Gender Expectations of Egyptian Adolescents

By Daniel Faulkner, University of Southern Mississippi

In regard to gender expectations, American society clearly has constricted guidelines specific to how each gender should perform. There are rules for males and females from youth to adulthood. Overall, American society is stereotypical in regard to their own gender. However, is gender expectation the same everywhere? There are differences in gender expectations around the world. Some peoples around the world share the same view on gender role and performance, whereas some people’s views differ tremendously on the subject. This essay focuses on Egypt in particular. The Egyptians have their own rules and expectations in regard to performing gender. More specifically, Egyptian adults place their gender expectations on their youth at an early age. As these youth grow into adolescence they become fully aware of what is expected of them. Egyptian adolescence occurs from the ages of sixteen to nineteen and is therefore a transcending period into adulthood. In Egypt, the main areas of development are placed in the economic and social aspects of life. In other words, because their parents live by these gender rules, the adolescents follow them. Egyptian gender roles are explained through male, economic individuality and female, social domestication in the areas of autonomy and schooling. For males, Egyptian gender roles are explained through economic individuality in reference to autonomy. For Egyptians, males are taught to be adventuring and networking individuals. In being an individual, the Egyptian adolescent is taught how to broaden his horizon and to provide future and stability or his family. In Egypt, A Country Study, Metz writes, “Married men were expected to defer to their fathers, but they still had considerable autonomy because of their responsibility for their families’ livelihoods and households” (127). This quote shows how the men had autonomy. Autonomy is a word that reflects the personal self in terms of upliftment and freedom. Being autonomous, the males are able to develop themselves personally with the guidance of their fathers. The boys still recognize their own adolescence because of their youth, but they began to undertake the many privileges of manhood. These privileges are practices of autonomy as described above. Once the boys reach puberty, they are expected to work away from their homes and become more involved within the community. At this time of puberty, boys have gradually removed themselves from domestic responsibilities. This action is important in Egyptian male gender role because the boy has now consolidated himself with the position of adult males by removing himself from the expected domestic tasks of women and children. The boy has connected himself with his own gender expectation of being a socialite and has segregated himself from the female’s expected role. Through these practices, the male adolescents will eventually be able to become more economic individuals. On the other hand, females Egyptian gender roles are explained through social domestication in reference to autonomy. In Egypt women are not expected to become economic individuals as males are. Instead, the adolescent females are taught how to be a supporting member in the community. In order to fulfill this gender expectation when are used for more domestic tasks. In Egypt, A Country Study, Metz states that, “Women have traditionally been preoccupied with household tasks and child rearing and have rarely had opportunities for contact with men outside the family” (128). Based on the quote, women are brought up to support their family by proper upkeep of the home and taking care of children. Because the gender role of Egyptian women is to be a domesticated mother and wife, she cannot perform the male responsibilities of economic individuality. In the early ages of Egyptian females experiences with socialization and autonomy are completely different. They are abruptly cut-off from the many experiences they were free to in their childhood. For example, when the time of puberty arrives for the females, they are expected to display modest behavior and no longer occupy themselves within the public areas they hung around in their childhood years. As one can see, a female adolescent’s experiences of being cut-off and displaying modest behavior is a preparation for the more direct forms of female adult expectations. Also, as the females grow older their work type begins to be segregated from their male counterparts. While the males are more likely able to work for pay, the females participate in domestic work within the household. This implies that females’ autonomy is far more restricted than males. As stated above, autonomy is a reflection of the self in terms of personal upliftment and freedom. Because the female’s gender role is more geared towards social domestication, she does not have the opportunity to be as autonomous as males are. Social domestication is solely for the support and upbringing of the household; whether it be the upkeep of the home or upbringing of the children. Secondly, Egyptian gender roles are explained through male, economic individuality and female, social domestication in the areas of schooling. First of all, there is a difference in the percentage of males and females that attend school in Egypt. This difference sets a pre-existing bias as to who gets what gender expectation.Findings from Gender-Role Attitudes among Egyptian Adolescents show that, “95 percent of 10-19 year old boys in 1997 had attended school, compared with 84 percent of girls”. Therefore, the reason for there being gender inequality in relation to schooling is because of girls’ not entering school at the same rate boys are. However, traditional values still have a sway in parents’ decisions about why their boy or girl should go to school. This parental reasoning only shows that the parents themselves have gender expectations of their children before the children themselves are able to realize what they want. The Egyptian gender role for males is to become economic individuals. Gender-Role Attitudes among Egyptian Adolescents states, “Parents are much more likely to offer an economic rationale for a son’s attendance than they are for a daughter’s”. The Egyptian adults believe that a son attending school will provide an economic benefit for him. By going to school, the male adolescent can aquire the skills necessary that will enhance his autonomous nature and therefore provide for his future family. However, the traditional values for females different. Parents want their adolescent females to go to school for the social benefit. This reason for going to school is for social domestication of the female adolescent. Gender-Role Attitudes among Egyptian Adolescents states, “Parents believe that daughters are more likely to derive social benefits from schooling in that education makes girls better mothers and helps them deal better with life”. Because the female adolescent attends school she can acquire the skills necessary that will enable her to support her community. In terms of social domestication for the female, supporting her community is taking care of domestic tasks and child care. As seen above, the gender attitudes towards Egyptian adolescents in reference to schooling are both economic and social. The Egyptian adults have pre-existing attitudes as to why their son or daughter should get an education. Overall, the reason for schooling shows how the gender expectations for males are to be economic individuals and for females to be socially domestic. As seen above, through the areas of autonomy and schooling Egyptian adolescent males are expected to be economic individuals and females are expected to socially domestic. In Egypt, the parents have guided their adolescent children by portraying the exact ideals that they teach them. The males learn to be autonomous because of their fathers’ economic standing and benefit in society. The females learn to be socially domestic because of their schooling and the domestic, motherly ideals they receive from their mothers. Overall, the male and female gender role’s work together to provide a complete family expectation to be responsible and successful.

Works Cited

Metz, Helen. Egypt: A Country Study. Federal Research Division: Library of Congress, 1991.

Population Council. March 2003. The Social Research Center, American University in Cairo; the High

Institute of Public Health, Alexandria University; the Department of Public Health and

Community Medicine, Assiut University, and the Population Council, Cairo. 18 Apr.



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