Tuesday, March 10, 2009

free spaces: Arab Women & Blogging

Since we are celebrating the international women day and since I belong to the Arab region I thought to contribute to the discussion of blogging ethics through introducing some findings of a research of mine about the Palestinian Female bloggers. The research was titled “ free spaces: Arab Women & Blogging
Content analysis study to the Palestinian females’ blogs” .

There are many reasons for the suffering of Arab women in general and the Palestinian in particular, despite the relative improvement in laws and the official policies concerning women rights in the Arab countries, Unfortunately, still some religious leaders and some media contribute in one way or another in the promotion of customs and traditions that seek to strengthen the rule of men to women's lives and bodies from the birth time to the grave.

The Palestinian women sufferings is derived from many sources from one hand the family traditions , the society customs and from the other hand the misery of economic conditions or the loss of husband or brother or beloved children, from houses demolitions, siege and closure of roads by the occupation authorities.

I found that Palestinian women feel powerless and can’t complain about their own problems because usually they face much important financial and practical difficulties.
Through the literature review I found that women in general experience wars and military conflicts in a different way from men. Wars in Bosnia, Herzegovina and Rwanda in the nineties of the last century, drew the attention to the horrific levels of violence against women in times of armed conflict. Women may be also targets of violence by the occupation forces because of their political activities or because of the political activities of their relatives. I found also that Communities living under the restrictions of occupation turned by time into a semi-military societies, many families have weapons that can be used in incidents of violence against women by husbands.

Meanwhile, communication technologies specially the Internet and its applications represent a new public sphere for the freedom of expression to the Arab world. Blogging is a new hope for Arab women because it is characterized by the decentralization that makes it more liberal and interactive. Many female bloggers told me that the best thing about blogging is that you can write what ever you want freely and remain anonymous .

Blogging the Palestinian issue is still a central interest to many Arab bloggers . I have analyzed a purposive sample consisted of 200 Arabic blogs on maktoob.com ( the union of Arab blogs) according to the traffics, selecting the highest 10 blogs from every Arab country according to hits or visits. And I found that the majority of the blogs in the sample have posts about t the Palestinian issue .(90%) of the blogs from Algeria , (70%)Jordan, (50%) Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. (40%) UAE, Mauritania, Bahrain, and Syria, and (30% and less) of the blogs from 10 countries: (Morocco, Qatar, Lebanon, Iraq, Somalia, Tunisia, Kuwait, Oman, Djibouti, Libya)

In my study I tried to shed light on the Palestinian female bloggers ( those who lives in the Palestinian territories in Gaza and west bank) I tried to approach their demographics, their Internet usage habits, their blogging interests, and some of their ethical standards.

Demographics:

It was an opportunity to test also the theory of Everett Rogers on the spread of innovations within the different cultures “diffusion of innovations”.
I used a descriptive content analysis to a sample of the Palestinian females blogs on the site of the Arab Bloggers Union ( Maktoob.com) along with questionnaires.

The study found that the majority of the Palestinian female bloggers were educated belong to the age group 16 to 24 years and they used their blogs for advocating the Palestinian right for having their independent state and advocating women’s rights.

Palestinian bloggers participation in the compound was in the seventh rank after Egypt - Morocco - Saudi Arabia - Syria - Jordan - Algeria. The number was 1103 blog of the total 17,846 Arabic blog hosted by a site at the time of the study, Palestinian women have almost (11.42%) of the total Palestinian blogs.

(61.9%) Palestinian female blogger mentioned her profession , while (38.1%) didn’t. Undergraduate students & Graduates (41%) followed by journalists (19%).
For the variable of age(72.22%) mentioned the age while (27.77%) did not I found a variety of age groups, where it became clear that the majority of them belong to the age group 16 to 24 years

Why do they blog?? They wrote that:

"When the words rose up inside me and I felt the desire to write and to communicate this blog came to existence, I chose it to be a personal blog, it’s my blog and its only for me! I do not really know what is the real reason which encouraged me to blog? Is it the need to reveal? Or is it my need to feel existed as a separate entity! With ideas, opinions and point of view?! "(Liel wa eqhwan blog 2007)

"Robba of Palestine" another female blogger wrote that
“It is ones right to achieve his own myth, the legend is for me to participate and share my ideas with others through blogging" (Rabbi of Palestine, 2007)

Blogging topics:

Analysis also showed the diversity of blogging categories, (50%)of the Palestinian female bloggers classified their blog to be public blog which means that the posts are about public concern issues that can be political or social, while (18.25%) classified their blogs to be personal blogs means its about their personal ideas , experiences, and emotions and the rest didn’t chose a specific category.

Concerning the posts topics( 55%) of the posts were about Palestinian rights and the creation of an independent state. (40%) dealt with women's right to safety, love and freedom and equal opportunity. ( 5%) of the posts were about technology, sports and others.

The blogs and the posts show various forms of oppression and discrimination against the female bloggers. For example some times families prevent them from continuing blogging. one wrote in her blog which is one of the most visited Palestinian blogs as demonstrated by quantitative analysis titled “ Masdar elhamy” means the source of where my inspiration:

“I watched everybody then I start crying then after all tears I turned to my blog, its topics became to be more personal day after day against my will….but it’s the way to reveal because I know that in this world there are people can feel me, even if we do not see each other and maybe will never meet...... .
Even my blog they will take it from me one day, as they said .........
Take all of my writings, burn it or distributed to the sellers of sweets to use it ,
I suggest you take every thing I wrote since I was so young, through it from the window and make it fly in the air before the eyes, but unfortunately, something will make you angry after all. My blog will remain on the Internet and many people will be able to read it after all "(the source of my inspiration 2007)

Blogs also mention some forms of rejection of some social customs like the use of the term of spinsterhood a Palestinian female blogger wrote:
"The term itself is offensive.., as if women in the universe were created for one purpose only, is to be a breeding machine. "( Mschriologgio 2007)

Blogs also mentioned many testimonies about cases of violence against Palestinian women, both by the occupation forces or by their relatives and neighbours, including attempts of rape, sexual harassment, and others.

Code of Ethics:

I have posted 300 questionnaire to some of the female bloggers trying to get their input concerning whether we need to develop a new code of ethics for the bloggers and the majority of the responses ( 55%) was against this code for different reasons:
(25%) of them justified their refusal because of the fear of transforming this into a new type of censorship. (10%) have some questions about how to apply such code, While(10%) doubted the importance of these codes. (10%) didn’t give any reasons.
(35%) accepted the idea of code of ethics for blogging and (10%) were neutral.

Limitations:

Ofcourse there are many limitations to the study like analyzing of a specific site limits the ability to generalizing the results, also using Quantitative analysis of the content does not include what could be regarded as the tone or the context of the posts.