Meeting Report: ‘Investigation of Gendered discourses on Twitter about Saudi Women’s Issues’ 14th November

One of Lubna’s presentation slides: Saudi Women and Social Change

Thank you to all of you who attended Lubna Bahamman’s talk today – it was great to see so many of you! Lubna’s paper was a wonderful insight into how Saudi women are represented on Twitter either by themselves or by men. She highlighted the popularity of Twitter in Saudi Arabia and revealed that the majority of users were in their twenties. She also set the tone of her paper by emphasising the misconceptions of Saudi women’s freedoms and lives that are often all too evident in the Western Press.

After providing some context about Saudi Arabia and its laws, in particular those that came into force post 2001, Lubna gave two particular hashtags as an example of the linguistic research she is undertaking. These were: (in translation from Arabic) #newtravelcontrolsforSaudiwomen and #onethirdofSaudiwomenarespinsters. She focused on the first hash tag and explained how a piece of news about women needing the permission of their guardians to renew their passports was misappropriated into an argument about women being allowed to travel on their own. She explained that 63.8% of tweets using the hashtag were by profiles claiming to be women. She also outlined that women were most likely to use laughter and emoticons in the tweets and men were more likely to quote from religious texts. One tweet Lubna showed us was written by a 50 year old woman who was protesting the fact that she is not allowed to travel abroad to medical conferences without her young son’s permission (as her guardian).

Our Q and A included a discussion about women’s opportunities in Saudi Arabia and where such debates about women’s rights took place before Twitter. Lubna highlighted the revolutionary nature of the space Twitter has provided for Saudi men and women because it is it is accessible to them both. Before Twitter, the only place where women could debate such issues with men was within their families.

Thanks again to all who attended and especially to Lubna!

See you next week for a talk on ‘Syrian Men and the Humanitarian Response to the Refugee Crisis in Jordan’ by Lewis Turner from the Politics department at SOAS.



Seminar Meeting report 14/01 “Gender and Knowledge of Terrorism in Palestine”


Thanks to everyone who attended Carl Gibson’s talk on his fieldwork in Palestine. It was fascinating to hear about his varied experiences with interviewing local people and the information he has gathered from doing so. Carl discussed the difficulty in defining the word ‘terrorism’ and the varying use of the word in the Western and Arab media. He has discovered that media and internet discourse on terrorism is highly gendered. He noted that there is much more written about the lives of female terrorists and their motivations than on male terrorists. The sources mentioned often linked the women’s involvement with terrorism to a trauma in their past, such as the death of a child, rather than to political motivations. Yet, Carl suggested there was more of a taboo around these female terrorists as almost all of the posters he has spotted in Palestine were of male martyrs (شهيد/ shahid) rather that female ones (شَهِيدَة/ shahida).One woman in particular, named Hadeel al-Haslamun  has featured on the occasional poster, despite it being unclear whether her refusal to remove her niqab at the Palestine Israeli border was for political reasons.

The discussion after Carl’s paper revolved around the escalation of violence in Palestine and women’s involvement in such violence. We also debated why in war women and children are treated as victims and men often are not and why how this linked to a lack of  biographical information on the internet about male terrorists. As well as discussing the lives of the shahida in more depth, we also discussed the practicalities of Carl’s research in such a dangerous part of the world. It was clear that his many years of living in Palestine were vital to his success in finding interviewees and conducting his research successfully. We wish him all the best for his return to Palestine at the end of the week!

Seminar Meeting Report 03/12 “The Realm of Goddesses in Ancient Mesopotamia”


Monica Palmero Fernandez’s insightful paper introduced us to the ancient land of Mesopotamia (Iraq and Syria in the modern day) and the significance of goddesses in the cultural context of this society. She provided us with various visual representations of the goddesses which included drawings of these figures in human, symbolic, and animal form. Monica explained the complex gender identity of the gods and goddesses, stating that the same gods/goddesses were sometimes represented as male in one depiction and female in another. Their sexualities were also complex and did not reflect sexual norms in Ancient Mesopotamia. Monica connected the powers attributed to the goddesses by the ruling elite to the power structures this elite wished to enforce in the society they governed. For example, kings would write poems declaring their relationships to various deities throughout their lives in order to legitimate their royal status. She ended her paper by discussing the complexities of grappling with her methodological approach to written and visual depictions of the goddesses, which included looking at intersectionality and queer theory.

After her paper, the discussion centered around the role of elite women in male dominated Mesopotamian society, the link between the goddesses and nature, as well as the lack of sources describing the lives of members of society at the lower end of the hierarchy. Furthermore, Monica explained the difficulty in determining the gender of these goddesses from the Sumerian language because it does not have masculine and feminine pronouns or articles.

Maria and Sophie would like to thank Monica for her delightful paper and everyone else who attended our final seminar of 2015. We hope to see you next year for our very first paper which will take place on Thursday 14th January. It will be presented by Carl Gibson from the Politics and International Relations department. He will be providing us an insight into his fieldwork in Palestine.

Have a wonderful winter break!

“What is Wrong with Marxist Feminism? Taking the Economics out of Marx” 26th November

Our next meeting will take place on November 26th at 1pm in G09 at the Graduate School. The paper on the interaction between Marxism and Feminism will be presented by Yanos Soubieski from the department of Politics and International Relations.

Here is his abstract:

Karl_Marx_001Marxist Feminism as it stands strictly perceives patriarchy, a society characterised by male domination over women, in terms of capitalism. Marxist Feminism focuses specifically on the roles that capitalism designates to women in the production process and the harmful implications this has. Marx’s own analysis of capitalism was not as economically rigid as this would have us believe, with terms like alienation, exploitation and ideology all owing their theoretical rigour to Marx. My research is predicated on taking the economics out of Marxian analysis in the context of patriarchy. I shall do this by applying the Althusserian theory of ideology to understand the reproduction of patriarchy. I thus aim to provide a new form of Marxist Feminism contrary to the economistic variant which has survived for so long.

We look forward to seeing you there! We are hoping to see many of you from the politics department but also from other disciplines too.

“Why is housing more important to female satisfaction than male satisfaction?” 22nd October


Thanks to everyone who attended October’s Gender and Sexuality Network meeting!

And… to Chris Foye, of course, for his fascinating paper!

For the first time we were treated to a paper by a PhD student from a non Humanities background. Chris Foyes’ paper examined a data set from Germany and drew conclusions on the relationship between gender and the importance of housing. For example, he drew parallels between the importance of housing for men with or without children, stating that the former considered housing to be far more important than the latter. For women, however, there was no change in their attitudes to their home when they became mothers. His paper lead to a series of questions about the role of a woman’s age in her satisfaction towards her house and also whether marital status was an important factor. The organisers of this group, Maria and Sophie, also questioned whether sexuality played any role in the importance people assign to their housing. We were unsurprised that data from the 90s did not include any statistics on this. Yanos Soubieski, who will be presenting at our next meeting on the 26th November, asked whether attitudes towards housing in the former East and West Germany had reflected the historical changes in the two regions. Chris responded that this was a very interesting question and that he would bear this in mind in the chapter upon which his thesis is based. Cultural comparisons were also made between German, English, Greek, French, and Arabic speaking nations. The audience offered their personal experiences of the ways in which male family members’ attitudes towards their home environment differed from female family members’ attitudes. According to the attendees’ experiences, it often seemed to be the case that the men viewed their houses more in terms of an investment than did the women, putting less emphasis on the  appearance of the inside of the house than the women.

We are now looking forward to Yanos’ paper What’s wrong with Marxist Feminism? Taking the economics out of Marx” on the 26th November 1-2pm in the Graduate School. Look out for the abstract!

The new term is upon us! Come join us on 22nd October from 1-2pm

Hello everyone!

We hope you all had a wonderful summer and feel rested for the new term.

We have now finalised our speakers for the first term of this year. We look forward to seeing you at our three talks from PhD students from three different departments! We are indeed very pleased with our multi-disciplinary programme and we hope to have attendees from a variety of academic disciplines.

And now to our first event… It will take place on October 22nd from 1-2pm in G09 at the Graduate School. We hope to see you all there!

The paper will be presented by Chris Foye from the School of Real Estate and Planning.

Title: “Why is housing more important to female satisfaction than male satisfaction?” This paper is concerned with how the relationship between housing and well-being varies according to gender. By examining the German Socio-Economic Panel study (GSOEP), it demonstrates that women attach greater importance to housing as a life domain than men. Hypotheses are advanced that attribute this gender gap to gender differences in i) personality and ii) values. First, personality. By referring to a wide range of literatures including affordances, social role theory and gendered meanings of home- the paper proposes that women rely more on housing as a source of identity and social status, whilst men rely on housing as a source of economic status. Second, values. It is demonstrated that there is strong relationship between the women and the home in societal discourse leading women to assume the aesthetics and atmosphere of the home as their responsibility. Further examination of the GSOEP suggests gender differences in both personality and values may mediate gender differences in the subjective importance of housing.

Symposium on Family Troubles: Care and Change in Diverse Contexts

We have been informed of an event taking place at the Henley business school that may be of interest to some of our members. Here are the details of the symposium and who to contact to register your interest:

Symposium on Family Troubles: Care and Change in Diverse Contexts, Henley Business School, University of Reading, 16 September 2015

This inter-disciplinary symposium aims to explore family relations, care and ‘troubles’ in diverse contexts. The symposium will reflect on the powerful, often emotive discourses associated with ‘family’ in different cultural and policy settings and explore the (potentially troubling or troubled) changes, caring practices, and intergenerational relations that shape family lives over time and space in both the global North and South.

Parallel paper sessions will address the following themes:

* Meanings of ‘family’ and (troubling) changes in family lives

* Care and interdependencies in diverse household forms

* Support for ‘troubled’ families

* Responses to death and ‘bereavement’

* Life-limiting illness, dying bodies and family caring practices

* Policy framings of ‘troubling’ families

These contentious, emotive and sensitive issues pose questions and dilemmas for policy makers, practitioners and service users, as well as researchers and academics interested in issues of family change, care and support.

Registration fee (includes lunch and refreshments): £30

Register for the event: odid=605

For more information:

Contact: Ruth Evans: