Study underlines opposing views on gender roles in Lebanon
Women more likely than men to reject traditional social norms
Daily Star staff
Saturday, December 29, 2007
A newly published study on identity and gender roles among Lebanese youth revealed that while young women showed a more liberal attitude, men tend to be more conservative and more tied to traditional social norms. The study, conducted by social researcher Azza Sharara Baidoun and published by London-based daily Ash-Sharq al-Awsat in its Thursday issue, aimed to explore the concept of identity among Lebanese male and female university students in addition to perceptions and stereotypes between the two sexes.
The study was based on a random sample of 1,300 students enrolled in Lebanon's 11 official universities and has revealed interesting findings.
Ranging across various cities, sects, communities and social classes, the study's results revealed that young women rejected the beliefs and behavioral conduct usually imposed on women by their families and society. But this rejection was a moderate negation of the stereotypes and did not reach the extent of an outright challenge.
As for the young men, they were ambivalent, thus yielding average results that fell in the middle of the spectrum between acceptance and rejection. However, compared to their female counterparts, the males were much more conservative than the women and did not accept the notion of equality between the sexes in their society whether in the home, public domain or in relations between men and women.
"Some believe that this absence of gender equality serves the best interests of the men, since historically speaking the elevation of male status is founded on female inferiority ... In fact, some even believe that women's inferior status is necessary for the men's sexual virility," Baidoun said.
The researcher explained that the primary basis for the male sexist behavior lies in the abusive violence against women in our contemporary societies, "and it is viewed as a desperate and deplorable reaction to women's liberation from their social and psychological inferiority."
The study also notes the presence of a "progressive group of men" who called on all men to help women "emancipate themselves" and to review the notion of their masculinity with the intention of putting an end to "destructive and sexist trends."
The researcher also explained in her study that the same group of "progressive men" also called on other men to "get in touch with their feminine side" and abandon the defensive position that makes them suppress the feminine side while also letting go of the disparaging view that some hold of women on a global scale.
The study showed that Christians, as a whole, were less accepting than the Muslims in terms of the traditional role and descriptions of women. Moreover, it was found that Catholic Christians were even less accepting than other Christians.
Among Muslims, the Druze were less accepting of women's traditional stereotypes whereas the Sunnis and Shiites held very similar views of women and issues related to their cause. The Druze, however, were closer in their views to the Christians in terms of their rejection of the traditional role and image ascribed to women.
The study also found that sons and daughters of working women were much more supportive of women and their cause, and likewise were against the traditional perception of women with regard to their roles at home and in the public domain.
According to Baidoun, Western studies on gender indicate that university students are affected by the field of specialization they choose to study so that those who specialize in the arts and humanities are believed to be more liberal and less attached to traditions than their scientific counterparts.
"But field studies have proven otherwise; the young men shared the same stance regardless of their area of study while the young women who were studying sciences were found to be more liberal and more opposed to these traditions," she added.