Bedouin Gender Roles

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Bedouin Gender Roles

Gender roles within Bedouin families are very rigid. The chores carried out by and individual are based on that individuals gender and age. Children under the age of ten are in charge of caring for the smaller animals and for collecting water for them in small leather bags. They have much free time to roam around and to play traditional games. One such game requires Bedouin children to find the stone hidden under one of twelve rocks. Conversely, once a Bedouin individual has attained a great age, Bedouin elders are responsible for sharing there knowledge of Bedouin history and poetry. The Bedouins have a very strong oral tradition which they preserve through there literary works. The stories are passed on from generation to generation. This role becomes even more crucial as the influences of Western culture threaten to destroy the ties the Bedouin people have of their past.
Bedouin Women are expected to take care of all of the household affairs, and for making all family related decisions. Women prepared all of the family meals, and looked after the children. They collect firewood and weave the cloths that will canvas the tents in both harsh and conducive weather conditions. They milk the herd animals and make butter for the families use. During special occasions such as such as a child's birth, or a marriage celebration, women prepare a sweet dessert called halawa, a dessert made from honey and sesame seed paste. The men are responsible for protecting the rest of the family, and for looking after the sheep and camels. Often the young men in the family will accompany their fathers to learn how to herd large camels. Men are allowed through the law to exercise their authority physically over women. Men are permitted to beat their women or divorce them for lack of contribution to the chores and the unsuccessful overseeing of family affairs. In this way, it is clear that Bedouin society is a society of male dominance and female subservience.

Women weaving clothes
Women weaving clothes

Bedouin Attire

Bedouin attire is gender specific. Men don long traditional dresses and white or patterned head scarves secured with a braided band. If they travel away from their homes and into regions with more dense populations, they will add a western travel jacket to their ensemble, symbolizing the dramatic shift from tradition to conformity to western tastes within the Bedouin community.
Bedouin man in traditional garb
Bedouin man in traditional garb




On the other hand women always wear traditional Bedouin dresses. These dresses are floor length, and come in shades of brown, black, or dark blue. They also wear scarves to preserve the image of modesty, and to protect them from the gazes of men other than their husbands. Young girls wear brightly colored dresses, and a long scarf to loosely cover their hair and neck.
Young Bedouin girl
Young Bedouin girl






Married women wear two coverings, one a solid black scarf and another decorated scarf holding the first in place over the hair neck and chest. Many women also sport facial tattoos to help identify them as part of a specific tribe. Occasionally Bedouin women will migrate to cities or towns and adopt the style of a veil which obscures part of the face. Often veils symbolize a woman of higher status because of its association with urban individuals.
Bedouin Women
Bedouin Women