Sex Roles

, Volume 77, Issue 3–4, pp 155–168 | Cite as

The Patriarchal Bargain in a Context of Rapid Changes to Normative Gender Roles: Young Arab Women’s Role Conflict in Qatar

  • Laurie James-HawkinsEmail author
  • Yara Qutteina
  • Kathryn M. Yount
Original Article


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.


Emerging adulthood Islam Middle East Patriarchy Qualitative research Sex roles Social norms Transition to adulthood 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

This research was approved by the IRB’s at collaborating institutions: Emory University, University of Toronto, and Qatar University. This paper is not under consideration elsewhere and has been prepared in accordance with instructions for submission to your journal. The material included in this manuscript has not been published or presented in any other format or context. There are no known conflicts of interest. Informed consent was obtained from all participants in accordance with IRB standards at the participating institutions.


Funding for this research was provided by the Qatar National Research Foundation (QNRF) grant NPRP-5, Hanan Abdul Rahim and Kathryn Yount, principal investigators. The authors would like to thank Hanan Abdul Rahim, Rania Salem, and Monique Hennink for their comments on this manuscript.

Supplementary material

11199_2016_708_MOESM1_ESM.docx (61 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 11 kb)


  1. Abu-Lughod, L. (2006). The debate about gender, religion, and rights: Thoughts of a Middle East anthropologist. PMLA, 121, 1621–1630.Google Scholar
  2. Al-Krenawi, A., & Graham, J. R. (1998). Divorce among Muslim Arab women in Israel. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 29, 103–119. doi: 10.1300/j087v29n03_07.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Al-Muhannadi, H. S. (2011). The role of Qatari women: Between tribalism & modernity (Unpublished master’s thesis). Lebanese American University, Beirut, Lebanon.Google Scholar
  4. Altbach, P. G., Reisberg, L., & Rumbley, L. E. (2009). Trends in global higher education: Tracking an academic revolution. Paris, France: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  5. Alvi, H. (2005). The human rights of women and social transformation in the Arab Middle East. Middle East, 9, 142–160.
  6. Bahry, L., & Marr, P. (2005). Qatari women: A new generation of leaders? Middle East Policy, 12, 104–119. doi: 10.1111/j.1061-1924.2005.00205.x.
  7. Baki, R. (2004). Gender-segregated education in Saudi Arabia: Its impact on social norms and the Saudi labor market. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 12, 1–15. doi: 10.14507/epaa.v12n28.2004.
  8. Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing grounded theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  9. Charrad, M. M. (2011). Gender in the Middle East: Islam, state, agency. Annual Review of Sociology, 37, 417–437. doi: 10.1146/annurev.soc.012809.102554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cherif, F. M. (2010). Culture, rights, and norms: Women’s rights reform in Muslim countries. Journal of Politics, 72, 1144–1160. doi: 10.1017/s0022381610000587.
  11. Crabtree, S. A. (2007). Culture, gender and the influence of social change amongst Emirati families in the United Arab Emirates. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 38, 575–587.Google Scholar
  12. El-Haddad, Y. (2003). Major trends affecting families in the Gulf countries. In Programme on the Family, Major Trends Affecting Families: A Background Document (pp. 222–234). New York: United Nations. Retrieved from
  13. El Saadawi, N. (2007). The hidden face of Eve: Women in the Arab world. Zed Books.Google Scholar
  14. Erdreich, L. (2006). Degendering the honor/care conflation: Palestinian Israeli university women’s appropriations of independence. Ethos, 34, 132–164. doi: 10.1525/eth.2006.34.1.132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Erdreich, L. (2016). The paths of ‘return’: Palestinian Israeli women negotiate family and career after the university. International Journal of Educational Research, 76, 120–128. doi: 10.1016/j.ijer.2015.11.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Forstenlechner, I., & Rutledge, E. (2010). Unemployment in the gulf: Time to update the “social contract.” Middle East Policy, 17, 38–51. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4967.2010.00437.x.
  17. Fronk, C., Huntington, R. L., & Chadwick, B. A. (1999). Expectations for traditional family roles: Palestinian adolescents in the West Bank and Gaza. Sex Roles, 41, 705–735. doi: 10.1023/A:1018868010058.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago, IL: Aldine.Google Scholar
  19. Golkowska, K. U. (2014). Arab women in the gulf and the narrative of change: The case of Qatar. International Studies. Interdisciplinary Political and Cultural Journal, 16, 51–64.
  20. Hasso, F. (2010). Consuming desires: Family crisis and the state in the Middle East. Standford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Jakobsen, M. (2010). Social effects of the educational revolution in Qatar: A gender perspective (Unpublished master’s thesis). University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway.Google Scholar
  22. Kabeer, N., & Natali, L. (2013). Gender equality and economic growth: Is there a win-win? IDS Working Papers, 2013(417), 1–58. doi: 10.1111/j.2040-0209.2013.00417.x.
  23. Kamau, N. (2004). Outsiders within: Experience of Kenyan women in higher education. Jenda: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies, 6, 1–26. Retrieved from
  24. Kandiyoti, D. (1988). Bargaining with patriarchy. Gender and Society, 2, 274–290. doi: 10.1177/089124388002003004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kandiyoti, D. (2001). The politics of gender and the conundrums of citizenship. In S. Joseph & S. Slyomovics (Eds.), Women and power in the Middle East (pp. 52–58). Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
  26. Kandiyoti, D. (2007). Between the hammer and the anvil: Post-conflict reconstruction, Islam and women's rights. Third World Quarterly, 28, 503–517. doi: 10.1080/01436590701192603.
  27. Kapiszewski, A. (2006). Arab versus Asian migrant workers in the GCC countries. In C. Prakash & G. Z. Oommen (Eds.), South Asian migration to Gulf countries: History, policies, development (pp. 46–70). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Kemp, L. J. (2013). Progress in female education and employment in the United Arab Emirates towards millennium development goal (3): Gender equality. Foresight, 15, 264–277. doi: 10.1108/fs-02-2012-0007.
  29. Kevane, M. (1998). Extra-household norms and intra-household bargaining: Gender in Sudan and Burkina Faso. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.1115509. Retrieved from
  30. Komter, A. (1989). Hidden power in marriage. Gender and Society, 3, 187–216. doi: 10.1177/089124389003002003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lim, I. (1997). Korean immigrant women’s challenge to gender inequality at home: The interplay of economic resources, gender, and family. Gender and Society, 11, 31–51. doi: 10.1177/089124397011001003.
  32. Matar, D. (2007). Heya TV: A feminist counterpublic for Arab women? Comparative Studies of South Asia and the Middle East, 27, 513–524. doi: 10.1215/1089201x-2007-030.
  33. Mernissi, F. (1987). Beyond the veil: Male–female dynamics in modern Muslim society (Vol. 423). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Mills, M. B. (2003). Gender and inequality in the global labor force. Annual Review of Anthropology, 32, 41–62. doi: 10.1146/annurev.anthro.32.061002.093107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Min, P. G. (2001). Changes in Korean immigrants’ gender and social status, and their marital conflicts. Sociological Forum, 16, 301–320. doi: 10.1023/A:1011056802719.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics. (2015). Marriage and divorce in the state of Qatar, 2014. Retrieved from
  37. Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics. (2014). Vital statistics, annual bulletin: Marriages and divorces 2013. Doha, Qatar: Publisher.
  38. Ministry of Education. (2016). Education regarding Sheikhan rights and fundamental freedoms in the State of Qatar. Retrieved from
  39. Moghadam, V. M. (2003). Engendering citizenship, feminizing civil society: The case of the Middle East and North Africa. Women & Politics, 25, 63–87. doi: 10.1080/1554477x.2003.9971010.
  40. Moghadam, V. M. (2005). Gender and social policy: Family law and women’s economic citizenship in the Middle East. International Review of Public Administration, 10, 23–44. doi: 10.1080/12294659.2005.10805059.
  41. Moghadam, V. M. (2013). Modernizing women: Gender and social change in the Middle East (3rd ed.). Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.Google Scholar
  42. Newsom, V. A., & Lengel, L. (2012). Arab women, social media, and the Arab Spring: Applying the framework of digital reflexitivity to analyze gender and online activism. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 13, 31–45.Google Scholar
  43. Olmsted, J. C. (2005). Is paid work the (only) answer? Neoliberalism, Arab women's well-being, and the social contract. Journal of Middle East Women's Studies, 1, 112–139. doi: 10.2979/mew.2005.1.2.112.Google Scholar
  44. Park, J. (1990). Trailblazers in a traditional world: Korea’s first women college graduates 1910–45. Social Science History, 14, 533–558. doi: 10.1017/s0145553200020927.Google Scholar
  45. Qatar General Secretariat for Development Planning. (2011a). Qatar national development strategy, 2011–2016. Doha, Qatar: Qatar General Secretariat for Development Planning.Google Scholar
  46. Qatar General Secretariat for Development Planning. (2011b). Qatar national development strategy: Towards Qatar national vision 2030. Doha Qatar: Gulf Publishing and Printing Company.Google Scholar
  47. Qatar University. (2016). Institutional Research Department Office of Institutional Planning and Development, Semester analysis spring 2016. Not publically available.Google Scholar
  48. QSR International Pty Ltd. (2015). NVivo qualitative data analysis Software, Version 11.Google Scholar
  49. Rashad, H., Osman, M., & Roudi-Fahimi, F. (2005). Marriage in the Arab world. Washington DC: Population Reference Bureau. Retrieved from
  50. Ross, M. L. (2008). Oil, Islam, and women. American Political Science Review, 102, 107–123. doi: 10.1017/s0003055408080040.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rutledge, E., Madi, M., & Forstenlechner, I. (2014). Parental influence on female vocational decisions in the Arabian Gulf. Germany:University Library of Munich.Google Scholar
  52. Salem, R. (2011). Women's economic resources and bargaining in marriage: Does Egyptian women's status depend on earnings or marriage payments? Population Council. Retrieved from:
  53. Sharabi, H. (1988). Neopatriarchy: A theory of distorted change in Arab society. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Shehzad, S. (2015). Socioeconomic, demographic, housing and health conditions of Qatari women by status of marriage and implications for family policies. DIFI Family Research and Proceedings, 9. Retrieved from
  55. Stromquist, N. (1992). Feminist reflections in politics of the Peruvian university. In N. Stromquist (Ed.), Women and education in Latin America: Knowledge, power, and change (pp. 147–167). Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.Google Scholar
  56. Thao, V. T., & Agergaard, J. (2012). “Doing family:” Female migrants and family transition in rural Vietnam. Asian Population Studies, 8, 103–119. doi: 10.1080/17441730.2012.646845.
  57. Welchman, L. (2010). Bahrain, Qatar, UAE: First time family law codifications in three Gulf States. In B. Atkin (Ed.), International survey of family law (pp. 163–178). Bristol, UK: Jordan Publishing.Google Scholar
  58. Williams, A., Wallis, J., & Williams, P. (2013). Emirati women and public sector employment: The implicit patriarchal bargain. International Journal of Public Administration, 36, 137–149. doi: 10.1080/01900692.2012.721438.
  59. Yount, K. M. (2011). Women’s conformity as resistance to intimate partner violence in Assiut, Egypt. Sex Roles, 64(1–2), 43–58. doi: 10.1007/s11199-010-9884-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Yount, K. M., Zureick-Brown, S., & Salem, R. (2014). Intimate partner violence and women’s economic and non-economic activities in Minya, Egypt. Demography, 51(3), 1069–1099. doi: 10.1007/s13524-014-0285-x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hubert Department of Global HealthEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Social and Economic Survey Research InstituteQatar UniversityDohaQatar
  3. 3.Department of SociologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA

Personalised recommendations