Negotiating Gender Relations through Resisting Gendered Rituals: A Study of Ex-Hijabi Arab-Muslim Women

  • Doha Saleh Almutawaa

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Gender relations provide the basis of social inequality between men and women. The social power ascribed to men translates into their construction of gender discourses which are communicated through gendered rituals. This suggests that while participation in gendered rituals reinforces gender relations, resistance towards gendered rituals represents a means of negotiating gender relations. Compared to Western gender frameworks, gender relations in Eastern contexts appear to be largely undertheorized. Therefore, this thesis explores how gender relations manifest in Arab-Islamic societies.

Arab-Muslim women are often constructed as a homogenous group whose lives are shaped by patriarchal Islamic discourses. This generalization reduces them to passive victims of oppression and masks the existence and experiences of deviant Arab-Muslim women. In this study, female modesty is construed as a type of gendered ritual that is particularly pertinent to Arab-Islamic societies. While previous research focuses on Arab-Muslim women’s participation in the modesty ritual, I chose to phenomenologically understand Arab-Muslim women’s resistance towards the modesty ritual. More specifically, I focus on Arab-Muslim women’s negotiation of familial gender relations in the process of resisting the modesty ritual. This is achieved through qualitative data collected from twenty-three ex-hijabi Kuwaiti women and some of their nuclear family members.

Briefly, the findings show how Arab-Muslim women’s bodies are manipulated by their male relatives to construct their own masculine identities, how Arab-Muslim women resist male power through their consumption choices, and the outcomes of Arab-Muslim women’s submission to and resistance towards male power. The research contributes to theories of gender and consumption rituals. It also offers broader social and business implications which can inform Arab-Muslim women’s empowerment.

Date of Award30 Oct 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorPeter Nuttall (Supervisor) & Elissavet Mamali (Supervisor)

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