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Structural Accommodations of Classic Patriarchy: Women and Workplace Gender Segregation in Qatar

Mon, August 14, 4:30 to 5:30pm, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Level 5, 517C

Abstract

Although the institutions of classic patriarchy are intact in Qatar, women are entering the labor force in growing numbers. Kandiyoti (1988) argues that women’s need to work in societies historically characterized by classic patriarchy elicits strategic accommodations of patriarchy on the part of individual women. By signaling women’s feminine respectability, these accommodations enable women to take on new roles while offering little challenge to the principle of male domination. We find the Qatari context to be characterized by structural rather than individual accommodations of patriarchy. State institutions and employers have introduced gender segregated workplaces that facilitate women’s employment while maintaining patriarchy. Using semi-structured interview data with university-aged Qatari women, we explore attitudes towards employment, specifically those related to gender mixing in the workplace. Young women devised complex schemas to understand and articulate the acceptability of gender mixing, which depended on characteristics of the working woman, characteristics of the men with whom she must interact in the workplace, and the spatial organization of the workplace itself. Women’s protection of their reputations, critical to maintaining their families’ support and their own marriageability, emerged as a key motivation for limiting interactions with men. Overall, we argue that the preference for gender segregated workplaces reveals Qatari women’s continued subscription to the patriarchal bargain – they constrain their behavior in the hope of receiving the protection of male kin.

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