This week is International Week across the country and here at UW-Platteville. That means that there are events happening on campus all week to celebrate different cultures and teach students more about international topics.
I attended a presentation today titled “Police Women in Bahrain and Other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Countries”. It was led by Dr. Staci Strobl, who spent years in the Middle East studying gender and cultural relations. This presentation was an awesome way for me to learn about gender roles in the Middle East and how the prejudice of Westerners can affect how they view these roles. There are many stereotypes about women living in the Middle East; many Americans believe that these women occupy lesser roles than their male counterparts and are often forced to participate in traditional gender roles, i.e. staying home and taking care of the children while the man of the family earns money. While there are women who choose to live their lives in this traditional fashion, there are also many women who fill more modern roles. For example, in Bahrain, women are often the main actors in human rights protests, which suggests a more progressive mindset.
The bulk of this presentation was devoted to highlighting the differences between the stereotype of traditional gender roles and the reality of these roles in GGC countries and how this relates to Western culture. Dr. Stroble accomplished this through her shared examination of a variety of Middle Eastern countries’ police forces and how females are participating in them. Approximately ten percent of all police officers in Bahrain are women. While this may seem like a low number, a mere seventeen percent of U.S. police officers are women, which is moderately progressive for world standards. These numbers suggest, then, that Bahrain and countries like it are not that far behind the United States in integrating women into their police forces. She also discussed with us the importance of realizing that integrating more women into Middle Eastern police forces does not necessarily happen in the same way that Americans may think of feminist movements, with women protesting and fighting for equality; sometimes, it happens in spite of inequality. In this example, women are filling more traditionally female roles within the police community in Bahrain, interacting with children and other women in ways that is deemed inappropriate for male members of the force.
The lesson I took away from this presentation was the importance of realizing prejudice when examining other cultures. Although American media may often portray Middle Eastern women as oppressed, that is often not the case. I found a very interesting article about this subject and I would suggest reading it if you’re interested in learning more about these gender roles! Find it here.
Check out the full schedule of events for UW-Platteville’s International Week. If someone is interested in attending one of these events and is looking for someone to go with them, I would be more than happy to!