As recently as 1975, pioneering Moroccan Fatima Mernissi wrote that, in the Arab world, the notion of an unmarried female adolescent was "a completely new idea...where previously you had only a female child who had to be married off immediately so as to prevent dishonorable engagement in premarital sex." Today, young Arab women outnumber men in universities, and girls are better represented than ever in Qur'anic schools. They also put their educations to use in diverse ways, pressing for greater freedom within an Islamic context and protesting for political changes. While arranged marriages and gender segregation still prevail in some families, women are defining their own lives in ways that amount to another kind of revolution.
In her new book, Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of Young Women That Are Transforming the Arab World, Katherine Zoepf examines the complex lives of young women living in pre-civil war Syria, resisting extreme standards of self-presentation in Lebanon, and finding work and freedom outside the home in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, to name a few.
Join New America's Breadwinning & Caregiving Program for a conversation about these transformations, which are already shaping Arab society in surprising ways.
Copies of Katherine Zoepf's Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World will be available for purchase. Follow the discussion online using #ExcellentDaughters and by following @NewAmericaNYC.
Staff writer, The New Yorker
Fellow, New America
Senior Fellow, Breadwinning & Caregiving Program, New America
Author, Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World
Journalist and Fellow, USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture
Independent journalist covering South Asia and the Middle East
Fellow, International Security Program, New America