Academic journal article Liminalities

Through My Own Gaze: An Arab Feminist Struggling with Patriarchal Arabness through Western Hegemony

Academic journal article Liminalities

Through My Own Gaze: An Arab Feminist Struggling with Patriarchal Arabness through Western Hegemony

Article excerpt

As I sit quietly in the Middle Eastern Hookah Lounge1, I pause and take a look around. Will my culture accept me for who I am? My inner voices yearn for the need to write about feminism and about women's issues but how will the Arab Male perceive this? I begin to remember how my Arab male friends would make fun of me when I scolded them for being sexist. I feel a struggle within me and begin to feel uneasy. I glance around and feel a heightened sensitivity to each and every man looking at me. I seek safe haven in my computer and start typing again frantically. Is this the fear of patriarchy? Or have I been caught between the West and the East in a battle over my own identity? The waitress walks over and brings me my Arabic Coffee, and I feel a sense of belonging. The Saudi man I met a few weeks ago comes over to say hello in Arabic and my inner voices lay to rest.

I am peculiar to this culture, I belong... but I don't... This site is a Middle Eastern one, it is one that embraces Islam and embraces female modesty and submissiveness, but I am interested in feminism. How will I fit in to my culture? How will I fit into any culture? Will I be ostracized by Arab men? Will I be sidelined by global hegemonic patriarchy? I feel another contestation unfold within me and delve back into my computer again. Why do I not struggle like this among my white male peers? Patriarchy is ubiquitous so why am I more sensitive to it in my own culture? Does this mean that race matters? That culture matters? I look up from my computer, and my new Afghani friend is standing in front of me. I feel prostrated by a cloud of dominance and force, which is instantly nullified when the check arrives and we engage in a fierce tug of war over who will pay for the hookah. Suddenly my Arabness rushes through my body like an invigorating energy. I feel proud to be part of such a generous culture no matter what class or ethnicity. As we wait for the check, I over hear the table next to me discuss the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict. I feel unity, I feel nationalism, and I feel melancholic. I feel an aching pain in my heart and I remember the wounds that I have been carrying down from generation to generation as a Palestinian. The Palestinian struggle is a regional struggle; it might be the only thing left that will unite us as Arabs. I get up to leave and feel a dozen brown eyes slowly undress me. I seek refuge in my phone as I walk towards the exit.

Hegemonic and Heteronormative Whiteness

Time and again, hegemonic and heteronormative whiteness is omnipresent. It exists in a vacuum and we are consciously and unconsciously sucked into this space of constant patriarchy, colonialism, and hegemony. As Middle Eastern feminists we travel abroad to study and are stuck in a chaotic binary. It is a dualism between resisting our own Middle Eastern patriarchal structures while not appearing to be too Western. It means resisting Western notions of imperialism at the risk of prolonging patriarchy in our part of the region. Thus, it is a different struggle depending on where we are at that given time. The Hookah Lounge represents a blending of these contradicting struggles. It represents Middle Eastern patriarchy in the midst of hegemonic whiteness. Thus, it is the goal of this paper to describe this cultural milieu as it stands and to demonstrate the cultural aspects that prelude to this struggle.


In order to observe these cultural struggles, a Critical Ethnography lens guides my research. First, critical ethnography aims at addressing injustices within a particular space (Madison 5). It deconstructs power structures, truths and uncertainties (16). Thus, the goal of the ethnographer is to disrupt the cultural neutralities. In addition, critical ethnography thirsts for a need for selfreflection coupled with critical theories (Madison 7).

As of importance in the realm of critical ethnography is positionality. Madison stresses the need for positionality "because it forces us to acknowledge our own power, privilege and biases just as we denounce the power structures that surround our subjects" (Madison 16). …

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