanced my knowledge on feminists/cultural issues, helps open the internal, and external issues of myself, along with trying to help women like me see their strengths. It is not easy for some women to be heard, and express themselves. Articulation is one of the many things I try to achieve, and I believe education is key in a woman’s life. Many women see the difficulties of trying to become educated, or successful because of the social construction of roles. Women tend to be seen as the future wife, future mother, and future house wife. These roles are not wrong, however this is not the only thing women can do in their lives to be seen as successful. Education can be empowering, and it has empowered me. As a college educator I saw many women (in any culture) struggle with trying to stick out, or be seen as a powerful entity in the classroom. I root for those young women from all over to find their niche, and to strive to do things that makes them happy. I hope that young girls, and women see that they can do things other than being what others expect from them. My goal is to continue to teach, and empower women like myself to see their worth, and their strengths. I hope to achieve giving the voiceless a voice, and breaking the conspiracy of silence, when it comes to women who are afraid to speak up, due to family values, and morals.

I have the pleasure of knowing some of the greatest, and successful Middle Eastern women. I encourage women to be in the medical field, psychology field, communication field, teaching field, science feilds, performance arts field, etc. Women need to see that there are not limited job options for them. That they can be in male-dominated fields as well, because they do have an input, and strength to be in those field.

I would like to introduce to you the three women that have made an impact in society through their educational backgrounds, and careers. I will provide you some background information on each of these young Middle Eastern women. This also is the one year anniversary of FeministTalk. I hope to enlighten my readers with more topics to discuss. Congratulations ladies on your success, keep up your enthusiasm being successful, young Middle Eastern women. You are inspiring to me and other women.

Diana Hegazin

Diana Hegazin

Where are your from? 

I am a Chicago born native and originally of Jordanian decent.

Age? 25

What is your educational background?

I have a B.S. in Biology with a B.A. in Chemistry and Biochemistry from Lewis University.  I am currently in my last year of pharmacy school at Chicago State University

What do you do now? For how long?

I am a 4th year pharmacy student and I have been a pharmacy intern for Walgreens Pharmacy since 2008.

What are your goals for your career?

I hope to pursue a residency in clinical pharmacy and specialize in critical care. Eventually, I plan on completing my MBA and obtaining a position within the management of inpatient pharmacy.

What has been the toughest obstacle for you when trying to have a career, and being a Arab woman? Explain briefly.

The toughest obstacle has been being able to go after a long-term goal knowing the expectation that I should be married and having a family concurrently. With my goals and expectations for myself being set so high, it has been an internal battle for me as to how I can balance both while not compromising too much of my career aspirations.

What obstacles do you still face as a Middle Eastern woman?

I feel like the race has become much more accepting and progressive with education for women. However, there is always a stigma with women who don’t fit the traditional role by a certain age. It has been a struggle for me to be able to ignore those judgments and focus on what is truly important in my life.

How has education helped you shape your identity?

My education and clinical training has allowed me to grow more confident in myself as a provider to others. I am able to see my worth in the field to others and I was able to recognize my personal and professional strengths and weaknesses. I affiliate with other medical professionals and have shaped myself within that niche.

What is one thing you would tell young girls/women when it comes to education, and having a career?

My advice would be to thoroughly explore yourself first. It is crucial to make your decisions for yourself as well as take others into consideration. However, it is ultimately your mind and your career. Make sure you are knowledgeable and aware of the long-term benefits, downfalls and opportunities that you create for yourself with the completion of your training. Your hard work, persistence and dedication will definitely pay.

Where are your from? 

Chicagoland suburbs, Lansing and Jordan

Age? 24

What is your educational background?

Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education from the University of
Illinois at Chicago; with endorsements in Middle School,
English/Language Arts, and ESL/ELL Education.

What do you do now? For how long?

I am currently an ESL/ELL teacher for 2nd and 3rd graders. I have had
this position for 3 months.

What are your goals for your career?

Now that I have achieved one of my goals of getting a full-time
teaching job, I plan to gain some experience in the classroom for a
few years then go back to school to get my masters in elementary
education or ESL/ELL education.

What has been the toughest obstacle for you when trying to have a career, and being a Arab woman? Explain briefly.

The toughest obstacle now that I have started my career is the
pressure to get married and start a family. My family has been
extremely supportive and encouraging throughout my years of education
because they understand the importance of a college degree and a
career. They have also been supportive with my job search. Now that I
have begun my career, I feel that there is an automatic need for me to
start the next step in life, which is marriage. This is especially
true since I am an Arab woman. Since I have, literally, just started
my career, I would love to take time to enjoy and experience it
without needing to worry about the next big step in life so soon.
Unfortunately, in our culture, that idea is not very welcomed because
we have this imaginary expiration date which increases the pressure
even more.

How has education helped you shape your identity?

Education has definitely shaped who I am today. I have learned many
life lessons and experienced things that I know I would not have been
able to if I did not complete my education. As a college graduate, I
have been able to achieve something that many Arab woman are never
able to do and that is something I value.

What is one thing you would tell young girls/women when it comes to education, and having a career?

I tell my younger girl cousins all the time that they would be making
the biggest mistake if they decide to not continue their education
after high school. It is one thing to have a job at the mall or at a
restaurant, but when you begin your career and are working in a field
you’ve spent years studying, it makes it all worth it. There is a
sense of personal value that automatically increases. You become part
of a population that people dream of being in. No matter how hard it
may be, how long it takes, or how many obstacles come in the way, keep
your eye on the finish line because once you get there all the
struggles and stress becomes a blur. Do not let something like gender
or culture stand in your way of reaching your full potential.

Dina Nemri

Where are your from? 

I am Jordanian-American, born and raised in Chicago.

Age? 24

What is your educational background?

I have a bachelor of science in biotechnology and minor studies in psychology, from Purdue University Calumet.

What do you do now? For how long?

I work as a quality assurance analyst. Company is based on food manufacturing and I ensure safe and quality food. I’ve been doing this for about 1.5 years.

What are your goals for your career?

My goals for my career is to advance to a position that highlights my strengths and allows me to utilize my full potential. I would like to gain more experience and conduct research in my field. I hope to further my education as well, so that I may launch myself into a career that is more advanced.

What has been the toughest obstacle for you when trying to have a career, and being a Arab woman? Explain briefly.

As an Arab woman trying to have a career, I feel very limited. There are so many opportunities out there to better myself and my craft, but not being able to reach out to those places has kept me within limits. I desire the freedom to make my own decisions and not be judged for them, wherever they take me. I aspire to travel and communicate with all different types of people without thinking twice about how others will perceive me for doing so

What obstacles do you still face as a Middle Eastern woman?

I face being judged for just about anything; from the clothes that I wear to the people who I choose to be friends with. It is difficult to form bonds with people and experience new things on my own when others make decisions for me. I often become consumed with desires to be able to do things that everyone else can. It creates a caged feeling.

How has education helped you shape your identity?

Education has empowered me. It has given me an unshakeable foundation. I draw my confidence and self-esteem from countless years spent in formal schooling. It has given me the necessary tools to become the person I want to be.

What is one thing you would tell young girls/women when it comes to education, and having a career?

I would tell them that anything is possible. Anything can be achieved. Nothing is too out of reach and no one can take anything from you. I would tell them to not be afraid of taking risks and doing what it is that makes you happy.

‘Hello My Name Is Bride’: An Analysis of Weddings, Gender Roles, and Marriage

By: Rhonda Nemri

In our society today, we focus on the many things that seem important to us. One main thing that most people see as a natural process during life is marriage. Even though the marriage process is different now than ever before, we still have some historical background as to why we do the things we do, and how significant or insignificant it is when getting ready to become a married couple. As a young woman who has grown up in a Middle Eastern culture, marriage is one of (or supposed to be) the most important aspects of a woman’s life.

With the many reality televisions shows, books, and magazines, wedding planning has become a significant role for some women who plan on being married. During a graduate course that I took a couple of years back, I was involved in a research project that tailored around reality television shows such as Bridalplasty on E Network and David Tutera’s My Fair Wedding. These shows represented the many reasons why weddings have become so popular. My Fair Wedding focused on changing women’s own wedding plans into

My Fair Wedding With David Tutera

David Tutera’s vision, because her ideas were impractical to begin with, and not up to the expectations of what a perfect wedding should look like. Those women who have applied to become a part of this reality television show have agreed to let go any plans they initially had, and give up any right to say what color schemes to have, wedding themes, bridal gowns, reception hall, and bridesmaid dresses. All of this is done in order to capture a perfect wedding through the lens of a man, who seems to be popular in his career path, and one who knows more about style, and the perfect wedding. Bridalplasty focused more on altering women’s body or face so that she becomes the perfect bride. Women on a weekly basis in this show competed for a closer opportunity to get the whole package of getting plastic surgery done on her body and face before the wedding. Although this show doesn’t exist anymore because of the damage it was doing to the E network, these are the common things we see women doing when wanting to fit into their “perfect dress”, and have the princess-like fairytale wedding. After completing the rhetorical analysis and research for

Allyson’s Wish List on Bridalplasty

these shows, I have not stopped examining and looking into the wedding process and how it has changed our social lives and societal roles when it comes to weddings and marriage. In this discussion I will focus on the historical background of marriage and weddings, and how society views women and men when it comes to marriage through my feminist lens.

Historical Background of Weddings

Understanding the historical wedding traditions is something one must consider giving the fact we still practice the same views and traditional values from centuries ago. According to Simone de Beauvoir, “Modern marriage can be understood only in the light of a past that it tends to perpetuate in part” (De Beauvoir 426). Here are some things that we commonly do for weddings (These are things that I pulled from my research with my good friend/colleague Lisa Glancy (She does analysis’ on Women’s Rhetoric, and General Rhetorical Analysis’):

  •  1. During Ancient weddings couples that were to be married was not important event. Men would visit different villages to capture a woman to marry. “Wives were desired for sexual release, procreation, and household labor.” (Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding). Women were often exchanged for cash or livestock for thousands of years.
  • 2. Early weddings in America were often private affairs within the families. They were held at home either at the bride’s house or the grooms (Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding).
  • 3. By the 1820s and 1830s upper class weddings began to evolve and became recognizably the modern American wedding. These weddings had dinner, cake, receptions, and a toast to the bride and groom (Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding).
  • 4. The phrase “Let’s Tie the Knot” or Let’s Get Hitched” is western slang about ‘hitchin’ up yer gal like a horse (The History of Wedding Traditions).  This term hitching was a process used for tying up horses.
  • 5. Bouquets and Flower Girls were symbolic meanings for the couple’s future life. Originally brides would carry wreathes and bouquets that were made up of herbs ( Garlic was used to cast devil spirits, sage was used to bring wisdom, and dill meant that the bride was to become lusty ( Flower Girls held sheaves of wheat that represented “growth, fertility, and renewal” (Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding).
  • 6. Giving away the Bride symbolically means that the father gives her away to represent that she is no longer belonging (property) to her father. Also representing the price the groom will have to pay before taking away their daughter (Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding).
  • 7. Shoes tied on the back bumper this symbolizes authority and possession because the brides shoes is taken away from her when led to the wedding place, and given to the groom by her father. This transfer means that her husband is now in possession of her and could not run away (Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding).
  • 8. Veils represent virginity, innocence, and modesty. Also in Middle Eastern and Asian countries women were to wear veils so that their groom does not see them.
  • 9. Wedding dresses in biblical times were the color blue which represented purity not white. White wedding dresses became popular in the middle ages by Anne of Brittany in 1499 (Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding).
  • 10. Wedding rings in medieval times had the brides three fingers bound to represent the father, the son, and Holy Spirit. (Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding). Wedding rings came from the idea that women were wrapped around in chains and ropes, to ensure her spirits do not leave her (Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding).
  • 11. Bridal Showers rooted back in Holland. If the father did not approve of her husband-to-be, he would not give her a dowry. Therefore her friends will then shower her with gift to replace her father’s dowry. The bride will then be able to still marry the man of her choice.

Marriage through My Feminist Lens

For a while now, the thought of marriage has been roaming through my head. It isn’t the fact that I am not married yet; it is the fact that women have taken marriage to a different level. I shouldn’t just state that only women are like this, it is all genders, cultural backgrounds, and different generations. Looking at the historical backgrounds of each traditional aspect, as a society today, we have definitely taken those traditions and have expanded on things that are not really necessary, or valuable to us. I am not one who is opposed to marriage, because I want to be married someday, however as I fully get exposed to the marriage process, I have come to the realization that a lot of these traditions are non-sense, and take away from the actual reasoning of marriage.

When looking at the traditions such as giving away the daughter from one man to the other, this is quite present in our society today. We can notice that we hardly ever see the mother playing as one of the major roles in giving her daughter away. Some have stated that they have involved their mothers in the wedding planning, but we can also state that the father is ultimately the one that gives his daughter’s hand away. It is also a symbolism that the father (patriarchy) will pass off his daughter to the next patriarchy in her life (her husband). According to Simone De Beauvoir, “what bourgeois optimism has to offer to the engaged girl is certainly not love; the bright ideal held up to her is that of happiness, which means the ideal of quiet equilibrium in a life of immanence and repetition” (De Beauvoir 447). In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir described marriage as an “obscene bourgeois institution” (Wolf). Women inessential and man is essential. Women are the other whereas man is the absolute. “All love requires the duality of a subject and an object” (De Beauvoir 629). A woman is seen as just the other in the relationship. The subject of her life is her man, her husband, and her soul mate.

Men and women are placed as the subject/object when they form a union. It is not commonly based on love, however based on the economic decisions that the couple makes. People get married because this is society’s expectations. Often times women will escape their father and mothers household to become free, yet she is not really free once married. She will take on the roles of wife and mother, by cooking and cleaning, and taking care of her children and husband. “Marriages, then, are not generally founded upon love…the husband is, so to speak, never more than a substitute for the beloved man, not that man himself” (De Beauvoir 434). Even though some men don’t view themselves as domineering or taking control of the marriage, the socially constructed norms of how a marriage should be is that the man is always the “man of the house”, and the women negates herself for her man so that he can feel whole (hence women stay home cook, clean, and raise the children). I can see a lot of people being open-minded about marriage these days, but I feel that what happens before the marriage is what intrigues me as well.

Since women are commonly seen as the other, she is also seen this way before she is even married. For instance, Something’s I have noticed lately in my culture is that a young lady/woman is always looked at as a future bride.  In the Middle Eastern culture even when she is not with a man or not even getting married she is still referred to as a bride. In Arabic this is known as Ahroose (Ah-roose). She is constantly referred to as the bride because in the eyes of the Arab society she will one day be the wife of a man. Also generally speaking, women when engaged are always referred to as the bride. If you notice in some television shows such as Say Yes to the Dress, she is always referred to as the bride and not her name. In my culture even after she has gotten married, she is still referred to as the “bride”. She holds the most prestigious role, and that means she is now married and responsible to take on her life, and to finally be recognized as a woman. The bride must always be beautiful, perfect body shape, perfect dress, perfect make-up, and perfect hair. All of this is lovely; however, the grooms’ roles are very much different. Even though some grooms are included in the wedding planning, he is still just seen as a man/groom and not ridiculed for how he looks on the day of the wedding by the guests. The fact that grooms are rarely involved in any of the production (frequently only appearing in the ceremony and reception after all arrangements have been made); it would be easy to paint them as subjects, who anticipate the coming of their objects of desire. Women have the capability to exceed any oppressive situation that they are in, but they reject this choice – either because they believe there is no other way out, or because they are content with adhering to traditional societal expectations.

Another aspect of marriage I want to focus on is the idea of women changing their surname. Even though it is a never-ending cycle of using a man’s surname, women are often joyous and exhilarated to take their husband’s surname. Since women often take their fathers surname, it is quite evident that using a man’s last name is something that we cannot rid. However, the idea that society sees when changing the surname is to make the marriage official, and connected to the man much more. Some women choose to hyphenate their names using their last names and their husband’s last names, but legally, she is always expected to have her husband’s name, never the other way around. For example, we may often hear (example name), “I would now like to introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Johnson. You hardly ever hear a woman’s name included when presenting both couples, because it is now the man who represents her. From my perspective, I believe keeping a last name is more of an identity that you choose to maintain in your life because as a person you have established your life with that name. Whether good or bad experiences occurring, that last name has gone with us throughout our lives. Ideally I would like to keep my last name, however both parties must be willing to compromise and see the reasons why a woman would want to keep her name. Nonetheless, the changing of the surname is a significant process in the marriage to conclude the bonding stage of the couples.

Seeing it that there are many different cultures who have different traditions for their ceremonies, I will talk about the American/Arab culture who mainly derive around Christian-like traditions. The ceremony being a huge part of the wedding, it is also apparent that the father walks his daughter down the aisle. However, the ceremony is usually concluded with a phrase “I will now pronounce you man and wife”. In this situation some ceremonies have changed a bit and state “man and woman”, or “husband and wife”, however the statement “man and wife” very much occurs during the conclusion’s of the ceremony. Women are still seen as the wife, because that is ultimately her role, while the man is just a man, who will always be a man and nothing else. He is a husband; however he is only referred to that label when it is convenient. He is the provider, man of his house, the one who works, while he expects his wife to be at home and take care of house duties and cooking. I know the controversy behind all of this is that not all men are like this. I agree, they aren’t, but in my perspective the majority is. I have analyzed a lot of things lately and have just heard women say that it is our “job” to be in the house and have kids. I don’t necessarily see it as a job, I see it as a natural human obligation to take care of their home, not because of our gender but because it is our priority, and not an expectation. I believe when it comes to marriage or any relationship, a man shouldn’t expect his wife/ woman to do house chores; this is something that must be 50/50 between the two.

“The tragedy of marriage is not that it fails to assure woman the promised happiness-there is no such thing as assurance in regards to happiness-but that it mutilates her; it dooms her to repetition and routine” (De Beauvoir 478). “As long as the man retains economic responsibility for the couple, this is only an illusion. It is he who decides where they will


live, according to the demands of his work; she follows him from city to country or vice versa, to distant possessions, to foreign countries; their standard of living is set according to his income; the daily, weekly, annual rhythms are set by his occupation; associations and friendships most often dependent on his profession” (480).  The women must basically give up her identity and alter it to her husband’s identity. It is she who must change not the man, because ultimately he is the” ruler of his kingdom”.


Weddings are occurring in every possible culture, it is the bonding of two people who will remain together and hopefully forever. A society begins new traditional values of weddings and marriage, and the old ones still very much occur in our lives. As a we can see women have these roles that they must go by, and same for men. I believe that because women are so used to these roles, they believe that these traditions are the true meaning of happiness and love. Women will always dream of that day when she wears the dress, and becomes the center of attention. Nonetheless, women should also focus on not being labeled always as bride, because the label bride becomes an identity that she must fulfill, when she shouldn’t. The wedding planning, colors, dresses, make-up is an inevitable process for wedding planning, and is something I am sure I will come across when I get married, however, women shouldn’t just focus on fulfilling the brides image, and what societies expectations of her should be. We should be involved in becoming subjects, and connect with our mate on a deeper level, and not just focus on the petty things like colors, food, music, etc. These are important to consider for a lovely day, but shouldn’t be the reasons why we lose our minds just to become a perfect bride. When we try to be the perfect bride, we lose sight of who we are because we then become too focused on changing our appearance for others, and not for ourselves. Shows like Say Yes to the Dress, are shows that market and sell what a bride should have, and how she should look. The more we watch these shows, the more we begin to want something we can’t have, or want something that is only fitting for others.

Surely the wedding industry will continue to make their money, however if one chooses to create the perfect wedding, choose it to be your idea of what perfect is, and not what some else’s idea of perfect is. Finally, in a marriage it should not just focus on duties, and expectations of each other. Women should not always be associated with roles such as wife, or housewife. Indeed, these are things that a women becomes when she is married, however, let us not focus on the fact that she is a servant to her husband. A man shouldn’t expect his wife to be the one to do everything for him just because he makes the money and provide, he should allow his wife to be herself, and explore all possible opportunities that she may have. Opportunities such as educations, working, traveling, etc., and not just feel that when she gets married her aspirations and wants in life diminishes for the sake of her marriage. Let’s not focus on just the man having a job to support, and focus on both being able to be successful, and supporting each other. This is something that has been roaming through my mind, and has been something I have always wanted to bring up. Not only does this occur in the Middle Eastern cultures, it occurs in a lot of other cultures. I have been watching young women (even older) talk about these things that bothers them about marriage and their potential future. Struggling with their thoughts of whether to not go forward with their education or to stop their education for marriage. I have also seen women who focus so much on becoming perfect and not accepting herself, only because she has societal expectations to fulfill. It is hard for one to remove their mindset from something they are so used to. But the more we start changing our mindset on things that may or will better us, the more we have a healthy and positive traditions that we pass on for the future. Working together, and helping others see that their life is valuable, is something that is much-needed.


Bride and Groom. Retrieved from

De Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. Vintage Books: New York, 1989 .

Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding. 2007. 5 April 2011

The History of Wedding Traditions. 2006. 20 March 2011 <>wedding-