Gender Standards V. Democratic Standards: Revisiting the Paradox

By Mili, Amel | Journal of International Women's Studies, March 2013 | Go to article overview

Gender Standards V. Democratic Standards: Revisiting the Paradox


Mili, Amel, Journal of International Women's Studies


Abstract

In our past work, we had analyzed the correlation between gender standards and democratic standards in post-colonial North Africa, and found it to be essentially non-existent, despite the fact that these two standards are highly correlated worldwide, and despite the analytical evidence to the effect that they go hand in hand. We revisit our previous analysis, in light of recent developments in North Africa and the Middle East.

Keywords: Gender Standards, Democratic Standards, North Africa, Middle East, Arab Spring, Arab Gender Policies.

Introduction: Revisiting the Paradox

In [Mili, 2009], I discuss an empirical study I had conducted in 2005-2007, in which I analyzed the statistical correlation between gender standards and democratic standards in post colonial North Africa. Even though these two standards are highly correlated worldwide, they have virtually no statistical correlation in the case of North African Countries. To justify this paradox, I had presented a number of different explanations, including:

* Top Down Gender Policies. The reason why gender standards and democratic standards are usually correlated is that the same pressures from the base that force the adoption of progressive gender policies also force the adoption of democratic systems of governance. But what happened in post colonial North Africa was that progressive gender policies were decided by the political class, which did not feel obligated to make any political concessions to match its progressive gender policies.

* Alien Metrics. We argue that international metrics of gender standards reflect Western understanding of gender equality, and may be inadequate to measure North African or Middle Eastern perceptions gender equality. For example, while a Western woman may feel that wearing clothes that expose her physical features is a sign of freedom, a Middle Eastern woman may find that she prefers wearing modest clothes that protect her from prying looks.

* Turning Maslow's Hierarchy on its Head. Whereas Abraham Maslow's theory [Maslow, 1943; Maslow, 1954] holds that human beings have a hierarchy of needs, that they fulfill in decreasing order of urgency and criticality, I had argued that when it comes to democratic standards, peoples of the Maghreb seem to have conceded them, because they perceived them as the price they have to pay for political stability and economic prosperity. I had argued that such a bargain was necessarily unstable, and that sooner or later people would realize that they are getting a bad deal.

I, like most people, did not expect them to make this realization so soon. Barely a year after my earlier analysis was published, a policewoman got into an argument with an unlicensed fruit vendor in the town of Sidi Bouzid in central Tunisia, upon which she slapped him, triggering a sequence of events that is still playing out across the Arab world, with worldwide global repercussions that have yet to be understood.

Background: Initial Results

In [Mili, 2009], we had conducted an empirical study intended to analyze the statistical correlation between gender standards and democratic standards in post-colonial North Africa. To this effect, I quantified gender standards by the UNDP's Gender Development Index and democratic standards by the Freedom House's CL (Civil Liberties) and PR (Political Rights) indices, which we added to produce a compound index that we call DI (for Democracy Index). We collected data on DI and GDI for the three countries of North Africa, namely Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, for four time periods in their post colonial history, namely 1970, 1980, 1990, and 2000. We employed statistical correlation analysis and linear regression analysis between these factors, and found that they are decidedly unrelated: their correlation for the three countries and four time periods is very near zero, sometimes even negative. …

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