Feminism in the Middle East with Rama Abed

When you hear the word “Feminism”, what comes to mind? Your answer may vary depending on several societal aspects relating to gender, culture, religion, traditions – and, well, the list goes on. Not to mention, the term is often misconceptualized. That being said, what really is Feminism?

Feminism is a range of social movements, political movements, and ideologies that aim to define and establish the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes. In short terms – equal rights for women. Unfortunately, not many people understand this concept particularly when the societal issues mentioned above are thrown into the mixing pot. One of the most major aspects that come into play when it comes to feminism is that of culture – and the Middle East is no stranger to this. For today’s feature, we have interviewed 22-year-old Jordanian-Brazilian feminist activist and sociologist, Rama Abed and have gained exclusive insight into her views on feminism in the Middle East.

What is “Feminism” to Rama?

Credits: Instagram (@rama.abed)

The interest in the Feminist Movement does not simply appear out of the blue for any woman. Growing up in a society controlled by capitalism going hand-in-hand with the patriarchy, women experience inequality on a daily basis and in many different forms. From political, to sexual, financial, social, and more – it is no secret that though we have progressed as a society over the years, women are still succumbed to oppression. “I became aware of feminism through becoming more and more aware of my surroundings over the years – learning something new every day that would enrage me,” Rama tells us, “I started reading more about it as I was completing my bachelors and found myself highly interested in the topic of social justice.”

But what is feminism to young activist, Rama? “You see, what people around us don’t get is that feminism isn’t just “I want my basic rights”. Of course, to me feminism is the dictionary definition of the term, but it is also so much more,” Rama says, “Feminism is understanding what it is to be a woman, being aware of the effects of the patriarchy, listening to your mother’s explicit misogyny and though you know she’s wrong, you understand why she feels that way, respecting what her generation sacrificed for us to be where we are. Feminism is doing what is in your power to free yourself from the patriarchy while making sure that there is no other woman left behind. But it is also knowing that you can’t always save everyone and that you did not fail the movement if you couldn’t.”

Why the Arab World Needs Feminism

With feminism still prevalent in the West in which there is no secret that laws that apply to women are more lenient, it comes as no surprise that it is much more needed in the Middle East. “We, as women, are still considered second-tier citizens that cannot pass our nationality to our children!” Rama says, “That is besides how marginalized we are on a daily basis! Most countries have no laws protecting women from very common crimes such as sexual assault, domestic violence, and femicide. Several countries still reduce the sentences to murderers who “killed in the name of honor”, she goes on.

While the West experienced several waves of feminism through history that are still ongoing, it is clear that, in the Arab world, we have not met the expectations or checked off similarities to the advances of the West. “It’s not that we need feminism more, it’s that it’s almost as if we haven’t even started yet,” Rama says, “And the bigger issue is that if you’d argue with an elder, they’d tell you that we should be thankful we’re even getting an education – but do they forget that not everyone is? There are women living in the villages of Jordan, Syria, Egypt, etc. that were pulled out of school after learning how to read, if they even went to school in the first place! We don’t need a “larger amount” of feminism, we need to start.”

Looking Down the Line


Credits: Instagram (@rama.abed)

Looking down the line as a young activist, Rama wants to dedicate her lifelong career to women. “Teaching women about women is my goal,” she tells us, “There is nothing more important to me than living a life that paves the way for the generation after mind to be, at the very least, less shackled to the patriarchy than my generation is.”

As for the future of feminism in the Middle East, there is a lot that needs to be changed in order to progress. “Besides the loaded list of social expectations and the stress on their interpretation of femininity, this is only a summary of what is wrong in our society, and simply basic rights that we still do not have. We need feminism in the Arab world because instead of fighting for our rights we’re fighting for our lives,” Rama tells us. “There is so much that needs to be changed. I just genuinely hope we start with ourselves. There’s nothing more powerful than a group of women that have a purpose, but we need to start uniting. If we don’t support each other, who will?”

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