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Gender and Cultural Differences

Friday, May 21, 2010
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Today I’m posting just a little example/anecdote which I think might help sociology teachers and students achieve two important goals - getting an understanding of cultural differences and getting a global dimension into their understanding of sociology.

The other day a woman I know described how she had been shunned by Saudi men who were lodging in her house. They would avoid eye contact and any opportunity to speak to her.  This was not just an ‘awkward lodger’ thing (perhaps they didn’t want to pay the rent?). Apparently, my friend informs me, it is a cultural thing - social rules about how men and women mix in Arab countries are very strict.  In such circumstances it was not deemed appropriate for young Saudi men to speak to a woman.  I guess many of us ‘know’ something about this, but I was particularly struck by this example.  If any readers have any other examples please send them in and I will try to make a list. As I said above, I think examples like this are great ways to illustrate cultural differences and thus highlight the socially constructed nature of gender rules (and roles).  And the global dimension is also important - British or British-based students of sociology need a few nudges to be reminded of just how ethnocentric our own syllabuses tend to be.

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