Omani Women's Experiences as Second Language Writers

Omani Women's Experiences as Second Language Writers

Zainab Jabur (Sultan Qaboos University, Oman)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2551-6.ch016
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Abstract

This chapter explores the extent and the ways Omani Muslim women's identity is affected when writing in English as a second language. It seeks to gain insight into the relationship between these women's current lives and views and writing in ESL. The results confirm the hypothesis of the study, which is that the Omani women's identity/s and experiences are affected by learning English and writing in English as a second language, though some were reluctant to express this directly. These variations ranged from some participants' view that they had been forced to develop a second identity for the English world, to the view that their experience with English had only modified and changed aspects of their identity. Still, no matter which position they took, all participants acknowledged the existence of two worlds, the Arabic and the English.
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Omani Women: Past And Present

In terms of personality, economics, politics and civics, there are no women in Oman; women exist in number always greater than men, but their existence is domestic and servile only (Phillips, 1966). Phillips also stated that the inequality women faced in Oman was common throughout the Arabian Peninsula (1966, p.128). In her book Behind the Veil in Arabia,Wikan (1982), a social anthropologist, discusses Omani women, their world, and their role in Omani society. She refers to Omani women as being best described as ‘serene’ and asserts that there are many constraints which influence their personal and social life. “[M]any women are not aware of their legal rights and, for this or other reasons, do not benefit from them” (p.53). She believes that there are two worlds in Oman stating that: “there is the multitude of small women’s world in which men also do figure, but only marginally and in partial capacities (as husbands, brothers, sons);” and “there is the large world of the men, which also embraces women, but does so only in their partial, male-relevant capacities (as wives, sisters, daughters). Both worlds contain standards for both men and women, but one as embraced by men, the other by women” (p.160).

Wikan claims that there are differences in priorities between these two worlds, and that in the men’s world, “females are interesting mainly in terms of their sexual trustworthiness, because this is where they so strongly affect the lives of men” (p.160). However, in the women’s world, “hospitality and a number of other qualities are highly relevant and consequently have priority” (p.160). These two worlds represent and form the Omani society as a whole.

Unfortunately, a large proportion of the Omani male population believe that women’s major responsibilities should be restricted to personal life inside the home. They believe that women’s responsibility is to take care of their families, rather than to involve themselves in community life and contribute to the society in general (Osborne, 1977; Phillips, 1966). Phillips (1966) describes the Omani men by stating, “the Omanis, like the men of most Arab lands, have shackled and degraded their own women, and by denying them the chance to live in the world, even the narrow world of an Omani community, they have denied them self-respect as we, in the West, understand it” (p.146). He continued that “the Arabs believe that ‘a woman without a husband is like a bird with one wing’ and that ‘a woman’s lot is a husband or else the grave’” (p.129). Therefore, women are expected to carry out all their domestic duties before any public ones. Wikan (1982) supports this view by asserting that: “[w]omen are charged with full responsibility for house-work and child-rearing, duties that entail the potentialities of a considerable measure of influence, and even of power, in the life of the family”. He continues, “[t]hey have no economic responsibilities, however, and are entitled to be fed, housed, and clothed by their male guardian” (p.56).

Yet another historical description of Omani women comes from Wendell Phillips (1966) in his book Unknown Oman, in which he describes the status of Omani women thusly: “there is no future but marriage...Arab women are the downtrodden, mindless slaves of their fathers, brothers and husbands...by 28, the majority are old and worn-out grandmothers sorrowfully facing an early death” (p.129). He connected the status of Omani women with the country’s lack of development, believing that “[O]man and all Arabia will certainly remain among the backward areas of the world just as long as its women are kept ignorant, intellectually starved, secluded and degraded under a permanent seal of subjection” (p.142). However, this old picture of Omani women has changed with the progress of the country itself. Oman did not remain among the backward areas of the world, and one of the main reasons behind Oman’s ongoing development is the attention paid to women. Their education and status after the renaissance was, of course, led by the current Sultan of Oman, His Majesty Qaboos bin Said who in an early speech to the people said.

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