Western Media Stereotyping Of Arabian Women And How It Promotes Backward Living


The history of stereotyping Arabian women dates back to the gradual development of Orientalism, as captured by Edward Said. This context of Arabian women describes the inhabitants of the Middle East region, extending to all the countries that neighbor the Mediterranean Sea. Orientalism relates to a behavioral science that impacts on perception. The assessment of stereotypes against Arabian women is best carried out through the lenses of Orientalism that eliminates the bias and generalization that may affect the accuracy of the results. The strength relies on the ease of comparing relationships that exist with the dominant culture, such as the western culture over a minority culture. The comparison would depend significantly on the histories of societies’ civilizations. The Western media have led in the portrayal that paints a negative image of the contributions of Arabic women to their communities. The media holds a significant role in influencing public opinion through the coverage granted. The negative portrayal equally contributes to a stereotypic view of Arabic women in various ways.

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The basis of Orientalism arises from widespread inferiority perception (Said, 1978). The history of Orientalism dates back to the Lebanese civil war that created the foundation for several conflicts in the Middle East. The wars against Afghanistan and Iraq offer a reflection of the stereotypes held against Arabian women in the media coverage during such wars. Besides, the events of September 11 increased the negative perception of the Arabian culture in regards to increased violence and disregard for human rights.

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The military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq reflect the clash between two dissimilar civilizations. Before the military invasion, the media circulated images of oppressed Arabic women putting on veils (Al-Ariqi, 2008). The British, American, and French nations have always held a unified opinion towards the middle East reflected in the culture. The situation has built a generalization of the perception towards Islam and community roles. Western nations have often described the East as the vast Orient.  The United States being one of the Western allies, having held a close interaction with the Middle East and whose media continue to give massive coverage to the region.

The prominent media outlets that have tightly covered the events in the Orient include Fox News Channel and CNN (Said, 1978). These main channels are responsible for the negative coverage of the stereotypes against the Middle East Arabic women. The negative aspects of Orientalism include the disregard for values in the Arabic world that have contributed to the invincible fight for freedom and democracy in opposition to the Arabic norms. They have survived conflicting western ideologies that gave birth to the negative social stereotyping. Some of the inflicted doctrines through military invasion included the raid by French armies, Dutch occupants through Indonesia, and now the Americans.

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The exposures to vulnerabilities molded the negative perceptions documented through both the western media and literature.  The opinions already created by both the live stream and print media continue to be inherited from one generation to another. In this globalization era, media coverage continues to have a more significant influence on larger communities around the world. It gets harder to censor and regulate the amount of information held courtesy of the freedom and push for democracies around the world (Qutub, 2013). The Western nations’ influence further worsens the situation courtesy of the impact over other regions in the world. In such cases where the media content is globalized, it may be hard to assess the underlying justifications that govern behavior in such a manner. For instance, a family watching a media content may not appreciate the submissive nature of the Arabian women captured in the media program. In such a scenario, the content may not auger well with the viewers.

The media’s failure to reflect the diversity of worlds, cultures, and women lies in the orientation. Cultural inclusion relies on the foundations of tolerance and accepting diversity to which the Western media has continued to ignore. Despite diverse origins, the western media seem to be more united in their views and perceptions courtesy of the division in civilizations. Most of the Western media seem to share the same attitudes regarding Arabian women. Said (1978) captures loopholes of scenarios that often lead to the negative perception of the Arabic women. It begins with the understanding that the Arabian civilization is backward and lacks the opportunity for women in society. The negative portrayal has partly drawn animosity of the desire to save the Arabic women from the same culture that contributes to their existence. The unified negative western media coverage is responsible for the extensive negative coverage in several ways. The Danish cartoon saga that portrayed the difference between Islam and Christian civilizations depicts the disagreements in perceptions (Yilmaz, 2011). It reflected on the gap in acceptance of diverse cultures that exist even in the new century.

The discontent that existed after that reflects on the outcome of most of the situations in the whole world. Stereotypes against Arabian women arise in diverse ways. As much as print media images and live stream programs take a leading role, cartoons may also portray much of the harmful ideologies that define Arabian women. The western media always have an intent to pass a message most clearly in disregard of the offence (Yilmaz, 2011). The same media fails to recognize the interdependence that exists between the Arabic citizens and the nearby European continents. Expatriates travel from Europe to the Middle East to practice while Arabs cross the Mediterranean Sea to seek education and other specialized services. Both parties deserve fair treatment to adjust to their healthy lifestyles.

Significance of the Study.

The study seeks to asses and identifies instances of Western Media stereotyping of Arabic women. It further evaluates the far-reaching impacts of the negative stereotypes of Arabic women. The effects of the negative stereotyping are classified into social, economic, and political factors that contribute to the backward living. The outcome of the study would help the women prepare psychologically on how to overcome the western media stereotypes even when they co-exist with people from Western Civilizations (Varisco, 2017). The study would also contribute to healthy race relations with diverse civilizations, such as the Western majority.  The results would also be the basis for first tracking empowerment activities that improve on the role of Arabic women in their societies. The efforts seek to re-invent an optimistic lifestyle in the face of negative western media stereotyping.


The study seeks to apply a critical analysis of various media scenes, both print, and live stream media. In so doing, it carries out a content analysis of both films and reviews regarding the media content that depicts Arabic women (Shaheen, 2012). The critical analysis includes the generalizable portrayal of Arabic women as submissive and less aggressive to the current issues that face the Arabic world. Besides, the critical assessment seeks to identify the difference in attitudes but equal emancipation of both Arabic and Western women as sex objects. The Arabic women’s role in seduction dance has often been portrayed as a sexual tool contrary to the role that western women play in such entertainment joints. The critical analysis seeks to outline the weaknesses that confirm scenarios of stereotyping. The critical analysis turns out as a better approach to identifying the negative portrayals that arise with the widely accepted media generalizations. The critical analysis exposes.

The method allows for analyzing the truth behind the portrayals critically. I will equally apply the secondary review to recorded and print media. A reliability check must be carried out on the selected reviews for the relevance of the content to the themes. The themes are comparable based on media coverage. The validity and reliability of the study lie on the widespread identification of instances that underestimate the context of Arabic and Islamic civilizations. The critical analysis identifies essential trends in the media coverage, such as aggression against characters, elements of terrorism, and the individual victimizers.

The basis for selection includes the portrayal of a unique Arabic accent, the dressing code, hostility, and terrorism acts, the representation of either Arabs or Americans as victims.

Definition of terms

Qualitative; it seeks to provide an exploratory basis of the previously published content. It aims to include opinions and motivations that promote the outcome of qualitative research.

Middle East region; the target region encompasses Arabic countries in the North of Africa to Arabic Nations beyond the Mediterranean Sea occupied by Arabs.

Stereotyping Arabic women; the widely held public assumptions about the Arabic women that may be promoted by a particular agent.

Western civilization; describes the cultures with foundations in the European heritage that emancipate standard philosophical foundations.

The theoretical framework

The study would address the Western Media stereotyping of the Arabic women on Edward’s foundation of Orientalism. The assessment of stereotypes dates back to the historical description of the Middle East region as the vast Orient with a diverse culture distinct from the West. The orientalist researchers identify the Orient with the middle East and North Africa region. Orientalism relies on the views and perceptions of the Western researchers towards the people of the orient region. The Western scholars’ descriptions mainly allude to their dominance over the orient region. Most of the orientalism views describe the westerners’ perception rather than the orients people description. Said (1978) identifies some of the created stereotypes by the westerners that do not reflect the Orient’s people’s culture and behavior.

In most of the scenarios the Orient is described as often in need of help that promotes the overall social transformations. In the descriptions, the Orient is in inaudible enough to create an impression of itself. The basis of Orientalism provides the lenses to assess the narratives promoted by the Western Media critically. The researchers’ description turns out to support Western imperialism over the people of the Orient region. In most of the scenarios highlighted, the Western media paints adverse events in the Orient while limiting coverage of the achievements in the area (Shaheen, 2012). It has been identified as a case of selective reporting that discards ideas that do not fit into the political strategy of the western media. The approach has been successful for the media in calling for help for the Orient.

Critical analysis of the foundations of stereotyping

According to Said’s orientalism concept, Western media have applied various imageries such as the Hollywood movies to drive their ideologies. It begins with media concepts prepared by Hollywood and transmitted through the live stream media. In the end, the Western audience would only agree to the ideas defined and propagated by the media. Besides the Western Media view the Arabic culture in the lenses of Western ethics and Values. The result is an inconsistent description of the Arabic society that negatively reviews the Arabian culture (De Poli, 2017). Also, the reliance on outdated published academic media may give a negative impression of the Arabic communities. It so happens that the western media documentaries and historical perceptions may already be constructed on distorted media content. Media that rely on such libraries fail to create a distinctive description.

A critical analysis of Western Media Stereotypes

The critical analysis of western media coverage is based on diverse areas of assessment. One of the areas of assessment is the stereotype as veiled and oppressed; the second area of coverage is the role of terrorists aiding terror activities. Besides, the assessment also identifies the stereotyping role of all the Arabic women as Muslims and embracing the Muslim culture. The perception as submissive and docile with a limited say over marriage. The review also captures the view of women as homemakers often required to take care of the children. The assessment also touches on professionally endowed women but restricted by social norms.


Arab women are portrayed as submissive and compliant to sexual advances in the movies. Besides Arabic, women often take the role of seductive dance, getting ready to please unknown guests. In some sets of movies such as “The Sheikh,” “Slave Girl,” and “Please come home” portray veiled Arabic women, the film portrays the woman as disposable maidens clad in skimpy dance dresses. Disney’s’ rerun of the movie titled “Around the world in eighty days” features Arnold Schwarzenegger describing Prince Hapi, a Sheikh as a man with over one hundred wives. The description portrays Arabic women as submissive and committing to the patriarchal society. In some films such as “Protocol” and The Sheltering Sky give an image of shapelessness and forced into backward practices (Elouardaoui, 2013). The cinematic representation of submission and being docile has been widely accepted across the western world and reflected in other continents as the image that reflects on the lives of Arabic women.

While in other movies, the films have portrayed Arabic women as players in terrorism, taking up roles as secretive active bombers. Hollywood has captured such instances in the movie Federal agents vs. Underworld Inc in the year 1948. Before the September bombing, Hollywood films had portrayed the Middle East women as players in the Jihad war. The same narrative has remained even after the September 11 attack. For instance, the movie has characterized Palestinian, Morrocan, and Egyptian women as undercover bombing plotters into target Western countries. They are described as secret terrorists implanting bombs to blow up civilians. All the movies bring out the imagery of veiled Arabic women as undergoing an oppressive lifestyle that puts them into evil doings (Al-Malki, 2012). Besides, Middle East people have directly equated to Muslims a description that may not be satisfactory since some Arabs are Christians.

The description of veiled Arabic women as oppressed does not fit into the dignified portrayal of the Arabic women’s culture. The Arabic women have often recognized dressing in the veil as the ultimate noble Arabic woman dressing. The description as oppressed fails to accept the Arabic culture that promotes decency in dressing. The portrayal paints an image of incompatible civilizations. The Western media fails to recognize the diversity brought about by cultures. The description only dispels the Arabic women’s emphasis on decency. The perception as veiled and oppressed is used to back up the docile and submissiveness to the patriarchal society. The examinations of the attitudes demystify the culture of decency more than backwardness. The perception and description promote backward living.

In the critical assessment, the United States the Hollywood portrayal has promoted a false narrative of the Middle East women. Despite the recognition as secret as secret bombers, the Hollywood fraternity fails to recognize the role played by other Western nations’ citizens in facilitating the terrorism acts. According to the CIA inquiry into the September 11 attacks, they admit the enemy operates in a connected racket that includes other western Nation citizens (Gertz, 2002). Enlisting poverty as one of the foundations for terror testifies of the possibility of recruiting own American citizens. Besides, the immediate assumption that all Arabs and Muslims fall short turns out to be merely a stereotype. According to Shaheen(2012), the assumption that all Arabs are Muslims turns out to be a false perception. Western Media have also shared classified files of the beheadings of European and American Journalists, Soldiers, and even specialists. It turns out that militant groups are primarily responsible for the beheading are organized groups, some of which the governments of the countries have intentionally fought.

Shaheen(2012) argues that Arabs only represent the minority of the Muslim groups in the world and may not be wholly responsible for all the terror acts in the world. The perception discredits the religious diversity of the Arabs. The perception of all Arabs as Muslims has equally impacted on the expectation of the role of women in religion. For instance, in the opinion, women only have a participatory rather than organizing religious activities. It is worth questioning why Indonesia, Turkey, and Indians, some of the countries with a majority of Muslims, are taken out of the picture in portraying Muslim women as veiled and oppressed. The imagery projected reflects the faces of veiled Arabic women painted as oppressed. The assessment shows the incompatibility of the images portrayed and the way of life of the Arabic women.

The Western media also draws imagery of an Arabic woman as a homemaker often surrounded by children while putting on a black veil that only leaves a small view section for the eyes. The perception is the dominant image inherited over centuries describing the Middle East women mainly as homemakers rather than initiators. Al-Malki et al., (2012) highlight some of the oldest stereotypes that have been replicated over time. The Arabic women have struggled to change this identity over time through documenting research and literature that discredits the perception. Al-Malki has individually contributed as a scholar and blogger on how they overcome the negative stereotypes.


American newspaper efforts to bring out the clear image of Arabic women also failed to bring out the actual image of the Arabic women. The portrayal viewed Arabic women as limited by the restrictive social roles in their communities. Whatsoever the efforts to eliminate the stigma the description often never matches the ideal Arabic women(Nawar, 2007). In most of the scenarios captured in the newspapers, the Arabic women ether turn out as victimized, emergence as a superwoman or oppressed. The description in the newspapers fails to give the readers the ultimate portrait of the Middle East woman (Melman, 2016). The perception fails to provide a consistent acceptable description that matches the societal setting.

TV shows

TV shows hosted by media personalities have also promoted stereotypical perceptions and attitudes. In one scenario where Oprah Winfrey hosted a Lebanese Goodwill Ambassador Nancy Ajram, who also doubles up as a singer. As the interview progressed, Winfrey described Lebanon as profoundly conservative. In a reference documentary, she identified women in Lebanon as veiled just as there Afghani counterparts. The portrayal as at the moment in 2009 was incompatible because Lebanese women are the most empowered in the entire Middle East region. According to the survey of economic and social development, Lebanese woman was classified as more independent on dressing with a higher literacy level. Tertiary education enrollment for women exceeded that of men standing at 44 and 40 percent, respectively(www.escwa.un.org).


The captured facets of western media indicate the promotion of a negative perception contrary to the real image that describes Arabic women. Among the selected holly wood films, up to 90% description identify Arabic women as helpless and utterly dependent on men. Besides, there is a prevailing assumption in the coverage that the Arabic women mainly play the role of homemakers and belly dancer maidens. Negligible focus is given on the portrayal of women as professionals. A majority of the movies’ portrayal reflects on the lives of women as just females without any life responsibilities.

There is a broad assumption that all the Arabic women emancipate the Muslim culture a situation that is dispelled with the existence of a Christianity sect in the Middle East. Different factions of western media capture a section of Arabic women Up to 20% as terrorists who aid in the movement of weapons into western targets. Especially Palestinian, Lebanese and Moroccan women. TV host platforms have also portrayed the negative image of women. Out of the media of the west outlets analyzed movies acted as the primary outlet of the portrayal of the negative image of the Arabic women. Over 50% of scenes are reflected in other media such as the role of Arabic women in society, the perception of allegiance to Islam, and submissive to the patriarchal society. The Western Newspapers’ primary failure is to capture the real image of the Arabic women as they try to describe the Arabic woman.

Newspapers have tried as much to offer accurate perception but still capture some of the stereotypes, such as being docile and less involved in social affairs.


The discussion of the critical analysis is carried out in comparison to the information portrayed by the Arab media. One of the leading Arab media that has struggled to change on the stereotype perceptions is the Aljazeera English network. In the coverage of Arabic media, Arab women are gradually adopting better interaction techniques to improve their social lives. The Arab media talk shows have reflected on the achievements made by women in diverse social categories such as sports and politics. On the other hand, some of the talk shows organized by the Western Media promote the stereotyping such as the Oprah show of veiled Lebanese women. Different roles captured in the talk shows include achievements made in education and creating economic opportunities (Rahbani, 2010).

The recognition of all Arabic women in a Hijab as Muslims has fueled the explanation of the Muslim women as players in terrorism. On the other hand, the Arabic media gives coverage to some of the Islamic disparities and the current wars within the Middle East region that detach terrorists from the social fabric of the Arabic women communities. In a generalization perspective, all Islamic social structures are perceived as patriarchal societies. The Arab media, primarily through Aljazeera, has highlighted the steps and strengths manifested by women in playing their role in the social setup (Al-Ariqi, 2008). A move that creates variations between countries and eliminates the generalization concept of all of the Arab women as dominated over by men.

Through the lenses of comparison, the perceptions highlighted by the Western Media fail to provide a typical image of the collective Arabic women communities. The Arab media, through the Aljazeera communication network, have published the variations and struggles that reveal a different perception of Arabic women, such as resilience and transformation of the societies through actions. Even as immigrants into western nations, the Arabic media has recognized the role played by the Arabic women in retracing their roots. In the film entitled” Women Searching for Freedom,” the escapades of three women from diverse backgrounds retracing their social culture is highlighted amidst challenges.

The strengths of the evaluation lie in the critical analysis of the largely projected stereotypic assumptions of Western Media against the diversities expressed by Arab media and notable Arab personalities. The critical analysis exposes the difference between stereotypically advanced beliefs and the actual experiences expressed by the media (Rahbani, 2010). Besides personal experiences and perceptions by renowned authors that reflect on the lessons within the orient highlight the reality perception. The approaches help give a better image of the critical impressions from either side. The main weakness of the paper lies in the method of media content selection for review. It captures the images visible from other media publications based on reviews. The model of collection may lead to the loss of track of other non-reviewed films. Most of the selected films are the ones highlighted for negative stereotyping.

The practical implications of the reviews include a comparative approach of the stereotypical descriptions and how they have contributed to the slow empowerment of the Arabic women. The expected outcome includes identification of the strengths of the Arabic women and recognizing the efforts to thwart negative stereotypes. The efforts seek to empower the women to overcome some of the stereotypical descriptions instigated against the Arabic women. The result is a broader effort to promote a transformative lifestyle that goes beyond the existing stereotypes. Arabic women would improve on the participative role of women in social affairs such as politics and family roles.

More research is needed to access the transformations witnessed in the western media over time. The research is necessary to assess whether there are efforts carried out by western media to cleanse the existing stereotypic image. An additional assessment on the existing consistency in stereotyping and ways in which the western Media has adjusted on the portrayal. The current content is mainly selected from the older trend of movies and failing to take track of the newer movie versions. Additional recommendations may be necessary to identify any slight changes advanced by the western media.


In conclusion, the critical analysis and individual contributions by independent Arabic women indicate a negative stereotypical image. The comparison of the Western media perceptions to the Arabic media indicates a disparity in the portrayal. The difference suggests a discrepancy in the knowledge that highlights the model of stereotyping. The current content of stereotyping identifies a trend built on a historical perspective. As much as both Arabic and Western Media have manifested aspects of stereotyping, the western media records more negative coverage. The coverage has led to a demotivation and a docile mentality among the Arabic women. The Arab media has played a critical role in portraying some of the efforts made to overcome the stereotypes.

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