Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

The Consequences of Blurred Boundaries between Private and Public Spheres in Patriarchal Societies: Evidence from Druze Women in Israel

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

The Consequences of Blurred Boundaries between Private and Public Spheres in Patriarchal Societies: Evidence from Druze Women in Israel

Article excerpt

1.Introduction

This paper explores the unique complexities of the relationship between the public and private spheres and their ramifications on women's status in the context of the patriarchal Arab-Druze society in Israel. By exploring the narratives of Druze women in Israel, we explore the structure of power relations in a patriarchal society, and focus on the spheres of action available for women. Druze society in Israel, which is oppressed and neglected by the state, maintains its unique identity by employing a strict and secretive religious lifestyle, which separates them from both Arabs and Jews in Israel.

The dominant position of religion in everyday life and its close ties to the Hamula (tribal) regime create a social structure that blurs the boundaries between the private and public spheres, in which the latter is colonized by the former. The private sphere's norms, which are dictated by the symbiotic relationship between religion and Hamula structure, take over the entire public sphere. Thus, the distinctly patriarchal private sphere is replicated by the entire social structure, and particularly the public sphere. This process is legitimized by the state. Albeit its democratic pretense, the state legitimizes Hamula's considerations over the appointment for public offices in the Druze community. This situation limits the realm of individual rights, and the main victims are disempowered populations, and particularly women from small Hamulas.

From the point of view of Druze women, as reflected in their interviews, it is made clear that the spreading of private-sphere norms into general society limits them in terms of mobility, education, and occupation. Their narratives suggest that they strive to create public sphere - one that is not masculine biased, as the public sphere criticized by scholars in Western societies; Rather, Druze women struggle to establish a public sphere in which the influence of the religion-Hamula regime ties is reduced, allowing women more autonomy and control over their own lives. Therefore, Druze women's struggle for equality and autonomy has to take place first at the private sphere in order to transform the public sphere and enable their legitimate integration into it. Their struggle, or rather, their bargaining with the patriarchal social structure is shaped by their intersectional location in it. Their resistance and struggle aims at weakening the symbiotic relationship between religion and Hamula regime in order to gain better maneuvering spaces as autonomous subjects.

The paper explores the relationship between the private and public sphere in Druze society in Israel in light of the literature available on various contexts. While feminist liberal theory argues that the separation between the private and public spheres in Western societies has been a key ideological conceptualization that legitimated gender inequality, we argue that in contrast, in patriarchal societies, blurring the boundaries between these two spheres can also be a major source of gender inequality.

The paper opens with a discussion of the separation between the private and public spheres, and its implication over women in different contexts. Then, we shed light over the intersectionality of gender relations in Druze society in Israel. The third section presents women's strategies in three aspects of life: mobility, education, and employment. We demonstrate that, in all three aspects, the symbiosis between religious and Hamula considerations are the top priority of decision-makers, and thus women find it hard to act in the public sphere as autonomous individuals. Therefore, they call to decouple this symbiosis as a precondition for an effective struggle for gender equality in patriarchal societies.

2.Framing the Public and the Private in Liberal versus Patriarchal Societies

The public/private divide as drawn by modern liberalism affects everything from how power is attained and exercised to how women are treated (Cole 2003). …

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