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Gender Stereotypes: Interview with Dalal Al Rabah Report

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Introduction

This report is about my interview with Dalal Al Rabbah. Dalal is a woman who defied all stereotypes and joined the police, where she has excelled even better than men colleagues. She is a good example of women who have believed in themselves and gone ahead to defeat societal prejudice and stereotypes. She is also a good example of women who chose a career path due to childhood related to gender discrimination. As a policewoman, Dalal has fought for the rights of women and mankind in general. She is a woman who has embraced her potential and has been able to do great things despite social expectations or stipulations.

Dalal was a perfect choice for this kind of interview. The interview was meant to reveal how real women within my reach have been able to deal with gender-based discrimination or prejudice. Gender discrimination has been a tricky issue across history, with women being the biggest losers.

Dalal’s cases compared to many cases of discrimination against women as exemplified in the many readings I have come across. Further, the case compares perfectly to other cases of women empowerment efforts based on personal will and charisma. Whenever women choose to come out and prove that they can, just by using their potential, they leave an indelible mark on society. When women continue to be disfranchised and systematically relegated to mediocrity, society suffers greatly (Rhode 308).

Economic disfranchisement is a tool society has used to discriminate and oppress women across time. The women are told that they are not capable and should wait for men to provide food, shelter, protection, and safety. Women are continuously told that they cannot or do not have the capacity for many of the things that men are capable of. These situations, as Dalal’s case shows, have to be challenged. Women have all that they need to challenge discriminatory tendencies in society. However, to be able to challenge the status quo, they need more than just willingness. Women need a passion to succeed, to be of influence, and to make a difference in the daily living of their loved ones.

If women do not come out fighting and exerting their presence positively, men continue to imagine that they are kings and women their subjects. Some men tend to think that women are and always remain childish and immature. This is the reason why they tend to dictate, to be overprotective, and to be very inconsiderate when dealing with women.

According to studies, gender discrimination has continued to pervade social attitudes. Despite taking on different colors or guises, gender discrimination remains one of the ills that society has to deal with. As a result of gender discrimination, economies and people’s lives are shattered. Due to more huddles women face in accessing employment, political participation space, access to health care, and the general afflictions like wife battering perpetuated by discriminatory gender attitudes, poverty in many societies are sustained (Rhode 161). When it comes to the job markets, women who have landed in jobs tend to earn much less than their male counterparts. Gender-based Salary and wage discrepancies and lack of full inclusion of women in economic and political concerns affect the general output of a nation and world at large.

The participation of women in the job market is limited by given stereotypes. People tend to believe that women can not do given kinds of jobs or have to be protected by men. This kind of attitude leads to women not being offered educational opportunities in a given field. When they are offered opportunities, say in engineering, getting jobs is hard as no one believes they can do the jobs just as well as men can. If they get employed, women face enormous workplace discrimination. If there are two good employees, i.e., male and female, the male employees are more likely to receive a promotion than the female employee. Women are not often easily offered management positions. In some settings, it is still awkward to imagine a woman in a managerial position. People think or believe the only job women are good at is in the kitchen, doing housework, or front office.

Dalal was a good case to interview to understand gender discrimination intrigues. Gender discrimination begins in the family. Immediately a child is born, gender prescriptions frame how others treat him or her. From childhood, the boy is told to be strong and firm while the girl is encouraged towards being weakly or frail (Shaarawi 17). Despite some girls being muscular and generally strong, they are encouraged to behave submissively as per societal expectations. This was the scenario Dalal faced as a young girl. The important people in her life were keen on showing her that she is weak and can not afford independence in life. Her brother was her greatest antagonist. He was always putting her down or deriding her, which led to her becoming rebellious against the status quo. The brother exhibited male chauvinism in all its guises. His over-protectiveness and attitude were pegged on the idea that Dalal was a woman and dependent. She could not take care of herself and needed protection.

This went on until she was able to get passionate enough. She chose to disapprove of them and has led a life of an actualizing woman. She is a police officer, but she has not lost her femininity.

Interview

In the interview, I asked Dalal five questions to which she responded willingly.

How did you get interested in women’s issues?

Dalal had a doting father and a very good brother. However, the brother had an attitude toward women. According to Dalal, the brother treated her like someone who had no capacity of her own. According to Dalal, it is her father who in-calculated in her sense of gender equality. It is her father who helped her appreciate how important gender equality is. From the way her father treated her and the encouragement she received from him at a tender age, she learned to stand up to men and demand her rights or acknowledge her freedom as an individual. Dalal chides that many women in Kuwait have not been able to stand up for their rights. They have fallen to the status quo rather than fighting for their rights. These women’s rights are trampled on because they can not speak for themselves. They are generally not able to do the things they would love to do and live as they desire to live due to succumbing to gender prejudice. According to Dalal, it is high time women stood up for what they believe in and their rights as individuals in society. She cited parliament and indicated that some improvements have been going on on that front. However, in her opinion, women’s empowerment has to happen in all fields of life and sectors of the economy.

As an individual, joining the police academy made a big difference. She sees it as an opportunity she got to contribute towards gender equity in Kuwait society. She argues that having gone to the police force, dealt with the guns, and participated in all the hard physical exercises convinced her that women are capable of whatsoever those men can do.

Who helped you towards getting involved with women’s rights?

In answer to the second question asked, Dalal indicated that although she does not qualify as a political activist towards gender parity, she considers herself as being an example other women can emulate and change their fortunes in society. She points out that, as an individual, she is committed to the idea of improving her society. She also believes that Kuwait women are smart, successful, and can protect Kuwait just as well or as much as the men can.

The greatest support for her belief in gender equality or equity came from her doting father. She recounts that her father supported her efforts and stood against all those who were opposed to her joining the police academy. He encouraged her and demanded that she follows her heart, leading to her joining the police force. The support from her father carried her against the tide leading to her becoming a police officer.

Who tried to stop you from getting involved with women’s rights?

For Dalal, her greatest detractor was her brother Rabea. She recounts that Rabea tried all means to stop her from joining the police academy. She also recounts that her brother had a poor attitude towards women from early childhood. He always tried to convince her that women were not like men. For Rabea, women do not have as much mental capacity as men. Secondly, Rabea believed that women are physically weak and can not afford to lead an independent life. Rabea’s attitude and behavior challenged Dalal. She wanted to prove her brother wrong. She wanted to join the police force and proof to her brother and others that women can carry guns but remain feminine. Dalal reports that Rabea was very critical about her ways, especially dressing code. He severely cut her clothes to pieces and went as far as trying to forcefully get her married.

Were you ever afraid of what might happen as a result of what you said or do on behalf of women– and did something bad happen or everything went fine?

Dalal reports that she had never been afraid of voicing her concerns, especially where her rights were concerned. However, when she decided to join the police force, she was somehow afraid of what her brother would think. She did not worry about her father because of his strong personality and never allowed the brother to control her life. The biggest fear was that Rabea would successfully try and change her father’s mind on the idea of joining the police academy.

When you think of yourself in the present, how do you remember yourself before you became involved in women’s issues, and what do you expect your life and Kuwaiti society to be like in the future?

What Dalal likes about herself is that she is one woman who realized for herself what she wants in life. Her interest was to help improve society and demonstrated that women are just as good as men. Her greatest desire was to disapprove of her brother’s chauvinistic attitude and tendencies. All her life, especially after entering the police academy, she recalls that she used to argue a lot about her rights as an individual. The driving passion for her exploits was pegged on wanting to get as much privilege as her brother got. She desires that all women come to realize the importance of gender equality. According to her, life is generally full of challenges, but all individuals, men, and women should fight and become what they want. She is happy because more women in Kuwait are currently more willing to become something in society. What is needed, according to her, is that the women continue supporting each other towards reaching their desired goals in life.

Interview Analysis

Dalal’s background is a very good example of typical families.

In most families, boys have been trained by society to believe that they are superior and thus should be overprotective and domineering towards girls. Dalal was lucky because she had a supportive father who helped her realize that she can be as good as the men. Some girls are very unlucky because they are born in families where every male family member is like Rabea. They have chauvinistic tendencies and treat the girls as if they have no mind or capacity that is of any worth. For such girls, growing up to start appreciating gender equality can be very tricky.

All girls need support to realize that they are just as good as the men, even better than many of them in many aspects. It is only with the support that the girls will realize the worth of fighting for their rights. As Dalal points out, many girls around the world do not know how to stand up for what they believe in. it is worth noting that the scenario is highly attributable to a lack of enough supporting structures. Dalal found support in her father; however, support for women has to be institutionalized. Institutionalization of girl child empowerment efforts makes girl child support more sustainable and long term.

When girls are given the support they need, they will realize that it is what going after what they believe in their heart of hearts. Secondly, women have to realize that they are as free as they choose to be. Despite social structures pinning them down, believing in their freedom, they can fight for what is rightfully theirs. A majority of the women have to be helped to realize that they actually can speak for themselves.

Dalal notes that some changes have already started taking shape through initiatives in parliament. However, there is a need to cast the net wider and to institute nationwide initiatives that support women in all fields and areas of life. A holistic approach to women’s emancipation is very important. When women in all areas are emancipated, the result is more pronounced than if emancipation is only happening, say in the legislature.

Gender and Jobs

Women have been continually discriminated against based on being incapable of given jobs. Women like Dalal show clearly that women are capable of doing virtually any job as long as they put their mind to it. As she narrates, her going into the police force, handling guns perfectly, and doing the hard physical exercises should encourage women to believe in their capacity to do any job there is.

Sometimes it is argued that women can not do jobs that require a lot of muscular strength. It is also often said that women could not do sweaty jobs because they lack the strength, flexibility, and stamina necessary for such. All these allegations are false. Women who have gone out and chosen to do the best with their ability have excelled. It has to be noted that just as there are muscular men, so there are muscular women. A woman can also have as much stamina, as much flexibility, and as much determination as a man. Women have the heart and can face any situation, as the likes of Dalal have shown. As a police officer, she has to deal with all sorts of challenges. Police officers are there to handle hardcore criminals, deal with emergencies, and help in disasters. Some disaster scenes can be horrific, but the women of Dalal’s caliber have proved that it is all possible; women can handle any situation. They can also fix tires, go under the vehicle, and fix problems and can also hold managerial positions.

Women Rights Activism

Something is interesting that Dalal says. She acknowledges that she is neither a great feminist nor renowned political woman rights activist. However, she reckons that she is a good example that can be followed by other women. This is an important point to note. Sometimes, women’s rights activists tend to miss the point. They make a lot of noise about gender inequality, but they take no proactive efforts that can make a difference. Most women are held in bondage because of fears. They fear for their lives, should they by any chance go against the status quo. What these women need is a demonstration that one can reclaim freedom and fight for her heart’s desires. Women like Dalal are a perfect example of a proactive approach to issues of gender inequality. She did not just speak about her rights as an individual; she took actions that demonstrated her belief in gender equality.

What political women rights activists do is very important and remarkable. They help highlight gender-based injustice in society. They fight for the right of individual women when disfranchised, which is very noble. The socio-political blocks to women’s emancipation have to be addressed (Rhode 63). Public institutions have to serve all people with equity and justice. If they discriminate against women, the approach of women rights activists works just fine. They help make the public aware of ongoing injustice. They force government agencies and other groups to focus on certain discrepancies in the system that disfranchise women. These efforts by political women rights activists are welcome and should be sustained.

However, individual women in themselves have to be helped to own up to the struggle. The individual women can be helped to own up and play their game if the element of demonstration through personal effort is infused into the whole emancipation campaign. Probably, women’s rights activist and fellow women can borrow a leaf from Dalal’s approach. Rather than waste a lot of money and resources in forums that only focus on blaming men, fellow women should be sensitized towards proving their worth. They should face the challenges that they fear most; let them choose to go against the grain by following their heart’s desires and doing all that is in their capacity (Kipnis & Herron 186). If more women can come out like Dalal and choose to prove their worth, the fight for gender parity will be won even more easily.

Biggest Barrier to Gender Equality

The interview with Dalal points out a very interesting fact. There are many barriers to gender parity in society, but the primary one is the attitude of loved ones or close family members. From Dalal’s story, it is clear that family members determine what becomes of an individual. Dalal’s sense of gender equality developed as a result of her father’s encouragement. Her father always encouraged her to stand up to the men. He defended her against her brother and encouraged her when she chose to go against the grain.

Rabea was not a cruel individual. In an actual sense, Rabea represents all the loving and doting family members that all girl children grow up with. The only problem with Rabea is that he had internalized the attitudes and beliefs about women from his society. He loved his sister and wanted her to be like the rest. He wanted her to be as successful as society expected. Societal expectations are that a girl grows up gracefully to become the wife of someone. Dalal reports that Rabea did cut her clothes on several occasions. I am sure this he did with the belief that the clothes were not good enough for her sister. Her sister had to be a decent woman, very presentable in society. In Rabea’s view, most likely, his actions were driven by his great love for a sister who was getting spoiled. Of course, for Dalal, Rabea’s actions must have been cruel and largely unacceptable.

From Dalal’s story, it is clear that the loving actions of family members could be the biggest barrier to women’s emancipation. This issue is twofold, i.e., on the one hand, family members out of love denying women the chance to go after their heart’s desire. On the other hand, the issue consists of women, out of not wanting to hurt family, choosing to support the status quo, thus not following their dreams or standing up for their rights as individuals. People like to be liked and appreciated. When a girl meets societal expectations, of course, society likes and will appreciate her. If one is liked and appreciated in society, she experiences a few problems because she operates in a comfort zone. The challenge to the emancipation movement, therefore, is how to get the women out of their comfort zone. Many women accept the status quo and deride fellow women who choose to live otherwise (Kipnis & Herron, 184). In the status quo, there is comfort. One does not go against the wishes of family members like Rabea, and gender-based challenges or problems are treated just as normal and not worthy of addressing.

Dalal’s awakening started in her own family. On the one hand, she dared to risk hurting loving family members in pursuit of her interests, i.e., joining the police force. On the other hand, she had a loving father who encouraged her to follow her dreams. The two ingredients are very critical, i.e., support from others and personal initiative and passion. Girl children with passion and born of supportive parents often break the gender jinx and stereotypes to become the best that they can be.

What this points to is the poignant role of family relations in determining one’s attitude towards gender disparity. Within the home or family framework, women have to recognize the role of supporting girl children appreciate gender inequality or injustice as unacceptable. Dalal had her father, who helped her realize the need for parity. The father also helped her to keep moving on despite the challenges. Therefore, within the family, there should be seeds for change in women’s attitudes towards their rights.

Mothers have to be helped to change their attitudes. As Dalal advises, women (mothers) have to realize the importance of gender parity. Once the extent of gender imbalance and its effects are clear to them, they will find the fire that will enable them to stand up for their rights and fight for what they believe in. Dalal discovered gender imbalance due to her brother’s chauvinistic ways. Secondly, she noticed how society, in general, privileged men against women. This realization infused in her a passion for seeing change. She wanted to disapprove of her brother and the other entire chauvinist who doubted her ability to do whatsoever men are capable of. She wanted to have as many privileges as the men have in society. As she explains, social mobility is generally a challenge, and life is full of challenges. What is critical is how people choose to deal with the challenges. She believes that women in Kuwait are intelligent, smart, and capable. All they need is a willingness to become something in society.

Conclusion

The woman that I interviews is called Dalal al Rabbah. Dalal is a police officer, and her story epitomizes that of women who have defied gender discrimination and related attitudes to show that women can take charge and do all they want to do with themselves. Her career path was largely influenced by her experiences as a young child. The environment she grew in made her acutely conscious about her rights as an individual. Conscious of her rights, she also became very conscious about the rights of other individuals in society, especially fellow women. Although she has not involved herself in any political gender activism, she is a perfect example of a woman who stands and fights for gender equality head-on. She is worthy of emulating; she is a woman who moved out of the closet of the status quo and continuously sought to define her life paths as per her heart’s desires and aspirations.

Dalal and many others of her kind are contributing proactively towards gender equity. By choosing not to be put down by societal expectations, Dalal and women like her demonstrate that it is possible. They offer women examples for emulation. Their actions demonstrate both to fellow women and male chauvinists that political women’s rights activists do not just shout or tell phantom tales. The issues they raise are of practical import, and if addressed, society can benefit tenfold. They illustrate the fact that society has its role to play, but women as individuals have an equally important role of standing up and fighting for their rights.

Works Cited

Kipnis, Aaron, R., & Herron, Elizabeth. Gender War, Gender Peace: The Quest for Love and Justice between Women and Men. New York: Morrow, 1994.

Rhode, Deborah L. Justice, and Gender: Sex Discrimination and the Law. Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1991.

Shaarawi, Huda, & Badran, Margot. Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist (1879-1924). 5th Ed., New York: Feminist Press, 1987.

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