Chapter 23: Girls Just Want to Have Fun? Internet Leisure and Women’s Empowerment in Jordan
Deborah L. Wheeler and Lauren Mintz INTRODUCTION Only a small handful of scholars and policy analysts have examined the meaning of information technology for women in the Middle East.1 An even smaller community has studied the impact of new media practices on women in Jordan (Wheeler, 2006b; Kaya, 2009; Shunnaq, 2009). There is a particularly significant gap in the literature which looks at women’s leisure practices and the internet in the Middle East, a gap which this chapter begins to fill. Jordan is a suitable place to probe the relationship between information technology (IT), leisure and women’s empowerment in the Middle East – first, because the desire to empower women by providing IT tools and training is part of a national strategy for economic growth and human development as defined by King Abdullah and Queen Rania of Jordan; and second, because Jordanian women suffer many forms of gender discrimination from unequal access to citizenship rights, to honour killings, to uneven access to jobs. One Jordanian political scientist explains the legal foundations of gender discrimination in her country by observing, ‘The only justification for the discriminatory laws, either in text or in practice, is the desire to maintain the status quo of the patriarchal structures within the family and, by extension, within the state’ (Amawi, 2000, p. 181). Since potential for grievance is high, one might wonder whether IT access would give women tools with which to better organize and articulate their interests. Manuel Castells has observed that the rise of the...
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