WOMEN WORKING IN OMAN: INDIVIDUAL CHOICE AND CULTURAL CONSTRAINTS
Middle Eastern women have often been portrayed by Westerners as silent shadows or as helpless victims of suppressive customs and traditions who are unable to organize or form groups on their own and for themselves and are prevented from entering fully into the public sector of life. The past decade, however, has seen an explosion in research and publication that fully acknowledges women as people in their own right. Women in the Middle East have come to be seen as political and economic actors who fend for themselves and struggle and reflect on their lives and the future of their societies. Through their actions, the boundary that defines what is traditional cultural behavior and what is contemporary, foreign, or unacceptable is often blurred.1 The patriarchal state, however, fails to recognize the transformative power of women's contemporary behavior, which pushes the definition of “accepted” or “traditional” behavior beyond that found in official documents and local and regional legislation, with their largely male audience.
1 Dawn Chatty is Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Director at the Refugee Studies Center, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3LA, United Kingdom.