Feminists Curiously Silent After UAE Gives Gender Equality Awards Exclusively to Men

“Where are the feminist voices on this?”

Men won all of the awards handed out in a ceremony Sunday to promote gender equality in the workplace in Dubai ― and feminists had nothing to say for once.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum awarded medals and certificates in a number of categories, such as “best government entity supporting gender balance,” “best federal authority supporting gender balance,” and “best gender balance initiative”. The honors went to the United Arab Emirates’ Finance Ministry, Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority and Ministry of Human Resources, respectively.

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The UAE supposedly conceived the Gender Balance Index awards to foster gender equality in the workplace, and the Dubai Media Office was committed to promoting them as such. The office tweeted out photos of Maktoum, vice-president of the emirate and ruler of Dubai, posing with four different robed and headscarf-wearing men.

What backlash there was to the UAE’s display of hypocrisy came largely, though not exclusively, from men, many of them of Middle Eastern heritage. But mostly there were jokes.


Meanwhile, women’s rights advocates― typically eager to bemoan all sorts of perceived slights to their gender, however subtle or counterintuitive ― almost seemed not to notice. And some conservatives called them out.

Many on the political right have complained that feminists have little to say about the mistreatment of women under Islam, allegedly due to political correctness. According to a Reuters report from last June, seven of the 10 most dangerous countries for women have Arab or Muslim majorities.

While the UAE did not make the list, its record falls well short of progressive standards. A report last year from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that the Gulf monarchy still allows a man to prohibit his wife from working and to limit her freedom of movement. Domestic violence is also legal as long as it doesn’t leave a mark, and marital rape is not a crime.

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Yet when Jezebel deigns to cover the Middle East, it’s to praise a women-only socialist commune in war-torn Syria.

Liberal hypocrisy in this area has been said to extend beyond women’s rights, too. Catholic school boys are fair game for vilification as products of a racist, sexist religious culture, but Allah forbid anyone should note that a terrorist is Muslim. Or so the argument goes.

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