Even though men in the Middle East clearly believe in a patriarchal system with limited equality for women, the system isn’t working so well for them, according to the results of a survey of 10,000 people across Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian territories.
“There is the perception about the Arab region that the patriarchy clearly dominates and that it is fantastic for men,” said Shereen El Feki, who led the study, speaking to the BBC.
Depending on the location, between 20-50 percent of men indicated that they were ashamed to face their families due to lack of money.
El Feki said that the survey report suggested that “the patriarchy works for the very small minority who are on the top of that pyramid. For the rest down below, lots of women, but also from the results of the survey, many, many men, life is very tough.”
Unsurprisingly, the majority of men – up to 90 percent in some locations – expected to have the right to control their wives’ freedoms, from what she wears to how often they have sex.
A quarter of the men surveyed indicated that they did accept equality for women in some areas but believe that a woman’s primary role is in the home.
Less than half of the men surveyed said that married women had the same right to work as men. They also stipulated this acceptance on two conditions: that the man remains the primary breadwinner and the women remain the ones primarily responsible for taking care of the household.
However, a quarter of the men between the ages of 18 and 59 indicated that they wanted to spend more time caring for their children. They also supported certain laws that safeguard women as well as women in leadership positions.
Opinions supporting gender equality among men do not seem to be correlated to age in the Middle East as in other locations around the world, except in Lebanon where younger men appear to have more liberal attitudes on this subject.
“Younger women [are] much more open than their mothers or grandmothers, but younger men seem to be as conservative, perhaps even more so than their elders,” said El Feki.
“The minority of men who do get their hands dirty in the kitchen… what you find is that those are the men who saw their fathers doing this at home,” El Feki added.
Women, also seemed to hold more conservative opinions. Seventy percent of women surveyed said while they wanted to have the right to work, men should have priority when work is hard to come by.
El Feki conducted the survey called The International Men and Gender Equality Study in the Middle East and North Africa (IMAGES MENA) for UN Women and Promundo, a global organization engaging men and boys in promoting gender equality and preventing violence.