Gender roles have progressed in various countries and cultures in different ways all over the world. However, these roles can depend on the values and morals of their societies. Moreover, they may be studied not only from the biological prospective, but also from the psychological one. Such psychological explanations can include gender-based beliefs, gender stereotypes, gender identity, and gender-role preference. As a result, nowadays some cultures distribute equal gender roles between men and women, and some strictly define the differences between these roles. Saudi Arabia refers to the latter and presents the sample of the country with the severe rules for women.
When speaking about the differences in gender roles in Saudi Arabia, it should be mentioned that there are some particular spheres, which determine the role of a woman in this country. Furthermore, women who live in Saudi Arabia have a determined status – they have fewer rights than men and play a limited role in the society. One of the most striking differences in the role of men and women is the field of the education and employment. Despite the fact that educational system becomes more open for women today, there are still many barriers to overcome. Unlike men, only thirty percent of women are illiterate, and those who are hope to get a job in the future (Dorio, 2005). Famous educational abroad programs are also forbidden for females, as traveling for them is not acceptable or should be agreed with men – their fathers, brothers, or spouses. In addition to that, there is no sport education including sport activities in schools and universities. Their culture does not admit women who practice physical activities publicly (Amani, 2005).
There exists the similar situation with the workplace. Usually women are allowed to work only when all their colleagues are women. Regardless of the fact that mixed-gender workplaces become more and more common, yet in such cases females have lower salaries than men, as the latter are considered to be better professionals (James, 2004). Such challenges confirm that in Saudi society a workplace is men’s place. If a woman wants to create her own business, the man should be also involved. A woman always has to visit public places or sign documents connected with their business or property only in the presence of her husband or other close male relative.
Another issue that may be considered as a difference in gender roles of man and woman in Saudi Arabia is driving a car. Unlike other countries, where women and men both have a right to drive, Saudi Arabia does not permit their women to do such a common and ordinary thing. Usually women use their family drivers in order to get where they need. If there is no driver available, a male relative can provide the woman with such favor.
The reasons for such law can be different. For example, when driving a car, a woman can interact with other men, and any relationships with male outside the family are not appropriate in Saudi culture. Another example that can be considered as a reason for prohibition of woman’s driving is her clothes. While men are able to wear comfortable and spacious clothes, women are restricted to wear their national dress that does not allow them driving a car properly.
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One more thing that deserves attention when searching the topic of gender roles in Saudi Arabia is the aspect of travelling abroad. It is believed that Saudi society claims that women should not be allowed to travel abroad, while men can visit other countries without any difficulties. However, this statement is only partially true. Despite the fact that in most countries women can travel abroad freely, Saudi females can do this only in case when they are supported by a male relative. Very often, husbands allow their wives to travel shopping abroad, but a spouse’s confidant should accompany them. Women are also not allowed to have national identity cards because this would mean that they could identify themselves and think of themselves as individual citizens. An impressive fact is that women cannot go for a swim. They are not allowed to go to the public swimming pools like it is permitted in many other countries. In Saudi Arabia, swimming pools are available merely to men, and women may swim only in private pools or in those where there are only women (James, 2004).
One more thing that can distinguish the difference between the roles of men and women in Saudi Arabia is politics and the right to vote. Like in some other contemporary countries, women in Saudi Arabia were not allowed to be the government representatives and did not have the right to vote. Nevertheless, not long ago women of this country gained the right to vote in the elections for the first time. Those were the elections for only a municipal council, but still those were the makings on the way to gender equality. It is more effective to build awareness through the lesson, rather than through separation and social isolation (Rajaa, 2011).
In conclusion, differences in gender roles can be based on diverse factors. Various standards and norms of society, stereotypes, and concepts identify the role of men and women in the particular culture. Today’s outlook and understanding of gender equality make people think about the importance of both men’s and women’s roles. However, there are still some societies and cultures that dictate how people of a distinct gender must behave.