Oil, Islam, and Gender

Women have made less progress towards gender equality in the Middle East than in any other region. Many observers claim this is due to the region's Islamic traditions. Michael Ross argues, on the contrary, that oil production has caused women to lag behind in many other countries, including Nigeria, Venezuela, and Russia. In other words, oil—not Islam—is harmful for women in the Middle East. Speaking at Georgetown University, Ross argued that oil production reduces economic opportunities for women and thus limits their political influence. As a result, oil-producing states maintain atypically strong patriarchal norms. In the context of a focused comparison of oil-rich Algeria and oil-poor Morocco and Tunisia, Ross presented global data on oil production, female work patterns, and female political representation.

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