Assignment: Gender & Sexuality in the Middle East

Mar 15 · 3 min read
For Mashrou’ Leila’s story behind the song “Roman” & its female-oriented video, see

This second unit was a crash course in trying to define some of the general factors of gender and sexuality that have shaped individual experiences in the Middle East. We looked at how some musicians and poets have advocated for LGBTQ rights and faced both support and censorship; at how feminism has a variety of meanings & contexts in the Middle East (as well as outside the region); at the economic data for gender and labor and the level of success that NGOs and governments have had in advancing economic gender equity; at how girls are succeeding in education more than boys but have not found professional avenues for their education; at how gender norms and taboo topics around love and sex impact women’s lives.

Your task is to craft and answer a research question related to the topic of gender and sexuality in the Middle East.

Some suggested ideas are below:

a. Research and analyze the experience of individual figures: identify a figure from the Middle East and answer how their identity was shaped by gender/sexuality, and/or how they shaped gender/sexuality norms in the Middle East. Some suggested figures below (feel free to select your own!):

  • Umm Kalthoum (Egyptian singer) or Fairuz (Lebanese singer)
  • Queen Rania (Jordanian queen)
  • Zahra Lari (UAE athlete)
  • Loujain al-Hathloul (Saudi Arabian political activist)
  • Hamed Sinno (openly gay lead singer for Mashrou Leila)

b. Consider feminist methods a bit more: pick *one* avenue of feminism and examine its role in Middle Eastern history (e.g. veiling; quotas for filling political seats in a country)

c. Research gender or sexuality laws or movements (if looking into laws, you can narrow down your focus by choosing a specific Middle Eastern country): Some examples:

  • How have divorce laws impacted women in ____?
  • How have LGBTQ advocates challenged laws criminalizing homosexuality in ____? (this Human Rights Watch site might be a helpful place to start)

Requirements for the final story (total 85 points)

30 points

  • Each piece of evidence is clearly connected to your answer

15 points

  • There are at least THREE pieces of accurate evidence from outside class readings to support your answer. ONE piece of evidence must be in the form of visual/audio media (photo, video, or audio clip)

10 points each

  • A clear answer to the question is presented
  • Feedback from Ms. M-H is taken into account during the drafting stage
  • Sources of evidence are clearly cited. Links should be hyperlinked with the evidence; media should have sources cited using the caption. (You should be able to explain why you chose your sources of evidence if necessary).

5 points each

  • The organization of your paragraphs makes sense and takes advantage of sub-heading and other formatting options of Medium. The writing has no obstacles in the way of understanding (e.g. proper grammar)
  • Your question is presented in the introduction of the story

Timeline for project

  • By the start of class on March 16, post your research question for Ms. M-H to give feedback. You will have class time to research.
  • March 17 we will have Ms. Fatina al-Ahmad as a guest speaker. Feel free to also use this time to ask her any questions that may be relevant for your research question.
  • By the end of class on March 19 you will complete this Google form to share with Ms. M-H. You will receive her feedback on that form over spring break.
  • On April 7 you will have time to research.
  • At the start of April 8 you will submit a draft for peer review by a classmate and Ms. M-H
  • On April 9 you will have time to finish your story.
  • Your final article will be submitted at the start of class on April 13.

Modern Middle East History 2021

Read the writings of your fellow amazing seniors