Graduate Students Theses on Gender

On the occasion of AUB’s Co-Ed Centennial celebration, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office and the University Libraries in collaboration with the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship are featuring a curated collection of graduate students’ theses focusing on different topics related to gender equality and intersectional feminism.

Starting Monday, October 4th, 2022, we will release and promote a selected thesis weekly with access to the full document. We hope that this will highlight the richness and diversity of AUB graduate students’ engagement in gender transformative research and will inspire our current students to explore new and emerging gender-related research questions.

​The views and opinions expressed on this page are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of The Asfari Institute and or AUB.

Check out AUB’s Co-Ed page

Slave Women and Free Men: Gender, Sexuality, and Culture in Early Abbasid Times

by Karen Raif Moukheiber


This thesis investigates the masculine conceptual framework defining the sexual and cultural roles of slave women in a selection of Abbasid legal, literary and historical male-authored foundational texts. It argues that the main Abbasid intellectual protagonists, namely the alim, the faqih, the adib and the mu’arrikh, perceived the licit and potentially uninhibited sexual access to concubines in urban and caliphal households as well as in majalis of poetry and song as an ethical, social and cultural threat which called for a delineation of the values and beliefs that governed sexual relations between free men and slave women. At stake was not only the demarcation of what constituted an ideal Muslim gendering of sexual roles but also the regulation of slave (and free) women’s cultural roles.

Writing (Letters), Liquids, and Lives Reborn in Post-War Anglophone Lebanese Women’s Fiction

by Lana Malek Zantout


This thesis examines post-war Anglophone Lebanese Women’s fiction in Nada Awar Jarrar’s Dreams of Water and Zena El Khalil’s Beirut, I Love You. Through the careful analysis of the aforementioned novels, this thesis argues that writing and liquids are fluid motifs that act as a looking glass into the fractured selves of the female protagonists. The fluidity of writing, illustrated in the protagonists’ written works, i.e. letters, bullet-point notes, and blogs, and the free-flowing liquids, in the form of natural fluids and drinks, spill across the pages of the novels under study, serving as the volatile medium through which these heroines attempt to understand themselves, reinvent their identities, and ultimately, experience perpetual rebirth. 

The Writing of Trauma: Catharsis and Women’s Subversion of Patriarchy in Rabih Alameddine’s I, the Divine and Zena el Khalil’s Beirut, I Love You

by Nayiri Haroutioun Kalayjian


This thesis exposes the way in which Rabih Alameddine’s I, the Divine: A Novel in First Chapters (2001) and Zena el Khalil’s Beirut, I Love You (2009) intersect through their female characters. In the process of writing their memoirs, Sarah Nour el-Din and Zena el Khalil delineate war-torn Beirut society, the tragic events of 9/11 and their personal experiences of rape and/or sexual assault. By communicating these experiences, both characters allow for venues of articulation of women as marginalized and deprived voices. Through their unconventional rebellious notion of the feminine, they defy societal norms and subvert the paradigm of patriarchy. The traumatic experiences of both characters require a process of catharsis, which although initiated through the writing of their memoirs, testimonies of sexual healing and transcendence, does not lead them to complete reconciliation with either the self or Beirut, as evident through the open endings of their novels. This thesis also attempts to highlight that through their fragmented narratives, rebellion against social conventions, and acceptance of the chaos of life, Sarah and Zena weave tales of identity that portray an internal war that haunts them eternally and obstructs them from being completely healed. 

​Career Calling As A Lens To Better Understand The Success Of Women In Lebanon

by ​Marie Josee Georges Youssef 


The purpose of this project is to explore notions of career calling as an extreme subjective conception of career success from an agency-structure lens. In doing so, I will also highlight the macro-level cultural factors and personal factors that may affect the success of these Lebanese woman. The project can usefully assume that the framework of career calling can be nuanced to cater specific cultural orientations and be subjectively malleable through looking at both structure and agency when identifying callings. The project is conducted using a confirmatory qualitative methodology, drawn from 21 women in Lebanon that were part of the UNESCO report: Career Guidance from the Grassroots: The Stories of 40 Remarkable Lebanese Female Role Models. The results illustrate that the success of women is driven by the subjective perception of their careers as a calling; patriarchy and urf on a macro-level; and the influence of their personal context. 

Testing the Effects of Disclaimer Labels on Body Dissatisfaction in a Sample of Young Women in Lebanon

by Abeer Mansour


Policymakers, healthcare advocates and body image activists have recently obligated media displaying thin-ideal images to include a warning or disclaimer label on them. The labels alert consumers to the digital modifications applied to the models in the images, and aim to prevent women viewing these images from experiencing body dissatisfaction. Previous experimental investigations have yielded conflicting results with regards to the effectiveness of the labels in preventing body dissatisfaction. The present study aimed to address the limitations in these labels by creating and testing the effects of a modified label on body dissatisfaction in a sample of Lebanese women enrolled in the Introductory Psychology course at the American University of Beirut. The study was a between-participants experiment involving 85 participants across three groups (a control group; a group exposed to a traditional disclaimer label; and a group exposed to a novel, modified disclaimer label). It was hypothesized that the novel, modified disclaimer label condition would correct for the limitations of the traditional disclaimer labels in previous studies that had led to an increase in state body dissatisfaction, and had triggered state social comparison. This study also aimed to investigate how trait body satisfaction, trait social comparison, and thin ideal internalization moderate the effects of the labels on state body dissatisfaction, and how state social comparison mediates this effect.

​The Effect of Education on the Participation of Women in the Arab Labor Force

by Dina Osman Khattab


This paper examines the effects that educational attainment has on female labor force participation. Female labor force participation has increased from around 21 percent in 1980 to 26 percent in 2009. This study will tell us if female education has a role in this increase and if there are any other important factors affecting female labor force participation. Female labor force participation in Arab countries showed an increasing trend over the past thirty years. However, women are concentrated in the services sector in most Arab countries, except those where agriculture is the main sector of the economy. Their participation was mainly driven by education in addition to improvements in working skills and social status. In particular, literacy and enrollment rates at all levels have increased which helped Arab women in improving their status in society.

Achieving Gender Equality (SDG 5): A Better Future for Women and Rising Generations

by  Rawane Hamed


A fundamental aspect of achieving gender equality has always been providing equal rights to men and women. Despite seeing some progress towards achieving this goal, women and girls still face discrimination and rights violations every day and are still being disadvantaged compared to men worldwide, explaining why it is still one of the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved. The inequalities faced by women demonstrated a link between gender and health outcomes, occurring where they are more exposed to poverty, lack of access to education, malnutrition, violence, and poor mental health. All these aspects not only affect women negatively but also have a measurable impact on their children’s health, especially within the stages of early development, thereby opening the way for rising generations, both girls and boys, to endure the consequences of gender inequalities the world has imposed on women. Therefore, I will present the severe impact gender inequalities have on both women and their children’s health in the settings of poverty, violence against women, and inequality in access to education, to demonstrate the importance of gender equality​.

The Underlying Causes and Consequences of Lebanese Women’s Career Interruptions

by Marilyn Antoine Khoueir


Women constitute half of the Lebanese population, have the same rate of “secondary education and above” than men (38.8%) yet only constitute 22.8% of the labor force (HDR, 2014). In other words, women in Lebanon are an underutilized labor pool and still haven’t reached their full potential. By increasing the level of employment, organizations can serve their own purposes while having access to a larger number of qualified applicants. For that reason, companies need to capitalize on employing and retaining women. In order to do so, organizations must have a better understanding of the reasons that push or pull women to opt out of the workforce in the Lebanese market as well as what contributes to attracting and retaining them. Accordingly, the purpose of this study is to get a holistic view of women’s careers by exploring the reasons leading to the emergence of career interruptions as well as the repercussions these interruptions have on women’s careers. This would ultimately reveal further avenues for research that will, in the long run, lead to drafting applicable solutions to facilitate retention and increase women’s presence in the local workforce​.

Muslim Women Networks: Islamic knowledge [Re]production and the Premises of Empowerment through Transmission and Dissemination

by Alaa Ali Khaled


In a cozy small room in an old house in Hamra Street gather ten mothers sipping coffee and eating biscuits at 10 am. One can think this is just a morning gathering, a subhye as used in the Lebanese dialect where women join in for a coffee and a chat, but it is actually a halaqa (a religious circle). Some of the women have been attending for almost 20 years with enthusiasm and interest in every halaqa. The first time I attended, the discussion started with one woman telling the story of a da’ii (one who undertakes a call towards God) who entered a church in Lebanon, without notice, to call people to Islam. She entered the church out of her fear that the Christian community would not go to paradise. The discussion was polarized between praising this woman’s actions and huge sense of responsibility about Islam and questioning her sanity. Whenever a woman would join the discussion, someone would recount the story allowing the woman to be included in the discussion until one attendee pointed out that whenever something threatens the mainstream in Lebanon, insanity is used to excuse the act. This was the concluding remark about this topic that everyone, including the teacher in the halaqa, agreed upon without further consideration of the validity of this woman’s actions​.

Uncovering Multi-Level Barriers and Enablers to Women’s Career Development in the UAE

by Gabriel Farid Bardawil


Globally, when gender equality in the workplace is mentioned, several articles indicate that woman have been entering the workforce and reaching executive positions more and more in the past decades. Kelly (2010) mentions that in the United States women employment has evolved since the Equal Right Pay Act and Civil Rights Act, yet women are still paid around 23 percent less than men and only 3 percent have reached chief executive positions in Fortune 500s. While the US, Europe and some Eastern countries have been focusing on such fundamental issues for a while, the concept of gender equality remains relatively new in the Arab World, and specifically in the GCC (World Bank Gender Stats, 2009). ​

Women’s Access to Employment and Career Advancement: Towards more Supportive HR Practices and Systems in the Lebanese Private Sector 

by Assile Jihad Hennaoui


The roles that men and women play in society are not biologically determined; so much as they are socially determined (Sangeeta and Sharma, 2012). From the moment of birth, gender expectations influence how boys and girls are treated. Unfortunately, career differences can be easily seen in the career choices of men and women, especially that women participation in the labor force is mostly concentrated in traditional areas such as teaching, nursing, and low-level administrative work (Sangeeta and Sharma, 2012). Furthermore, despite the rising number of working women in the Arab Middle East, the percentage of women in the Lebanese workforce has remained below that of other countries across the world, due to the extent of discrimination between males and females in the workplace. In the Middle East, the total percentage of women in the labor force has increased from 1990 till 2017. For example, Saudi Arabia experienced an increase from 10.6% to 16.2%, Kuwait 24.2% to 28.2%, Iran 10.4% to 19.0%, Iraq 9.6% to 20.1% and Lebanon 22.5% to 24.5% only (World Bank, 2017). 

The Role of Women in Development (With Special Reference to the Middle East)

by Mirgun Ergunduz


The cradle of so many ancient civilisations, the Middle East is at the moment undergoing a most significant revolution. This revolution is basically a social one, penetrating into the depths of society and Its value system, The rapid changes in technology and in the institutions of society have led to an inevitable revision of the general outlook of the Middle Easterner. This rapid and often drastic change of attitudes has In many instances caused considerable hardship to the Individuals who are caught in this transformation process. The gaps between generations, as far as attitude to life is concerned, have been too big to bridge. The rapid transformation of society has also led to the emergence of the so called “marginal man” – the Individual who can identify himself neither with the traditional social values and norms nor with the new Ideas that he is exposed to in the tremulous world of a changing society. However, one need not view this situation with alarm, since the blessings of social change will result from its vexing experiences, no matter how paradoxical this statement may seem, The position of women is a significant part in its value system, and it is no coincidence that the rapidly changing norms and values of the Middle East are accompanied by a change in the position of women.

Knowledge, Attitudes, Beliefs, Screening and Management Practices of Domestic Violence against Women among Emergency Departments’ Health Care Providers in Lebanon

by Rasha Shehadi 


Violence against women has been recognized as “perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. And, it is perhaps the most pervasive” (Annan, 1999, page1). Domestic violence against women (DVAW) knows no culture, religion, borders, or beliefs, and women continue to endure domestic violence worldwide, with estimates varying from 20% to 50% from one country to another (UNICEF, 2000). Initially regarded as a human right issue, DVAW turned into a public health concern due to the global women’s organizations efforts (WHO, 2002). This phenomenon continues to be a “global epidemic” that jeopardizes women’s psychological, physical, sexual and reproductive, and economic wellbeing (Garcia-Moreno and Watts, 2011; Chambliss, 2008; UNICEF, 2000).​

Between the Blogosphere and the Public Sphere: Egyptian Women Bloggers Before and After the January 25th Revolution

by Rand Ali El Zein


The digital age has witnessed the rapid rise of blogging in the Arab world (Khiabany and Sreberny, 2007). Blogs became new platforms for political discussions, debates, and self-expression while sometimes functioning independent of statecontrolled media. Although most scholars remain uncertain of the ability of bloggers to instigate a revolution, blogs are nonetheless empowering enough to reshape the Arab public sphere. Lynch (2007) claimed the blogosphere is one of the places where mediated political debates and taboo topics find expression. Skalli (2006) provided a precise gendered perspective on the Arab public sphere. She claims that an understanding of the public sphere will remain incomplete if the role of women and the media are not investigated alongside each other. Annabelle Serberny (2002) has argued, “Women and the media are increasingly taken as a key index of the democratization and development of society” (p. 15). Moreover, El Sadda (2010) claimed that Arab blogging has created online literary counter-public, especially for Arab women who do not have easy access to traditional literary circles, such as coffee houses. ​

Understanding the “Queen Queer” Phenomenon of Women Working at Male-dominated Jobs in Lebanon: Defying the “3aib” Mystique via Redoing Gender?

by Maysa Mustafa Shawwa


“Don‟t they respect themselves? Have morals vanished from our society?” screamed the Facebook post into my ears hurting my feminist radar. The comment was directed to women working at the only women-run gas station in Lebanon, Queen gas station. Queen but queer, I thought. The online debate I engaged in smeared comments that attested that women aren’t “suitable” for such “masculine jobs”. This online stigmatization of women workers has several manifestations. Whether demonstrated in practices of gender discrimination against these women or masqueraded in the society‟s patriarchal gaze, directly or indirectly influencing women‟s career duties and choices, women in traditionally ascribed “masculine” jobs face many hurdles. She approaches the car. His eyes looking suspiciously, he attempts to turn on the engine and leave before anyone notices him. “Can I help you, sir?” breaks the silence and shatters with it the first wall of cultural shame. His plan to escape the vicious circle of “3aib” (shame) fails. She walks and pumps gas into his car successfully. Managed by Samar Dakdouk since February 2011, Queen gas station has created work opportunities for women in Sidon and neighboring areas (Anderson, 2012). 

Working Hard to be Funny: Lebanese Comedians‘ Labor, Gender and the Pursuit of Authentic Celebrity

by Maya Ahmad Adra


I recall the first time I attended Fady Raidi‘s comedy show in the summer of 2017. It was very funny and timely. I remember leaving the show with my friends with the shared feeling that a heavy load had been lifted off our shoulders. Fady‘s comedy spoke much about our political and social frustrations. His humor dissipated a built-up tension in our bodies and left us feeling mirth and a sense of relief that we weren‘t alone. In a nostalgic moment I went back online to check some of his comedy on YouTube. I found a few recordings from 2011 and 2009, and I was struck by two profound observations. First, watching his show online may not have had the same affective jolt that struck me when I had shared laughter with others, but I still felt that sense of delight that comes along with chuckling. Second, and most ironically, his narratives and his sarcastic critiques on politics and society still resonated. I had a hard time believing that the very topics he had covered were not commentaries on the malaise that is afflicting us today​.

Influence of Media and Media Literacy on Women’s Self Esteem: A Pilot Study

by Rita Hage


In a world characterized by instant communications and interactive multimedia, regardless of where one lives, women are constantly subjected to stereotypes and pressures of how thin and attractive they should be. Women live in a world where they are continuously under scrutiny about their appearance and believe they have to go through many means to feel attractive, such as losing weight and undergoing cosmetic surgery (James, 2013). Unfortunately, these pressures of beauty from society and the media have only increased in recent years (Khourchid, 2009). In past generations and in many cultures, plump women were considered attractive and appealing, such as Marilyn Monroe who was a size 12 (Khourchid, 2009). Other curvy pin-up girls from the 1950s, such as Bettie Page, Sophia Lorel, and Mamie Van Doren, were also known as sex symbols; people from all over the world considered them beautiful and stunning (Johnson, 2010). Even in the Middle East, in past generations, men preferred women who were plump and considered them attractive because they were seen as symbols of feminine fertility (Latzer, Tzischinsky, & Azaiza, 2007).

​A Managerial Critique of Political Parties and Women’s Parliamentary Representation in Lebanon

by Joanna Jihad Raichouni 


When women show emotion, they are called dramatic. When they want to be equal to men, they are insane. When they dream of equal opportunities, they are delusional. When they stand for their rights, they are unhinged. When they are too good at their positions, there’s something wrong with them. And when they get angry, they are hysterical or irrational or just being women. But, women have come a long way: women getting to drive in Saudi Arabia, women ministers in Arab countries like Jordan, Qatar, and UAE, elected and appointed female heads of state and government in countries like India, China, Germany, USA, UK, Pakistan, Norway, Ireland, Turkey, Canada…and women competing in a Hijab were all considered crazy doings. Hence, women can show global societies what crazy can do; because it is only mad until women do it (Nike, 2019). ​

Tunisian Women during the Revolution in 2011- between Participation and Marginalization

by Katharina Bruno Haensler


Women’s struggles in Tunisia have always been embedded in a nationalist context and this dynamic is continued by the youngest generation of activists in present-day Tunisia. Young women are now eager to be a part of forming and shaping a new democratic Tunisia with an active civil society. But despite women’s efforts to participate in the nationalist struggles in the 1950s, in student and worker uprisings in the 1970s, 1980s and in 2008 which led ultimately to the revolution in 2011, women were marginalized and their role as mothers and wives dominated over their role as citizens. In Tunisia, this process is in motion and in jeopardy at the same time. The nation is in process of redefining itself and its society. The question is when and how women’s issues should be discussed and addressed in society and politics. Burning topics like economic stagnation and high rates of poverty seem to be more important for many citizens, even women. Although women in Tunisia have achieved legal rights that are outstanding in comparison to other Arab countries, and wide parts of the urban Tunisian society are fairly liberal, women are by no means fully empowered. Sherifa Zuhur thinks that “Arab states embody various patriarchal structures and Arab society clings to a patriarchal system in which women’s position within and duties towards the family precedes their rights as individuals” (Zuhur, 2003:2).

The men behind the chair at a Beiruti salon: a case study of Lebanese hairdressers’ gender and professional identity construction

by Ghada Seifeddine


Storytelling is a linguistic resource for constructing social identity in the workplace. Professionals may use stories to present and regulate various kinds of gendered identities and make sense of their social world (Coates, 2003; Georgakopoulou, 1997; Johnstone, 2001). Findings from Eggins and Slade (1997) and Holmes (2005) suggest that workplace narratives serve to invoke supportive elements of talk, conventionally associated with femininity, and help the speakers connect with each other. Workplace narratives would then provide the linguistic opportunity to build solidarity whilst getting work done (Holmes, 2005, 2009). ​

Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship

American University of Beirut


PO Box 11-0236

Riad El Solh, ​1107 2020
Beirut, Lebanon

Tel: +961-1-350000 EXT. 4469


The Debs Center, 3 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 8th floor
New York, NY 10017-2303, USA

Tel: 1-212-583-7600