The Difference Between Men and Women in the Middle Eastern (Arab) Blogsphere

It’s very interesting to observe the dynamics of the Middle Eastern blogsphere mainly the differences between the blogging styles of Arab men and women.

Lets talk about women first.

For Arab women to be able to completely express and protect themselves it feels like  they have to blog anonymously since an Arab woman’s morals are judged by every single word that is uttered on her blog.

If a woman talks about going out with the girls (or guys) partying , dating, or even if a woman is married and talks about her marriage openly or what have you is harshly judged and criticized, called slut or immoral. Some people go as far as  jumping on her blog like vultures jump on a dead carcass making it VERY rare that you see a blog written by an Arab female that tackles any of these subjects un-anonymously.

Now if a woman chooses to reveal her identity she sensors herself in fear of the socity and it’s pressures. And you will rarely see arab women sharing their pictures openly.

What contributes to Arab women bloggers censoring themselves is the “community feeling”  in the Arab blogsheper due to the small number of bloggers in the Middle East which becomes even smaller when divided by country . The small number of bloggers makes the intrenet replicate our society.

It is really hard being an Arab woman on-line.

On the other hand Arab men are free to talk about their sexcapades and having a hangover and being so drunk and what happened at this club or that club and suddenly instead of it being a shame it is actually considered funny and they are applauded for their sense of humor and honesty.

One thing though in common between Arab men and women bloggers is political and religious self censorship; fear of the authorities in the first case and the wrath of the religious people in the second case.

So if you are trying to escape your society by blogging and writing you will find it duplicated on the Internet. If you express thoughts that are different or that are not acceptable then you will be shamed, criticized and shunned.

Honestly, thinking about the whole thing  just depresses me.

What are your thoughts on the subject? How do we overcome this problem? When will we truly be able to express ourselves without being bullied or harassed?

Talk to me.


26 Responses

  1. […] This post was Twitted by 7akifadi […]

  2. I think that the best thing to do is just come out. I am legally changing my name to Mab3oos Elgarfan, so nobody tells me that I blog anonymously.

    For both genders, blogging in the open is a way to encourage others to freely express what goes on in their minds without fear. This daring behavior will make freedom of speech (in any form or subject matter) easier to be adopted by the masses and leave less room for society to shun it. I personally hate the aspect of Arab culture that puts too much importance to what people say about us. We tailor our lives to what suits society but not what suits us. (it is done in other cultures as well, but not as bad)

  3. Wow. Can’t talk, I’m speechless. I hadn’t put it all together before, but as I think of Arab blogger gals, it is the norm.

    Thinking. Next?

  4. well, it’s mere cyber interaction; say what you need and want to say and that’s that.. tannish ta3ish tanta3ish! E7kiii ya 7akiiii ow wala yehimmik ! 😀

    On a more serious note, what i’ve mentioned is the next step!

  5. Very interesting.

    I agree, but still think that since bloggers are generally more open-minded, I feel like I could discuss subjects that I wouldn’t with strangers in reality. That being said, I wouldn’t divulge details of my personal life, not only because I feel I could be judged, but also because I feel that people would stop taking what you say on other matters seriously. Whether we admit it or not, we all have this preconception of who the person behind the keyboard is. I contribute in another not so serious blog, but even there I didn’t feel I could openly discuss personal dilemmas that anonymously I probably would.

    The solution? No idea.

    Ok that’s one long comment!

  6. Interesting post 7aki, now please blog more!

    Well with respect to some of your observations about female arab bloggers, I think you make a good point but I don’t think it’s necessarily just an arab thing. It’s kind of a female thing. I follow a couple of personal relationship-geared blogs that are by american (non arab) females, and every one of them is anonymous and use interesting aliases for the people in their lives.

    In fact now that I think about it the non-anonymous non-arab female blogs on my reader aren’t too personal…I have some health blogs and a graduate student type blog.

    With regards to Arab male bloggers, I just want to add that I’ve come across some quite unpleasant arab male bloggers who just don’t know where their boundaries are when it comes to interacting others on the blogosphere. Maybe that’s reflective of the environment they grew up in where the boys just aren’t held accountable for their actions compared to their sisters.

  7. Mab3oos: “We tailor our lives to what suits society but not what suits us”. Very true. One advantage to living abroad is how it is much easier being ourselves.

    kinzi: Even for you an American living in Jordan you still have to sensor yourself a lot, don’t you?

    secratea: hehehehe. I agree, ignoring these people is the best thing, but it’s funny how humans always seek community, because think about it, we blog so people can read, enjoy relate creating niches all the time. So in every group there is always a bully and a troll.

    farah: See that is the misconception that bloggers are open minded. Maybe the bloggers you read or most of those who read you are but don’t forget your blog is open to millions of people that could be VERY close minded. Or they portray themselves to be open minded, but trust me Farah that the majority is not. You would be surprised.
    I know a lot of bloggers (not personally) who regret exposing their identity, male and female. Unfortunately sometimes anon bloggers are not taken seriously. It’s a catch 22, you have to expose your identity to be taken seriously but you can’t say everything if you do.

    Asoom: that’s very interesting, it’s true that even non Arab bloggers stay Anon to talk personal, but the majority is not. It’s just a minority that feels that they have to hide behind aliases.
    In regards to SOME men Arab bloggers, they are so misguided, they think because they are on the internet they have no boundaries or respect for other people (male or female) My rule is, if I am sitting down having a conversation with someone face to face lets say about religion, I am not going to call them stupid and yell in their face and call them names or whatever, so why would I do it online?
    Or the sense of entitlement some people have (male or female) , they say, you publish that means you want our input, well yes input is welcome if you don’t forget to bring your manners with you.

  8. very interesting post.

    in general i feel that most people bloggers, specifically those who write in english, don’t “jumping on her blog like vultures jump on a dead carcass.” Mostly because that’s the point of a blog. to express yourself.

    i know a hardly any bloggers in jordan that (male or female) that talk about drunken sexual escapades. the only stories i hear about that are not from the blogs.

    generally, i’d agree with you, women are held to a much different standard. but one of the beautiful parts about social media, is you could link to examples! would be interested in seeing reading where ” Arab men are free to talk about their sexcapades and having a hangover and being so drunk and what happened at this club or that club and suddenly instead of it being a shame it is actually considered funny and they are applauded for their sense of humor and honesty.”

  9. 7aki, yes, I self-censor like crazy, but still try and be true to who I am in real-life. I try hard not to intentionally offend, but every topic worth writing about risks offending someone, and I have lost readers as a result of offending unintentionally. Not just Jordanians, but American friends too. I have an archive of drafts that will probably never be posted.

    I blog for myself foremost, to keep a diary of life in Jordan for my kids later. I blog for community second, as it really did open up a delightful world of thinking Jordanians worldwide. My third reason for blogging came later, as I realized I had a place of influence , in displaying a different kind of Christian American than most read about, and displaying Jordan to American friends.

  10. I think you did hit on many nails here, but it can slowly and gradually be changed. Just like we have become more open than the generations before us, future bloggers will also be more open than we are.

    The basic principle here is changing perceptions of what we regard as taboo and what isn’t. Making the big jump isn’t easy and will definitely be frowned upon – whether it be from men or women – but a slow and gradual change is the key here.

    If we can’t change this in our own lifetime, then at least we should pave a way for the future ones. The mere fact of anyone being able to blog in the internet – anonymous or otherwise – is by itself a giant leap from keeping ideas to ourselves. Don’t you think?

  11. Tell me about it, the second you start telling people about your pigeon it’s the same reaction all over again. The weird looks in real life get replaced with comments like ” uh… *giving you a weird look* ” which is pretty much the same or maybe even worse because once that comment is up there anyone else passing by gets to see it and they too must chide in and say “yeah, what the hell is wrong with you man?” until you have too many comments if feels like the villagers are coming with pitchforks to get you..and yes I know you can remove the comments but right before you do you get this huge paranoid feeling that you are somehow cheating and that the author will return and find his comment has been removed and then write even worse things under various other aliases declaring to the rest of the internet community that this author is freak who removes comments that bother him….

    So yeah, I know what you mean.

    Good to see you again 🙂

  12. hey Ramsey: It’s true that most bloggers don’t jump on her blog like vultures jump on a dead carcass, they do it anonymously.
    In my personal experience everyone who left a nasty comment, who sent a nasty email did it anonymously, it could be anyone as far as I’m concerned, and I speak from personal experience, although my blog is hardly ground breaking in the topics it discusses I have been harassed, bullied and been called names.
    And don’t forget, a lot of the people who read blogs are not blog writers.

    As for sighting examples, I can name 4 bloggers off the top of my head (not just Jordanian ones) but why would I do that? I like their blogs, I don’t really mind their blog posts at all, I believe in everybody’s freedom to write whatever they want. My comment about their topics is not to say I don’t like them or to attack Male Arab bloggers it was just to show the inequality Female Arab bloggers face.

    I write for myself too but it would be so nice to say whatever pops in your head, wouldn’t it be?

    KJ: I totally agree! I think blogs opened a door that was not there before, and trust me the generation after us is already way more open than us. Have you seen them on facebook?

    Franks buddy: Hahahaha, I love your sense of humor. But see, this is all wrong, if you were to remove comments that RESPECTFULLY disagree with you I think that would be childish, but to remove posts that are insulting and attack you personally you have every right. Don’t tell me if someone stood in your face and spewed shit at you you will stand there and take it? You will shut them up on the spot.
    And you would never delete a comment that is signed by a real person with a real email, trolls are always anonymous.
    And welcome back to you too, I missed your weird, most probably “insane” inspired posts.

  13. first thought after reading this … relief i’m not normal.

    my solution Now if there is only a tool that helps people from recreating their damn cultural inhibitions and censors online without a reason… i suggest equipting all the computers in the arab world with a mechanical hand that would smack a person’s ass each time he does so !

    All messing aside, i’m one of those that keeps it very impersonal on my blog because honestly i would have a meteoric fall of credibility once it happens on the other hand i like to play the game of “leave a clue” and that’s a short coming on my part as well as many of the female bloggers, more so than men, and i think we do it for mostly the same reason ridicule and insult will take over since we would be challenging the norms about how silly our problems are … ok am i going to be confused as a female again saying that … better stop.
    Either way i prefer to do the challenging in my immediate circle, real life or bloggers. u can only change the ones that are closer to u rather than the ones on the other side of the spectrum

  14. Bam: Have you patented your idea? I would buy stock options.

    I agree with you in terms of changing those who are close to you. But I for one don’t blog to try and educate or change people, I do it for me, and if it happens that someone benefits (but from 7aki fadi?) even better.

    And with your new Gravatar I doubt you will be mistaken for a girl, and so you know, my sister thought you were female and when I told her you are all man she was shocked HAHAHAHAH. I think because your nick name is so close to bambi.

  15. well guess what i get called by my friends … nuff said

  16. It is really hard being an Arab woman period. No need to add the on-line part. Untill Arab woman are strong enough to claim their full equal rights, it would still be hard to be one whether it is online or offline 😦

  17. I dont have much to add really, you said it all, the only thing that i can add tough is that this does not apply to the internet only, if you observer the difference between men and womens behavior down town, coffee shops or buss stops, it is the same, men reveal themselves in anyway they want and can talk about anything they want meanwhile women usually cover themselves and often answer only when they are addressed.

  18. an interesting intellectual post that does not fall under the “7aki Fadi” category.

    the question is..does this mean that 7aki Fadi will go public with her identity or remain hidden? 😛

    Anyway, when it comes to blogs and identities, it all depends on the objective of the blog. will the blog be used as a venting outlet..or is it about trying to live a 2nd life that this person cannot live in might find ppl who would blog about certain topics and discuss ideas that they would not normally discuss under normal conditions, and this is where a minority (and I emphasize on a minority) will hit them because of what they consider are taboo topics. As you are aware, I was a victim once for a blog post that appeared too offensive or too revealing. So I can understand from where you come from

  19. freedom = ability to wear a miniskirt/ability to wear an ace shirt? and talk about drunken parties? if that is freedom, i don’t want it.

    is that really how we want our younger generations to understand what freedom means?

    I agree completely that minorities (women, gay, brown folk) get marginalized in all aspects of life: on blogs, in the media, in the workplace.

    but the enemy here is liberalism. western liberalism that flattens all differences, makes everyone ‘equal,’ but only equal if you are a white, european, christian, male. in modern city life, society is based on individualism. generally in rural areas it is a more collective system. here in the middle east, the collective triumphs over the individual. collective and individual systems have pros and cons; neither is perfect.

    ‘human rights’ are based on these notions, but only certain people count as humans. in the US constitution, a black man is only worth 3/5th of human. Who protects you when you aren’t human enough for human rights?

    radical democracy is an ideology that embraces differences. it forces open the liberal democracy to embrace difference instead of squashing it and making everyone ‘equal.’

    we’re not equal.

    oppressed people don’t have the access to food, water, credit, etc in order to compete with the oppressors (generally white men, but Obama is an exception). its not because we are brown, women and thus dumb or emotional; rather its because we’ve been denied opportunity and kept down by a very intentional system.

    another thought, i think a topic that we as oppressed people need to tackle is that of privilege. many of us have privilege; financial, racial, political, etc. we must own our privilege; we have to accept the fact we have it, and were born with it. BUT the key step is to leverage our privilege, not to help, but to fight the very system that gave us that privilege.

    “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time.
    But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
    then let us work together.”

    – Lilla Watson, Aboriginal elder, educator, and activist

  20. Ramsey: Whether it appeals to your senses or not and whether we like it or not freedom includes some things that may bother you or offend you.

    A person is free to talk about drunken parties, and about religion and philosophy, about being oppressed by a system or a government … etc etc.

    I used the drunken party example so to show the extreme that is allowed in a conservative society; it is the worse thing a person can do (in our Arab society) and yet men get away with it with no issues or problems, it’s actually worn as a badge of pride for some middle Eastern men, another stripe earned to prove their manhood.

    By no means did I use this example to define what freedom is.

    As for the rest of you comment, very interesting point of view. I am going to re read it and let it simmer.

    But one thing for sure is I am all for celebrating our differences.

  21. It is hard being a women anywhere in the Middle East…full stop! The double standrads we treat women when it comes to cpmaring it with men who are originaly raised wrong by their mothers. We raise boys in a wrong way to fulfill their ego! Ogfcousre Im speaking generaly and that doesnt imply in all arab cultures

  22. Self censorship is not always a bad thing. I self censor because well, I like parts of my life private, in exactly the same way I don’t tell my mother everything or my friends everything.
    I don’t think it is because I am a girl.

    I also don’t go into politics or religion because I am not an expert on either and don’t like adding to the noise.

  23. Good Post… Very true…

    I guess we tend to censor what we blog, whether by commenting or by writing our own blogs, especially with sujects that are taboos (and there’s lots of them in the arab world), is the fear of what our own will think and do. I think it has a lot more to do with what a brother, father, mother, wife, husband will say, way before we take society, authorities, or any institution’s considerations into play.

    Being outspoken and rebelious in our society is a taboo within itself; something we inherited with our traditions and culture, things that are very difficult to change, but thanks to blogging, people are able to communicate to the world their thoughts better. It still beats absolute silence and supression of voices. An eventuality will be that people will come out, but the process of absolute uncensored speech still has a very long way to go… But hell… baby steps…

    Bloggers (real names, aliases, anything) blog and be heard.

  24. Loool LOVED your post!!

    So true, it IS in fact very hard being an Arab woman online. So it doesn’t just stop at being an Arab woman, fullstop. The trauma carries on in the virtual world too!

    Gotta admit, Arab women pretty much do have more fun- whether they are abused, restricted, stereotyped- whatever the bla bla case. I love the fact that I’m Arab.


  25. […] Artifact Eighteen: Middle Eastern Blogging Article Posted on May 25, 2011 by robpeaks89… […]

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