Thus, the effects of legal changes in these societies tend to trickle down gradually.
It is important to remember that the problems of male-female inequality that have most typically concerned Western feminists are different from those facing Middle Eastern feminists.
Although just a limited segment of the Jordanian population appears to have embraced the lifestyle -- and it's easier for men than women -- their numbers are growing.
"It's still a certain part of the community, it's not the masses, but there are enough numbers now for it to be seen," said Madian al-Jazerah, owner of [email protected], a trendy bar in Amman.
But for those interested in exploring, "there are more opportunities and there are better opportunities to keep it private," said Andrea Rugh, an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D. At the bar in [email protected], Mohamed Qawasmeh and his friend Shadi Al-Saeed flirt with a group of American girls.
The two Jordanian 20-somethings said that a few years ago there were only one or two places where they could go to get a drink and meet girls. "It's not weird for anyone to say I'm going clubbing.
Often these legal changes have been far in advance of the state of social evolution; it may take many years before some segments of Middle Eastern societies feel the impact.
While reform may be immediately significant for educated women in major urban centers, illiterate women, particularly those in nomadic or rural communities, may not understand their legal rights or enjoy the independence and resources required to benefit from legal reform.
Although there are feminist organizations in Middle Eastern countries, they tend to be small and to lack significant input into the political process.Generally, Middle Eastern women enjoy something close to legal equality with men in political life, access to education, professional opportunities, and salaries - goals for which Western women have long had to struggle.Moreover, Islamic law has from the outset given women full legal capacity once they attain puberty.Beginning with the oil boom in the 1970s, many Arab families became increasingly fragmented as people moved to the Gulf for lucrative jobs.Today the trend continues, as people move to cities or abroad for work.