University of Surrey

Test tubes in the lab Research in the ATI Dance Research

It's my hair which is covered...but ahhh my brain is uncovered : Muslim Kuwaiti women in a changing world.

Saleh Almutawa, Ghinaa (2016) It's my hair which is covered...but ahhh my brain is uncovered : Muslim Kuwaiti women in a changing world. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey.

GHINAA SALEH THESIS.pdf - Version of Record
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike.

Download (3MB) | Preview


Abstract Kuwait has changed dramatically over the last 50 years and simultaneously the world has changed in terms of economic and financial factors, globalization, technology, and religion. These changes have implications for the lives of women in terms of a range of factors such as clothing, relationships, sexuality, childhood, and parenting. This thesis aimed to explore how women make sense of themselves in the context of this changing world taking three different perspectives. In line with this, three inductive empirical studies were carried out in Kuwait using open-ended in-depth interviews as the methodological tool and thematic analysis as the analytic approach. Reported meaning making experiences were shared on culturally sensitive topics providing new insights to contribute academically in this under-researched field. Study one explored taboo issues related to the women’s sexuality and relationships (aged 19-27). The aim was to examine reasons as to why young Muslim Kuwaiti women engage in pre-marital sexual relationships and how much their modernized thoughts influence their personal desires even if they are aware of the consequences in societal norms and rigid restrictions. Results indicated that women engage in romantic relationships and continuously feel the need to “balance” between their secretive personal sexual desires and the Islamic Sharia law of Kuwait. Having relationships in this changing world creates issues around sexual guilt. This creates tensions and implications for women including “a clash” of their two selves when managing two identities. Study two involved a sample of unmarried Muslim Kuwaiti women (aged between 22-55). The aim was to understand the causes of the increased rates of divorce and spinsterhood in an Islamic context that stigmatizes single women. Results indicated that women demand to remain single for reasons such as the demand for independence in their patriarchal context and the desire for new marital expectations. Being unmarried in this changing world creates cultural rebound effects explained in women’s senses of social and family pressures, clothing, sexual liberation, and the Kuwaiti feminist roles in today’s changing world when transgressing taboo. Conflict is created when choosing between being socially invisible because their desires for “women’s independency” is neglected in Kuwait, or being socially visible in a “negative light” for choosing to remain unmarried within their Islamic context. Yet still, they are not willing to give up their independent identities in order to fit in with traditional or marital expectations. Study three looks at the views of religious, traditional, and modern Muslim Kuwaiti mothers today and their relations with their children, specifically in raising daughters (aged between 5-13). The aim was to explore socio-cultural patterns of change allowing a richer understanding of Muslim Kuwaiti mothers in current generations in comparison to the past. Results indicated that mothers are continuously normalizing cultural taboos and social stigmas in terms of emotional and intellectual aspects. Tension was apparent when reflecting on the veil, education, and social life in a changing world. The mothers did face some challenges by living in an “old” traditional space, yet in a “new” modern time. With that, they desired stronger daughters (with a future that does not mirror theirs). Overall, this thesis shows that living in a changing world in Kuwait challenges women’s identities when reflecting upon social identity approach and self-categorization theory. This creates tension of self and identity. Women when describing their sexual relationships, being unmarried, or bringing up their daughters experienced a sense of clash of self and identity when balancing between desired selves and social identities.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects : Social and health psychology
Divisions : Theses
Authors :
Saleh Almutawa, Ghinaa
Date : 31 May 2016
Funders : Saleh Almutawa
Contributors :
Depositing User : Ghinaa Al-Mutawa
Date Deposited : 17 Jun 2016 11:16
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 18:14

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

Information about this web site

© The University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, United Kingdom.
+44 (0)1483 300800