Middle Eastern Women of UCR

The empowerment of those who are seen in the eyes of society to lack such power. To show the world the injustice of their thoughts alone
"I CHOOSE WHO I AM! I represent me & only me!"
"Yes, I’m Palestinian. No, I can’t Dabke."
Feda Manasarh
4th year Creative Writing major
Palestinian
Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being raised in?
·      I was born here in America. This makes things a little complicated, but you habve to try your best. My parents raised me to take Palestinian culture and American culture, but sometimes these cultures conflict and it makes it really complicated. Say what you want to do is ok in one culture and not in the other, you have to always be aware of what you are doing and pay attention to that.
Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?
·      To be honest, when im here in America I don’t see it hold me back but when im back in Palestine I will feel a difference, but here in American culture I feel like there is nothing that holds me back
Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?
·      I think in retrospect, yea. I guess that would make it difficult. My parents really want and expect that, marrying a Palestinian and then a Middle Eastern, if it extends to that. It just makes you handicapped and the pool that you could look for a lot smaller.
Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?
·      Yea if I am around other people of the culture. Like I said, my family specifically don’t have a problem, we have created our own boundaries within our culture. We will go to family gatherings with family from Palestinians ot Jordanians, and we will say “oh, we are going to get some ice cream” and they will say “its night time, you cant leave” but we are a responsible group of girls and they stills say that we cant go. I see with a lot of other people and in respect to our culture, yea I see it.
Are there any scenarios you have been placed in that contradict your culture that you have had to defend yourself for?
·      Sometimes when im more pious or more religious, for example, if you are really religious when we go to mosque lot or prayer a lot, we go to prayer meetings that start at 11 o’clock at night and go till the morning time. some people in our culture say no you cant go, be pious in your own home. it is restrictive that way. my culture in practice restricts women and wants us to stay bottled up, or if people find out that my mom is allowing me to go to mosque at 10 o’clock at night say “she doesn’t need to be there”. My parents are a little more open, but this does have a lot to do with me being the sixth kid raised here. Obviouslybecause my siblings have taught my parents so much, I don’t have to fight as much, because its veen opened for me. But the thing that culture never played a role with me is that we were never kept from getting an education or not able to drive, it was basically that we cant do anything at night. And night starts when the sun goes down, even if it’s the winter and the sun goes down at 4:30, that’s considered night. That was the biggest thing we had to teach our parents that if you are doing something good and productive, its ok. But there are still people in our culture that think it is bad.
In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?
·      Yea, definitely. Especially among a lot of Muslims, because that’s the religion I practice, amongst them, Palestinians are seen as the more cultural ones and really really really prideful because it is an occupied land, but I do harbor a lot of pride for being Middle Eastern and Palestinian, so I feel like sometimes I have to defend myself for that, so I say “get to know me”. And also when people tell me I’m not even full Palestinian, I tell them I am allowed to practice the culture I want to and you cant take that away from me. So with Palestinians, I have to defend myself because they don’t think that because I am not always in the political phase that I don’t, and I will defend people and try to start discourse but some people in our culture believe that with everyone you meet, you have to have a hard exterior about your situation and you have to get them to hear your side, but I don’t believe that that type of discourse causes change in society.
What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture?
·      I don’t feel that there are a lot of things in my culture that give me empowerment, I think that religiously or familial, I feel empowered. I do feel empowerment when dealing with a situation and I can tell someone that I have been to Palestine and I do see how it is, I feel empowered through that retrospect and the privilege of that. In regards to actually being able to experience Palestine and there are others whos grandparents left with the occupation and they don’t know anything about Palestine besides what they have heard just like anyone else. I definitely feel empowered knowing tha ti have seen the culture with my own two eyes.
What is your best quality/ characteristic?
·      I don’t like talking about myself. But honestly I would say that my quality would be understanding and empathizing. Sometimes it may be after I meet someone and they leave me, but I always try to stop at the end of my day and seeing someone and thinking for a moment, okay this is exactly how they feel, but empathy and understanding is a step further in trying to gage and see the directions that people are coming from. I really try my best to do that and I think that on different levels that I reach that more than other people. A characteristic is “curves, more to love”. Even when I go home people say, “you live in America and you still have the curves and the structure.
In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?
·      No. its not something I think about. I don’t wake up saying, “I wish I was black today, or I wish I were white”, its not something I think about. Sometimes I wish that paletinians idnt have such a  stereotype surrounding them, but I don’t think that it’s a physical attribute, it just means the way it was practiced culturally.
What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture?
·      A lot of people say that, “you Middle Eastern women are good for staying at home and staying in the kitchen”, but people need to understand that women in my country are being asked everyday, what do they want to do and they are going after what they want. So when they chose to sit at home or to get married or to work, it is slowly becoming a matter of personal choice and I think that it doesn’t exist as much as we think it does. I think that girls who are both Middle Eastern and American  are starting to realize that they need to have their choice and they need to ask because that’s their right. And your culture can only hold you back so much, especially in big life decisions.
What are you personally passionate about?
·      I realy like being around kids and teenager, and I think that if people were to stop and listen to them for a moment, you would realize how much of an impact it has on people. we think that with kids, you cant have discourse with them, but you could learn so much from them by sitting there are asking them and give them the attention and needs they want. I think about working around them, because I could never get bored. I can work with anyone of any age, but I especially like working with that age group.
What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?
·      My experience is that I have to turn it off and turn it on, my cultural things that I’m used to . like for example, when I’m with my family and I say that I am doing things with my American friends they say its fine because they know that it wont be a problem, but when it comes to someone who is Middle Eastern, they ask if their parents are okay with it because there is so much cultural responsibility that is placed on girls and there always has to be this upheld quality and they have these specific ideas of what polite us and what a girl should be and its crucial to uphold it and I try my best to have peope understand that each individual is different and your humane ideas should always be kept on whether you are of the American culture or the Middle Eastern culture. Sometimes I struggle with that but I don’t want to shove it in anyone’s face. But today I’m American because everyone around me is American.
What do you want people to know about your culture?
·      I would want them to know what they would want to know. I mean, I don’t personally see as much disempowerment. But I guess that if I was to tell someone right off the bat, I would tell them that cultures vary from country to country and city to city so you could meet someone who is Palestinian from this city and they will be different than a Middle Eastern person from another city. There is no way to categorize a people when there are differences based on people from the same country but living in different cities and having different backgrounds. 

"I CHOOSE WHO I AM! I represent me & only me!"

"Yes, I’m Palestinian. No, I can’t Dabke."

Feda Manasarh

4th year Creative Writing major

Palestinian

Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being raised in?

·      I was born here in America. This makes things a little complicated, but you habve to try your best. My parents raised me to take Palestinian culture and American culture, but sometimes these cultures conflict and it makes it really complicated. Say what you want to do is ok in one culture and not in the other, you have to always be aware of what you are doing and pay attention to that.

Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?

·      To be honest, when im here in America I don’t see it hold me back but when im back in Palestine I will feel a difference, but here in American culture I feel like there is nothing that holds me back

Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?

·      I think in retrospect, yea. I guess that would make it difficult. My parents really want and expect that, marrying a Palestinian and then a Middle Eastern, if it extends to that. It just makes you handicapped and the pool that you could look for a lot smaller.

Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?

·      Yea if I am around other people of the culture. Like I said, my family specifically don’t have a problem, we have created our own boundaries within our culture. We will go to family gatherings with family from Palestinians ot Jordanians, and we will say “oh, we are going to get some ice cream” and they will say “its night time, you cant leave” but we are a responsible group of girls and they stills say that we cant go. I see with a lot of other people and in respect to our culture, yea I see it.

Are there any scenarios you have been placed in that contradict your culture that you have had to defend yourself for?

·      Sometimes when im more pious or more religious, for example, if you are really religious when we go to mosque lot or prayer a lot, we go to prayer meetings that start at 11 o’clock at night and go till the morning time. some people in our culture say no you cant go, be pious in your own home. it is restrictive that way. my culture in practice restricts women and wants us to stay bottled up, or if people find out that my mom is allowing me to go to mosque at 10 o’clock at night say “she doesn’t need to be there”. My parents are a little more open, but this does have a lot to do with me being the sixth kid raised here. Obviouslybecause my siblings have taught my parents so much, I don’t have to fight as much, because its veen opened for me. But the thing that culture never played a role with me is that we were never kept from getting an education or not able to drive, it was basically that we cant do anything at night. And night starts when the sun goes down, even if it’s the winter and the sun goes down at 4:30, that’s considered night. That was the biggest thing we had to teach our parents that if you are doing something good and productive, its ok. But there are still people in our culture that think it is bad.

In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?

·      Yea, definitely. Especially among a lot of Muslims, because that’s the religion I practice, amongst them, Palestinians are seen as the more cultural ones and really really really prideful because it is an occupied land, but I do harbor a lot of pride for being Middle Eastern and Palestinian, so I feel like sometimes I have to defend myself for that, so I say “get to know me”. And also when people tell me I’m not even full Palestinian, I tell them I am allowed to practice the culture I want to and you cant take that away from me. So with Palestinians, I have to defend myself because they don’t think that because I am not always in the political phase that I don’t, and I will defend people and try to start discourse but some people in our culture believe that with everyone you meet, you have to have a hard exterior about your situation and you have to get them to hear your side, but I don’t believe that that type of discourse causes change in society.

What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture?

·      I don’t feel that there are a lot of things in my culture that give me empowerment, I think that religiously or familial, I feel empowered. I do feel empowerment when dealing with a situation and I can tell someone that I have been to Palestine and I do see how it is, I feel empowered through that retrospect and the privilege of that. In regards to actually being able to experience Palestine and there are others whos grandparents left with the occupation and they don’t know anything about Palestine besides what they have heard just like anyone else. I definitely feel empowered knowing tha ti have seen the culture with my own two eyes.

What is your best quality/ characteristic?

·      I don’t like talking about myself. But honestly I would say that my quality would be understanding and empathizing. Sometimes it may be after I meet someone and they leave me, but I always try to stop at the end of my day and seeing someone and thinking for a moment, okay this is exactly how they feel, but empathy and understanding is a step further in trying to gage and see the directions that people are coming from. I really try my best to do that and I think that on different levels that I reach that more than other people. A characteristic is “curves, more to love”. Even when I go home people say, “you live in America and you still have the curves and the structure.

In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?

·      No. its not something I think about. I don’t wake up saying, “I wish I was black today, or I wish I were white”, its not something I think about. Sometimes I wish that paletinians idnt have such a  stereotype surrounding them, but I don’t think that it’s a physical attribute, it just means the way it was practiced culturally.

What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture?

·      A lot of people say that, “you Middle Eastern women are good for staying at home and staying in the kitchen”, but people need to understand that women in my country are being asked everyday, what do they want to do and they are going after what they want. So when they chose to sit at home or to get married or to work, it is slowly becoming a matter of personal choice and I think that it doesn’t exist as much as we think it does. I think that girls who are both Middle Eastern and American  are starting to realize that they need to have their choice and they need to ask because that’s their right. And your culture can only hold you back so much, especially in big life decisions.

What are you personally passionate about?

·      I realy like being around kids and teenager, and I think that if people were to stop and listen to them for a moment, you would realize how much of an impact it has on people. we think that with kids, you cant have discourse with them, but you could learn so much from them by sitting there are asking them and give them the attention and needs they want. I think about working around them, because I could never get bored. I can work with anyone of any age, but I especially like working with that age group.

What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?

·      My experience is that I have to turn it off and turn it on, my cultural things that I’m used to . like for example, when I’m with my family and I say that I am doing things with my American friends they say its fine because they know that it wont be a problem, but when it comes to someone who is Middle Eastern, they ask if their parents are okay with it because there is so much cultural responsibility that is placed on girls and there always has to be this upheld quality and they have these specific ideas of what polite us and what a girl should be and its crucial to uphold it and I try my best to have peope understand that each individual is different and your humane ideas should always be kept on whether you are of the American culture or the Middle Eastern culture. Sometimes I struggle with that but I don’t want to shove it in anyone’s face. But today I’m American because everyone around me is American.

What do you want people to know about your culture?

·      I would want them to know what they would want to know. I mean, I don’t personally see as much disempowerment. But I guess that if I was to tell someone right off the bat, I would tell them that cultures vary from country to country and city to city so you could meet someone who is Palestinian from this city and they will be different than a Middle Eastern person from another city. There is no way to categorize a people when there are differences based on people from the same country but living in different cities and having different backgrounds. 

"Being a WOMAN is EMPOWERING"
"I DO have a VOICE & I USE IT"
Heba Diab
3rd year Biology
Syrian and Jordanian  
Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being raised in?
 Yes, I was born here. As I got older, I learned to appreciate and value my beautiful parents. My pride grew as I realized how much they had to sacrifice to give me and my two sisters the most comfortable life. I remember when I was younger, I would listen and compare the way my classmates’ parents spoke to the way my parents spoke. Because my parents did not grow up here in the US, they had a slight accent, which, for a child, was extremely noticeable. I grew to value and love that accent, for it taught me that my parents were truly amazing and gifted people. They came to a new country not knowing the language or culture. However, they quickly learned the two. Their accent served as a reminder of their experience, of their sacrifice in leaving the comfort of familiarity for the unsteadiness of the new and strange, all to build for my sisters and me the most comfortable of lives.
Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?
 Fortunately, I never felt that I was tied down by my cultural expectations. I was always motivated by my family to push for whatever dream I aspired to accomplish. In fact, I think my cultural expectations actually pushed me up rather than tied me down. For example, being selfless in my way of thought and actions was a huge cultural expectation. I was always taught that
Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?
 I am married to a wonderful man and yes he is of the same race as me. Before I met my husband, I didn’t really have a plan that consisted of marrying someone of my own race. I always believed that the person’s heart, actions, and way of thought were the most telling in whether that person was right for me.  It just happened that that person turned out to share the same race as mine.
My parents each come from a different country in the Middle East so I never perceived my race to be any different from those who are from varying countries in the Middle East.
Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?
I think growing up with two sisters really challenged the engendered roles sometimes seen in families with sons and daughters. Both my father and mother aided in empowering myself and my sisters in our way of thought and actions. We were taught that we can do whatever we set our minds to, be it in the occupational field, leisure activities, etc.
In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?
Around junior high and high school, when dating was the theme of topics, actions, and desires, it was at times difficult to explain why I did not have a boyfriend, “go out” on dates, or to dances. I always had to defend the idea of why I chose not to do so. When I thought about having a relationship, I would think about marriage. I did not find it necessary to have a boyfriend or date if there was no end to the means (the end being a long-term relationship: marriage). I did not find it useful to invest my time in a relationship that I knew would not last and truly felt that if I were to have a relationship, it would be with one who had the same goals and ideals as me, one who did not see me as an object to pass his time with. Rather, it would be with a person who respected me as an individual and saw me in his future. However my way of thought did not add up to those around me.
What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture?
 Definitely the idea of being selfless. Living in a society that pushes towards individualism, it becomes difficult to think about others, especially family, when putting one’s self first. You might ask, how does this empower me? Understanding that my actions affect those around me, I cannot go about my life with my peripheral vision shut off, only focusing on what I want. Rather, if I know that my way of life, how I go about doing things, what I choose to say or not to say, all impact the people in my life, family, community, and environment, then I know that I have to think and rethink all that I choose to do or say. This prevents me from making avoidable mistakes that might hurt me later on in life and encourages me to always strive to be a better person, to improve in every positive quality I have and to dispel my negative qualities.
What is your best quality/ characteristic?
I’m not sure what my best quality or characteristic is, but I’m going to tell you what my favorite thing about myself is. It’s my hijab, the headscarf I am wearing. This is not a symbol of my Middle Eastern culture. It is a symbol of my religion: Islam. I know I am not perfect, nor nowhere near there. However, this outer display seeps into my inner display because I know that I am constantly being judged as a Muslim. Knowing so helps me be mindful of my character and actions. It gives me a pedestal that helps me strive to dispel the negative stereotypes that are constantly associated with Muslim women. 
In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?
The one thing I highly dislike about a small part of the culture is the nationalism that has been incorporated into each individual country in the Middle East. I understand why, Susie, you would ask the question about marriage being approved by the family if it was between those who come not only from the Middle East, but from the same country within it as well. Unfortunately, I have come to know some people who think in such a manner, where men and women from their country, city, or even street are the only ones good enough to be a part of their family. I believe that this persistent nationalism is a huge set-back to those who think in that manner, because it acts as an egoistic stool standing in the way of unity amongst the human race.
What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture?
The idea that the Middle Eastern culture is “backwards” or slow to progress in comparison to the Western culture. The idea that women are oppressed and have no voice in the Middle East and that they need to be “liberated.”
What are you personally passionate about?
Humanizing the dehumanized. After volunteering at the hospital I saw an element that really saddened me: the treatment towards some of the patients. Some of those who had been working at the hospital for quite some time stopped seeing the patients as ailing human beings and perceived them with the mindset that they were another part of the group of complaining entities who were just a part of their work. There sympathy had disappeared and some of their harsh treatments or comments was enough to make one cringe. Witnessing this made me realize how numb we humans can become towards other human beings, be it in a hospital setting, in wars, or in many other situations. Talking about my experience and partaking in things that might help bring back the image of humanity toward those who are seen as estranged is slowly becoming my passion.
What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?
Fortunately, I don’t recall facing any outright discrimination within my hometown that I grew up in. However, with the media consistently painting an image of the “third world” countries of the Middle East, the extremists that come from there, and the constant wars between American and the region, I always felt that I had to try to offer a truer story to those around me about the Middle East. Contrary to the consistent depiction of the those who come from or reside in the Middle East being “Islamic fundamentalists” or “Islamic extremists” or “Islamists,” it was always important to humanize the region and the people.
What do you want people to know about your culture?
I would like to draw a distinction between culture and religion. Often times when people think of the Middle East, they automatically assume that all those who live in the region or come from there are Muslim. However, if one were to take the time to look at the demographics or even ask other Middle Easterners, they would find that the Middle East is also filled with followers of other faiths or lack of.

"Being a WOMAN is EMPOWERING"

"I DO have a VOICE & I USE IT"

Heba Diab

3rd year Biology

Syrian and Jordanian  

Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being raised in?

 Yes, I was born here. As I got older, I learned to appreciate and value my beautiful parents. My pride grew as I realized how much they had to sacrifice to give me and my two sisters the most comfortable life. I remember when I was younger, I would listen and compare the way my classmates’ parents spoke to the way my parents spoke. Because my parents did not grow up here in the US, they had a slight accent, which, for a child, was extremely noticeable. I grew to value and love that accent, for it taught me that my parents were truly amazing and gifted people. They came to a new country not knowing the language or culture. However, they quickly learned the two. Their accent served as a reminder of their experience, of their sacrifice in leaving the comfort of familiarity for the unsteadiness of the new and strange, all to build for my sisters and me the most comfortable of lives.

Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?

 Fortunately, I never felt that I was tied down by my cultural expectations. I was always motivated by my family to push for whatever dream I aspired to accomplish. In fact, I think my cultural expectations actually pushed me up rather than tied me down. For example, being selfless in my way of thought and actions was a huge cultural expectation. I was always taught that

Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?

 I am married to a wonderful man and yes he is of the same race as me. Before I met my husband, I didn’t really have a plan that consisted of marrying someone of my own race. I always believed that the person’s heart, actions, and way of thought were the most telling in whether that person was right for me.  It just happened that that person turned out to share the same race as mine.

My parents each come from a different country in the Middle East so I never perceived my race to be any different from those who are from varying countries in the Middle East.

Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?

I think growing up with two sisters really challenged the engendered roles sometimes seen in families with sons and daughters. Both my father and mother aided in empowering myself and my sisters in our way of thought and actions. We were taught that we can do whatever we set our minds to, be it in the occupational field, leisure activities, etc.

In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?

Around junior high and high school, when dating was the theme of topics, actions, and desires, it was at times difficult to explain why I did not have a boyfriend, “go out” on dates, or to dances. I always had to defend the idea of why I chose not to do so. When I thought about having a relationship, I would think about marriage. I did not find it necessary to have a boyfriend or date if there was no end to the means (the end being a long-term relationship: marriage). I did not find it useful to invest my time in a relationship that I knew would not last and truly felt that if I were to have a relationship, it would be with one who had the same goals and ideals as me, one who did not see me as an object to pass his time with. Rather, it would be with a person who respected me as an individual and saw me in his future. However my way of thought did not add up to those around me.

What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture?

 Definitely the idea of being selfless. Living in a society that pushes towards individualism, it becomes difficult to think about others, especially family, when putting one’s self first. You might ask, how does this empower me? Understanding that my actions affect those around me, I cannot go about my life with my peripheral vision shut off, only focusing on what I want. Rather, if I know that my way of life, how I go about doing things, what I choose to say or not to say, all impact the people in my life, family, community, and environment, then I know that I have to think and rethink all that I choose to do or say. This prevents me from making avoidable mistakes that might hurt me later on in life and encourages me to always strive to be a better person, to improve in every positive quality I have and to dispel my negative qualities.

What is your best quality/ characteristic?

I’m not sure what my best quality or characteristic is, but I’m going to tell you what my favorite thing about myself is. It’s my hijab, the headscarf I am wearing. This is not a symbol of my Middle Eastern culture. It is a symbol of my religion: Islam. I know I am not perfect, nor nowhere near there. However, this outer display seeps into my inner display because I know that I am constantly being judged as a Muslim. Knowing so helps me be mindful of my character and actions. It gives me a pedestal that helps me strive to dispel the negative stereotypes that are constantly associated with Muslim women. 

In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?

The one thing I highly dislike about a small part of the culture is the nationalism that has been incorporated into each individual country in the Middle East. I understand why, Susie, you would ask the question about marriage being approved by the family if it was between those who come not only from the Middle East, but from the same country within it as well. Unfortunately, I have come to know some people who think in such a manner, where men and women from their country, city, or even street are the only ones good enough to be a part of their family. I believe that this persistent nationalism is a huge set-back to those who think in that manner, because it acts as an egoistic stool standing in the way of unity amongst the human race.

What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture?

The idea that the Middle Eastern culture is “backwards” or slow to progress in comparison to the Western culture. The idea that women are oppressed and have no voice in the Middle East and that they need to be “liberated.”

What are you personally passionate about?

Humanizing the dehumanized. After volunteering at the hospital I saw an element that really saddened me: the treatment towards some of the patients. Some of those who had been working at the hospital for quite some time stopped seeing the patients as ailing human beings and perceived them with the mindset that they were another part of the group of complaining entities who were just a part of their work. There sympathy had disappeared and some of their harsh treatments or comments was enough to make one cringe. Witnessing this made me realize how numb we humans can become towards other human beings, be it in a hospital setting, in wars, or in many other situations. Talking about my experience and partaking in things that might help bring back the image of humanity toward those who are seen as estranged is slowly becoming my passion.

What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?

Fortunately, I don’t recall facing any outright discrimination within my hometown that I grew up in. However, with the media consistently painting an image of the “third world” countries of the Middle East, the extremists that come from there, and the constant wars between American and the region, I always felt that I had to try to offer a truer story to those around me about the Middle East. Contrary to the consistent depiction of the those who come from or reside in the Middle East being “Islamic fundamentalists” or “Islamic extremists” or “Islamists,” it was always important to humanize the region and the people.

What do you want people to know about your culture?

I would like to draw a distinction between culture and religion. Often times when people think of the Middle East, they automatically assume that all those who live in the region or come from there are Muslim. However, if one were to take the time to look at the demographics or even ask other Middle Easterners, they would find that the Middle East is also filled with followers of other faiths or lack of.

"Family"
"Not all Middle Easterns are Muslims!!!"

Mira Gabra
Psychology major
Egyptian

If you were born in a Middle Eastern country: how long ago did you immigrate? How was the transformation process? Was there much culture shock? Why or why not?
·      “I came form Egypt 6 years ago in 2006. I was still young and had my best friends in Egypt and I was so close to everyone and everyone knew me and all of a sudden its as if someone is picking you up and putting you in another place and your in a bubble and you don’t know where you are. I have no relatives here [America], no family, no cousins here, just me and my parents and my brother. We only knew some family friends form Egypt who helped us in the beginning like get a hotel room until we got a place to stay to get our lives started pretty much but we started at zero. Parents were pharmacists in Egypt, my brother was in school, I was in school, but we had to come here and start all over because the pharmacy qualification meant nothing here. It was hard for me because I was so young and I was still attached to best friends, family and cousins. My cousins lived really close to me in Egypt and I was used to always being at their house and them always at my house. Its hard to have all those people there and then come here and have no one here. As a child it was hard because you need social support but you find none of that. And when I came here I didn’t know any English and  in Egypt I went to an all girls school so there was no emphasis on languages. This was hard because I could not even communicate with those I had to and I am a very friendly, sociable person so this was a problem for me. Even when they gave me a schedule of classes, I didn’t know where to go or how to ask people where I should go. It was hard seeing people talk one language and I couldn’t even understand them but then I want to mention that I was rewarded on so many levels after that. God rewarded me and of course it was hard and I cried my eyes out and miss my family and friends in Egypt and it really affected me as a child because the thing I needed I couldn’t find. God rewarded me by allowing me to go to college and I got the language, I’m easily communicating with others, I have a best friend here, I do still communicate with my friends in Egypt. Even with all these issues at school, in high school I was still able to by the end get really good grades, graduate and go to a UC and I was chosen to be in the Press Telegram just to say that this is a student that came and didn’t know the language and this was a reward; that after the hardship you are being rewarded. It was all worth it in the end, it was all paid off. “
Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?
·      “Not something specific I wish I could do just because of the way I was raised and the way we follow our cultural rules makes you pretty much rule out all the other options in your head, but I guess its just the way you are raised. It stops you from even thinking about it, from it being an option in your head to do something.
Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?”
·      “If I would want to marry someone I feel like it would have to be someone who is Egyptian just because we would have the same, of course all Middle Easterners have the same thing, but like and the same rules and the same strictness of the culture, but Egyptians with Egyptians are easier to connect based on  songs, movies, things the y know, ways of thinking, treatment of the parents, words that can be said. I feel like it would be easier for them to connect. Some cultures, even though they are all Middle Eastern, some can be more lenient than the other and some can be more strict than the others, so I feel like if it would be someone else, there would have to be some adaptation to work on just because we are different. Just because we are all Middle Eastern it is going to be somewhat different in language and everything. “
Is it more important to you to marry a person of the same religion?
·      “Yes.”
Have you had any education is sexuality courses? Have you been exposed to LGBT information? How did you feel when you were first introduced to the concept of sexuality?
·      “I stayed until 6 years ago without knowing what sex is. In my family, that wasn’t even a topic to be discussed at home. They aren’t going to tell you “oh you know this is sex”. No parent is going to do that. Maybe in school, you eventually get to understand it day by day. Like even when I got here, I don’t even know how I was exposed to it, maybe at school in like health class or something, you know, but the whole gay marriage, until I came to America, that wasn’t something I knew. We didn’t know about it because that wasn’t even something possible to think of, you know what im saying. Its not that you would avoid it, its that its something you wouldn’t even know. I didn’t even know, like “what? People can actually do that? What?” It wasn’t until I got here that I was introduced to it. my idea of gay marriage is just that I don’t believe in that because of how I was raised because in Egypt we didn’t have that or at least growing up I was never exposed to that so that’s why I looked at it as of course everyone has the freedom to do whatever they want, but that’s not something that will ever interact in my life and I will never let it be because going back to religion and culture it is just not an option in your head.”
 Do you have any friends who are not heterosexual? How close can you get to them and still feel comfortable?
·       “The most that I will ever know of someone who is bisexual is if I see them in class and your class friends but even if you get to study with them and you study with them, it will never be more than that. I feel like people get more comfortable with people they are more like culturally so I don’t think I would be able to be so comfortable with them because it goes back to the way of thinking.”
How do you think your parents would react to the notion of homosexuality?
·      “Oh, they think that’s disgusting. They think its like a sin and again that goes back to religion and they look at it disgustingly.”
Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?
·      “Yea. Well, for Egyptians, everything is cut into if you are a girl or if you are a guy. I was raised that “your brother can go out late and do whatever he wants, but a girl has to be home by a specific time, cant be in a relationship or talking to a guy, and you cant talk to a guy in general. You cant go out late and have a specific curfew and it is always said tha tan Egyptian guy will always act differently than an Egyptian girl. A girl who gets into a relationship gets into it with all her emotions and the guy does it differently because once they see that you are attatched and see that you feel the same that you do for them, they are like “Ok, im done. I got what I wanted, im done”.
Are there any scenarios you have been placed in that contradict your culture that you have had to defend yourself for (being vegetarian)?
·      Refer to in opposition.
In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?

What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture? (Centering your life around others, being selfless)

What is your best quality/ characteristic? (Patience/ eyes or hair)
·      I am nice. I try to be nice to people and im sensitive.
·      Feature: my eyes
In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?
·      No there isn’t
-What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture?
·       
-What are you personally passionate about?
·      Dancing
-What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?
·      It gets hard because you know you cant be influenced by people
-What do you want people to know about your culture?
·      We are god people. we have good morals and values, specific morals and values we have to go by. Egypt is known to be “Om il Donia”

"Family"

"Not all Middle Easterns are Muslims!!!"

Mira Gabra

Psychology major

Egyptian

If you were born in a Middle Eastern country: how long ago did you immigrate? How was the transformation process? Was there much culture shock? Why or why not?

·      “I came form Egypt 6 years ago in 2006. I was still young and had my best friends in Egypt and I was so close to everyone and everyone knew me and all of a sudden its as if someone is picking you up and putting you in another place and your in a bubble and you don’t know where you are. I have no relatives here [America], no family, no cousins here, just me and my parents and my brother. We only knew some family friends form Egypt who helped us in the beginning like get a hotel room until we got a place to stay to get our lives started pretty much but we started at zero. Parents were pharmacists in Egypt, my brother was in school, I was in school, but we had to come here and start all over because the pharmacy qualification meant nothing here. It was hard for me because I was so young and I was still attached to best friends, family and cousins. My cousins lived really close to me in Egypt and I was used to always being at their house and them always at my house. Its hard to have all those people there and then come here and have no one here. As a child it was hard because you need social support but you find none of that. And when I came here I didn’t know any English and  in Egypt I went to an all girls school so there was no emphasis on languages. This was hard because I could not even communicate with those I had to and I am a very friendly, sociable person so this was a problem for me. Even when they gave me a schedule of classes, I didn’t know where to go or how to ask people where I should go. It was hard seeing people talk one language and I couldn’t even understand them but then I want to mention that I was rewarded on so many levels after that. God rewarded me and of course it was hard and I cried my eyes out and miss my family and friends in Egypt and it really affected me as a child because the thing I needed I couldn’t find. God rewarded me by allowing me to go to college and I got the language, I’m easily communicating with others, I have a best friend here, I do still communicate with my friends in Egypt. Even with all these issues at school, in high school I was still able to by the end get really good grades, graduate and go to a UC and I was chosen to be in the Press Telegram just to say that this is a student that came and didn’t know the language and this was a reward; that after the hardship you are being rewarded. It was all worth it in the end, it was all paid off. “

Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?

·      “Not something specific I wish I could do just because of the way I was raised and the way we follow our cultural rules makes you pretty much rule out all the other options in your head, but I guess its just the way you are raised. It stops you from even thinking about it, from it being an option in your head to do something.

Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?”

·      “If I would want to marry someone I feel like it would have to be someone who is Egyptian just because we would have the same, of course all Middle Easterners have the same thing, but like and the same rules and the same strictness of the culture, but Egyptians with Egyptians are easier to connect based on  songs, movies, things the y know, ways of thinking, treatment of the parents, words that can be said. I feel like it would be easier for them to connect. Some cultures, even though they are all Middle Eastern, some can be more lenient than the other and some can be more strict than the others, so I feel like if it would be someone else, there would have to be some adaptation to work on just because we are different. Just because we are all Middle Eastern it is going to be somewhat different in language and everything. “

Is it more important to you to marry a person of the same religion?

·      “Yes.”

Have you had any education is sexuality courses? Have you been exposed to LGBT information? How did you feel when you were first introduced to the concept of sexuality?

·      “I stayed until 6 years ago without knowing what sex is. In my family, that wasn’t even a topic to be discussed at home. They aren’t going to tell you “oh you know this is sex”. No parent is going to do that. Maybe in school, you eventually get to understand it day by day. Like even when I got here, I don’t even know how I was exposed to it, maybe at school in like health class or something, you know, but the whole gay marriage, until I came to America, that wasn’t something I knew. We didn’t know about it because that wasn’t even something possible to think of, you know what im saying. Its not that you would avoid it, its that its something you wouldn’t even know. I didn’t even know, like “what? People can actually do that? What?” It wasn’t until I got here that I was introduced to it. my idea of gay marriage is just that I don’t believe in that because of how I was raised because in Egypt we didn’t have that or at least growing up I was never exposed to that so that’s why I looked at it as of course everyone has the freedom to do whatever they want, but that’s not something that will ever interact in my life and I will never let it be because going back to religion and culture it is just not an option in your head.”

 Do you have any friends who are not heterosexual? How close can you get to them and still feel comfortable?

·       “The most that I will ever know of someone who is bisexual is if I see them in class and your class friends but even if you get to study with them and you study with them, it will never be more than that. I feel like people get more comfortable with people they are more like culturally so I don’t think I would be able to be so comfortable with them because it goes back to the way of thinking.”

How do you think your parents would react to the notion of homosexuality?

·      “Oh, they think that’s disgusting. They think its like a sin and again that goes back to religion and they look at it disgustingly.”

Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?

·      “Yea. Well, for Egyptians, everything is cut into if you are a girl or if you are a guy. I was raised that “your brother can go out late and do whatever he wants, but a girl has to be home by a specific time, cant be in a relationship or talking to a guy, and you cant talk to a guy in general. You cant go out late and have a specific curfew and it is always said tha tan Egyptian guy will always act differently than an Egyptian girl. A girl who gets into a relationship gets into it with all her emotions and the guy does it differently because once they see that you are attatched and see that you feel the same that you do for them, they are like “Ok, im done. I got what I wanted, im done”.

Are there any scenarios you have been placed in that contradict your culture that you have had to defend yourself for (being vegetarian)?

·      Refer to in opposition.

In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?

What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture? (Centering your life around others, being selfless)

What is your best quality/ characteristic? (Patience/ eyes or hair)

·      I am nice. I try to be nice to people and im sensitive.

·      Feature: my eyes

In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?

·      No there isn’t

-What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture?

·       

-What are you personally passionate about?

·      Dancing

-What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?

·      It gets hard because you know you cant be influenced by people

-What do you want people to know about your culture?

·      We are god people. we have good morals and values, specific morals and values we have to go by. Egypt is known to be “Om il Donia”

"The ability to embrace my Independence"
"My Man isn’t my main Goal"
Bianca Tomassian
4th year Sociology major
Armenian

Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being raised in?
·      Yes, I was born in the U.S. Although my parents have lived here for quite some time, they still do hold traditional values and expect me to respect my culture and myself by staying true to my morals.

Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?
·      As a woman in my culture, it is encouraged to embrace your independence and feel free to be whoever you want; however, I would love to travel the world and do things alone but I know that my parents would not allow it.

Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?
·      Yes, I do plan to marry someone from my own race. Personally, it is not the same as marrying someone else in the Middle East from a different country. This is because the Middle East is also subdivided by different religions, cultures and races. Although we all consider ourselves somewhat “Middle Eastern” we are very different people.

Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?
·      Growing up as the only girl in my family, it was very difficult for me to participate in the same activities that my brothers were a part of. In a way, I do feel that I was at time, undermined for my gender in my culture.

Are there any scenarios you have been placed in that contradict your culture that you have had to defend yourself for?
·      No

In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?
·      Many individuals tend to stereotype Middle Easterns and automatically assume that we are all the same and come from the same places. This causes people to discriminate against Armenians or other individuals by stereotyping us.

What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture?
·      The ability to embrace my independence

What is your best quality/ characteristic?
·      Personality and patience

In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?
·      No.

What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture?
·      That we all do not follow specific gender stereotypes that society portrays us to follow and that we are all different.
What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?
·      I never had an issue growing up as a Middle Eastern woman in America. I believe that my race did not truly hold me back from reaching my goals or pursuing anything I was interested in.

What do you want people to know about your culture
That we are all different and unique individuals, despite labeling ourselves as “Middle Eastern” and that they should view our culture from an objective lens before stereotyping.

"The ability to embrace my Independence"

"My Man isn’t my main Goal"

Bianca Tomassian

4th year Sociology major

Armenian

Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being raised in?

·      Yes, I was born in the U.S. Although my parents have lived here for quite some time, they still do hold traditional values and expect me to respect my culture and myself by staying true to my morals.

Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?

·      As a woman in my culture, it is encouraged to embrace your independence and feel free to be whoever you want; however, I would love to travel the world and do things alone but I know that my parents would not allow it.

Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?

·      Yes, I do plan to marry someone from my own race. Personally, it is not the same as marrying someone else in the Middle East from a different country. This is because the Middle East is also subdivided by different religions, cultures and races. Although we all consider ourselves somewhat “Middle Eastern” we are very different people.

Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?

·      Growing up as the only girl in my family, it was very difficult for me to participate in the same activities that my brothers were a part of. In a way, I do feel that I was at time, undermined for my gender in my culture.

Are there any scenarios you have been placed in that contradict your culture that you have had to defend yourself for?

·      No

In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?

·      Many individuals tend to stereotype Middle Easterns and automatically assume that we are all the same and come from the same places. This causes people to discriminate against Armenians or other individuals by stereotyping us.

What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture?

·      The ability to embrace my independence

What is your best quality/ characteristic?

·      Personality and patience

In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?

·      No.

What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture?

·      That we all do not follow specific gender stereotypes that society portrays us to follow and that we are all different.

What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?

·      I never had an issue growing up as a Middle Eastern woman in America. I believe that my race did not truly hold me back from reaching my goals or pursuing anything I was interested in.

What do you want people to know about your culture

That we are all different and unique individuals, despite labeling ourselves as “Middle Eastern” and that they should view our culture from an objective lens before stereotyping.

"Half Armenian, I live at the INTERSECTIONS"
"I may be half, but I have full PRIDE!"
Alissa Muradliyan-Medina
3rd year double major in English and Women’s Studies
Half-Armenian, Half-White
Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents
who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being
raised in?

I was born in California. My grandparents on my mom’s side came to America from Istanbul. They were Christian Armenians that grew up in a
Muslim country; so they were extremely divided in regards to culture
and religion in their home country. My grandfather received a
scholarship to come to America to pursue his studies, and my
grandmother shortly followed when she was pregnant with my mother. My
mother taught me all she knew about her Armenian culture and the
Turkish influence on it, as well. She sent me to Hye Camp (an Armenian
church camp in Dunlap, Calif.) when I was only 10 years old. I then
went for 9 years straight, learning about my culture. I decided to
join the Armenian sorority on campus, too. I later dropped out, but I
have always been a firm believer in the Armenian culture and have
always stayed close to my roots. My mother shares so many of her
traditions she grew up with, with me.

Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by
your cultural expectations?

I really wish Armenians had a different perspective on individuals who
are half. My grandfather did not go to my parent’s wedding – even
though my dad was baptized in an Armenian church to be married to my
mom. He desperately wanted her to marry an Armenian. I am not tainted,
or a showcase of disrespect to the Armenian culture. My mom married
for love, not for her ethnicity. I tried integrating myself in
Armenian culture more and more, just realized that some individuals
still go by this belief.

Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as
marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?

 I, personally, don’t have any future plans to get married. From a
feminist perspective, I feel that a man who treats me with respect and
sees me as an equal is far more important than the culture he has.

Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?

I have been told to my face at Armenian functions that my opinion
means nothing because I am a woman. I have had Armenian men ignore me
and treat me as if I am not on their same level. I definitely feel
that the strong gender stereotypes and binaries set upon men and women
in the Armenian culture need to be remapped and renegotiated. In my
women’s studies classes, I learn nothing of Armenian feminists or any
Armenian women. Just recently, an organization called OneArmenia
raised money for shelters for women who have had to move out because
of domestic abuse. I am so glad that more individuals are making steps
to showcase this growing problem and to work to get these women away
from these environments.

Are there any scenarios you have been placed in that contradict your
culture that you have had to defend yourself for?

When I quit my Armenian sorority on campus, a lot of people asked
questions why. I removed myself from a collective that I just did not
feel made efforts on women’s equality or the betterment of Armenian
women. It was definitely a hard scenario to go through. It’s tough
making decisions based on your own feminist views, but sometimes you
have to place yourself out of situations to fully be yourself. Just
because you don’t go to a bunch of Armenian functions, it doesn’t mean
you’re any less or more. I feel that the “real” Armenians are the ones
helping our culture by studying it and changing it.

In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have
ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?

I’ve had many friends tell me they didn’t even know Armenia existed as
a country before they met me. I feel that our culture is clearly
unknown and isolated. Sometimes, it’s almost like we don’t have a
culture because of this anonymity and forgotten-ness. Every time the
anniversary of the genocide comes in April, it brings back so many
emotions of being the culture that has almost been erased. I feel that
not many people are educated or understand Armenian efforts to be
recognized.

What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture?

 The Armenian women in my family are so close and so supportive. I
also have many Armenian female friends who are like sisters to me. I
feel that the notion of being family, even though you may not share
the same last name but share the same culture, is so important. It
allows us to form a collective and empower ourselves.

What is your best quality/ characteristic?

I feel that my best quality is being able to express myself and
express my feminist views. I also enjoy my pale skin. Though sometimes
people think I’m anemic! (I’m not)

 

In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle
Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?

I regret most men being unable to understand equality for women. It
baffles me the ignorance so many men have. Stop hitting your wives,
controlling them, thinking that they will come home after their jobs
and cook and clean for you. Stop being misogynist. We are equal. We
will fight to be heard!

What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture?

 The myths that all Armenian women get plastic surgery and or conform
to the Glendale mold. My mom never puts on make-up or heavy eyeliner.
Some women prefer to be natural!

What are you personally passionate about?

 I am personally passionate about feminist media and studies of
feminist girlhood. I also love, love, love writing!

What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America
during this specific time period?

 My older brother has a very defined “Armenian nose.” I have seen his
location in society and I definitely feel Americans have a certain
disorientation with Middle Eastern men. They are not criminals, or
hyper-masculine. I feel that after September 11th, many people
unclearly focused on just those two stereotypes.

My own experience growing up as a Middle Eastern woman is one that has
always had to live in a double conscious experience. I was either
white, or Armenian. Never both. I always had to either play the part
of being a part of my culture or nothing much at all. It’s hard for me
to really “fit in.” I guess I’ve always been a weird outlier.

What do you want people to know about your culture?

We are strong. We are passionate. We have so many intellectual
individuals in pop culture and history that have really made a
positive footprint on our culture. We are doctors, writers,
scientists, etc. We are everywhere! And we want you to embrace us and
understand us.

"Half Armenian, I live at the INTERSECTIONS"

"I may be half, but I have full PRIDE!"

Alissa Muradliyan-Medina

3rd year double major in English and Women’s Studies

Half-Armenian, Half-White

Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents

who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being

raised in?

I was born in California. My grandparents on my mom’s side came to America from Istanbul. They were Christian Armenians that grew up in a

Muslim country; so they were extremely divided in regards to culture

and religion in their home country. My grandfather received a

scholarship to come to America to pursue his studies, and my

grandmother shortly followed when she was pregnant with my mother. My

mother taught me all she knew about her Armenian culture and the

Turkish influence on it, as well. She sent me to Hye Camp (an Armenian

church camp in Dunlap, Calif.) when I was only 10 years old. I then

went for 9 years straight, learning about my culture. I decided to

join the Armenian sorority on campus, too. I later dropped out, but I

have always been a firm believer in the Armenian culture and have

always stayed close to my roots. My mother shares so many of her

traditions she grew up with, with me.

Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by

your cultural expectations?

I really wish Armenians had a different perspective on individuals who

are half. My grandfather did not go to my parent’s wedding – even

though my dad was baptized in an Armenian church to be married to my

mom. He desperately wanted her to marry an Armenian. I am not tainted,

or a showcase of disrespect to the Armenian culture. My mom married

for love, not for her ethnicity. I tried integrating myself in

Armenian culture more and more, just realized that some individuals

still go by this belief.

Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as

marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?

 I, personally, don’t have any future plans to get married. From a

feminist perspective, I feel that a man who treats me with respect and

sees me as an equal is far more important than the culture he has.

Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?

I have been told to my face at Armenian functions that my opinion

means nothing because I am a woman. I have had Armenian men ignore me

and treat me as if I am not on their same level. I definitely feel

that the strong gender stereotypes and binaries set upon men and women

in the Armenian culture need to be remapped and renegotiated. In my

women’s studies classes, I learn nothing of Armenian feminists or any

Armenian women. Just recently, an organization called OneArmenia

raised money for shelters for women who have had to move out because

of domestic abuse. I am so glad that more individuals are making steps

to showcase this growing problem and to work to get these women away

from these environments.

Are there any scenarios you have been placed in that contradict your

culture that you have had to defend yourself for?

When I quit my Armenian sorority on campus, a lot of people asked

questions why. I removed myself from a collective that I just did not

feel made efforts on women’s equality or the betterment of Armenian

women. It was definitely a hard scenario to go through. It’s tough

making decisions based on your own feminist views, but sometimes you

have to place yourself out of situations to fully be yourself. Just

because you don’t go to a bunch of Armenian functions, it doesn’t mean

you’re any less or more. I feel that the “real” Armenians are the ones

helping our culture by studying it and changing it.

In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have

ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?

I’ve had many friends tell me they didn’t even know Armenia existed as

a country before they met me. I feel that our culture is clearly

unknown and isolated. Sometimes, it’s almost like we don’t have a

culture because of this anonymity and forgotten-ness. Every time the

anniversary of the genocide comes in April, it brings back so many

emotions of being the culture that has almost been erased. I feel that

not many people are educated or understand Armenian efforts to be

recognized.

What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture?

 The Armenian women in my family are so close and so supportive. I

also have many Armenian female friends who are like sisters to me. I

feel that the notion of being family, even though you may not share

the same last name but share the same culture, is so important. It

allows us to form a collective and empower ourselves.

What is your best quality/ characteristic?

I feel that my best quality is being able to express myself and

express my feminist views. I also enjoy my pale skin. Though sometimes

people think I’m anemic! (I’m not)

 

In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle

Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?

I regret most men being unable to understand equality for women. It

baffles me the ignorance so many men have. Stop hitting your wives,

controlling them, thinking that they will come home after their jobs

and cook and clean for you. Stop being misogynist. We are equal. We

will fight to be heard!

What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture?

 The myths that all Armenian women get plastic surgery and or conform

to the Glendale mold. My mom never puts on make-up or heavy eyeliner.

Some women prefer to be natural!

What are you personally passionate about?

 I am personally passionate about feminist media and studies of

feminist girlhood. I also love, love, love writing!

What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America

during this specific time period?

 My older brother has a very defined “Armenian nose.” I have seen his

location in society and I definitely feel Americans have a certain

disorientation with Middle Eastern men. They are not criminals, or

hyper-masculine. I feel that after September 11th, many people

unclearly focused on just those two stereotypes.

My own experience growing up as a Middle Eastern woman is one that has

always had to live in a double conscious experience. I was either

white, or Armenian. Never both. I always had to either play the part

of being a part of my culture or nothing much at all. It’s hard for me

to really “fit in.” I guess I’ve always been a weird outlier.

What do you want people to know about your culture?

We are strong. We are passionate. We have so many intellectual

individuals in pop culture and history that have really made a

positive footprint on our culture. We are doctors, writers,

scientists, etc. We are everywhere! And we want you to embrace us and

understand us.

"Middle Eastern women do have rights!"
"My Palestinian feistiness empowers me!"
Shetha Hamad
1st year bio chemistry major
Palestine but I’m considered white
Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being raised in?
·      I feel like for the most part, when my parents tell me things, I’m like “oh my god, you guys just don’t know because you are just fobs, you don’t know anything”, but they are always right. I do thing that parenting and their values and morals are universal no matter where you, but it does clash with the culture where if I wanted to I could get away with a lot by saying that I was studying. Because I came from a different culture, there are a little blind sided by what is here and they assume that what was there is going to happen here.
Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?
·      No, I mean im sure there will always be times where I’m like, “oh I want to do that”, but it wouldn’t be appropriate in my culture or whatever but for my ultimate goal of being a PA or pharmacist, my culture doesn’t really come into play with that. But I am sure that there are  hobbies that I wish I had.
Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?
·      I really really really hop on marrying someone that is also Palestinian because we have more in common, but I don’t only hope to marry someone who is Palestinian, but also someone who is Palestinian-American and grew up like me so we can have similar values. I am not completely opposed to marrying other Arab-Americans, but for the most part I don’t see myself marrying Pakistani or Indian-American or whites because I feel like our cultures would clash and I love holding on to that.
Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?
·      My parents are more Muslim than they are Arab. Back home in the Middle East, they are like, “no it’s not permissible for you to do that because Islam says blah blah blah” but Islam says equal roles for males and females, but culture is where they give males that degree over women. My parents for the most part, especially my dad, says that if my brother can do it, I can do it. my mom tends to be more like, “ no, I don’t know want you going out, its scary because you are a girl and stuff will happen”, but  my dad was raised in a city so he is like that. But I think with other families, sometimes. Like I was MCing an event and they were asking why I was MCing when I am a girl, and my family was offended, I was offended. I was actually shocked because I didn’t hear that until later.
In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?
·      Yea, definitely, especially in high school. I remember one time, my AP stats teacher was talking and then all of a sudden, out of no where, he was like pointing at me and asks, “isn’t it in your culture that guys and girls are separated and girls are submissive to men?” he want off and he was a good friend of my brother and when he graduated my brother invited him to the grad party and he saw that most of the people that came were guys, they were my brother’s friend and my dad’s friends. He saw that my mom, and my dad but he didn’t say that, were serving the guest and he asked “isn’t in your culture that the women serve the men and the men eat before the women”. I was trying to defend myself, then I asked myself, “Why am I arguing with ignorance”. It was embracing because it was in front of everyone. And there weren’t any women there, it was just my mom and her sister-in-laws and the guests ALWAYS eat before the hosts, but he was taking things our of context. I felt like that a lot, where people take things and see only what they want to see.
What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture? 
·      I think because Palestinian women are pretty feisty, especially because of the occupation, I think that gave me a little edge. I think also having an older brother, the fact that in my culture, if any guy messes with you, its not right but, if I were  to get married and my husband were to  lay a hand on me, my brothers would take turns beating the crap out of him. I think its kind of right because he deserves it, but maybe there should be more of an appropriate professionally way to handle these situations. I always have my brother’s back, so that gives me empowerment.
What is your best quality/ characteristic? 
·      I think I’m really nice. I think for the most part, I think I try to see the best in people. I kind of really like my eyes, they are shiny.
In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?
·      I wish certain people weren’t Middle Eastern. For example, the Boston bombings, I was so sad, obviously a lot of people were hurt, people died for no reason, and not that reason would justify it, but innocent people were hurt. I was sad because of that and after that I thought, “oh my god, I hope they were not Muslim or Arab”, because it makes the rest of us look really bad
What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture? 
·      The whole Jihad thing. Jihad is an inner struggle within yourself. Some girl’s jihad is wearing the Hijab, that’s the struggle within themselves also to cover up, or that struggle not to eat pork. That is what jihad is, and that s the highest level of jihad, the inner struggle with yourself. Then there is the jihad where you are getting attacked and you fight. People are twisting it and using jihad to justify the killing of innocent people. I want to clear up what jihad is and what jihad is being displayed isn’t really Islamic. And another thing is women’s rights. When Islam came, it gave women so many rights in the Middle Eastern world. Before Islam came the Arab pagans would bury their daughters alive and they thought it was a disgrace to have Arab children, but when Islam came it brought women up to that pedestal. Even the prophet said that paradise lies at the feet of your mom, that’s how great they value women. But then in the Middle Eastern culture they have kind of gone backwards. I think people need to differentiate between culture and religion. And also, not all the Middle Eastern countries think that. For example, Egypt has a lot of conservative areas and  pretty liberal, open-minded areas like Lebanon and even certain villages in Palestine where women can not go to school and others where women need to get an education.
What are you personally passionate about?
·      I am really passionate about my religion. And also my education. I want to go places, I want to do something.
What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?
·      I told you some negative stereotypes about being Middle Eastern, but I think its good because it gives me character. I think it gives me edge, definitely, because its tough but not really. I love riverside because everyone is so open-minded, and you get a few remarks here and there, but in this specific time I’m lucky to be in America where we are allowed to be whatever you want, and practice whatever religion you want. And in Middle Eastern cultures you cant do that, I mean you would know [referring to the interviewer], you are Christian and it is not right. But I’m really grateful to be in America, especially in 2013 when people are more open minded.
What do you want people to know about your culture?
I would want them to know that our culture is like anybody else’s. we  have our own food and our own clothing and our own language and music. Just because you are from the Middle East does not mean that you are Muslim. I think people should know that because a lot of people have a hard time differentiating “oh there are Christian Middle Eastern” “oh there are Jewish Middle Eastern” so I would want people to know that and know that our culture is just like yours.

"Middle Eastern women do have rights!"

"My Palestinian feistiness empowers me!"

Shetha Hamad

1st year bio chemistry major

Palestine but I’m considered white

Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being raised in?

·      I feel like for the most part, when my parents tell me things, I’m like “oh my god, you guys just don’t know because you are just fobs, you don’t know anything”, but they are always right. I do thing that parenting and their values and morals are universal no matter where you, but it does clash with the culture where if I wanted to I could get away with a lot by saying that I was studying. Because I came from a different culture, there are a little blind sided by what is here and they assume that what was there is going to happen here.

Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?

·      No, I mean im sure there will always be times where I’m like, “oh I want to do that”, but it wouldn’t be appropriate in my culture or whatever but for my ultimate goal of being a PA or pharmacist, my culture doesn’t really come into play with that. But I am sure that there are  hobbies that I wish I had.

Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?

·      I really really really hop on marrying someone that is also Palestinian because we have more in common, but I don’t only hope to marry someone who is Palestinian, but also someone who is Palestinian-American and grew up like me so we can have similar values. I am not completely opposed to marrying other Arab-Americans, but for the most part I don’t see myself marrying Pakistani or Indian-American or whites because I feel like our cultures would clash and I love holding on to that.

Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?

·      My parents are more Muslim than they are Arab. Back home in the Middle East, they are like, “no it’s not permissible for you to do that because Islam says blah blah blah” but Islam says equal roles for males and females, but culture is where they give males that degree over women. My parents for the most part, especially my dad, says that if my brother can do it, I can do it. my mom tends to be more like, “ no, I don’t know want you going out, its scary because you are a girl and stuff will happen”, but  my dad was raised in a city so he is like that. But I think with other families, sometimes. Like I was MCing an event and they were asking why I was MCing when I am a girl, and my family was offended, I was offended. I was actually shocked because I didn’t hear that until later.

In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?

·      Yea, definitely, especially in high school. I remember one time, my AP stats teacher was talking and then all of a sudden, out of no where, he was like pointing at me and asks, “isn’t it in your culture that guys and girls are separated and girls are submissive to men?” he want off and he was a good friend of my brother and when he graduated my brother invited him to the grad party and he saw that most of the people that came were guys, they were my brother’s friend and my dad’s friends. He saw that my mom, and my dad but he didn’t say that, were serving the guest and he asked “isn’t in your culture that the women serve the men and the men eat before the women”. I was trying to defend myself, then I asked myself, “Why am I arguing with ignorance”. It was embracing because it was in front of everyone. And there weren’t any women there, it was just my mom and her sister-in-laws and the guests ALWAYS eat before the hosts, but he was taking things our of context. I felt like that a lot, where people take things and see only what they want to see.

What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture?

·      I think because Palestinian women are pretty feisty, especially because of the occupation, I think that gave me a little edge. I think also having an older brother, the fact that in my culture, if any guy messes with you, its not right but, if I were  to get married and my husband were to  lay a hand on me, my brothers would take turns beating the crap out of him. I think its kind of right because he deserves it, but maybe there should be more of an appropriate professionally way to handle these situations. I always have my brother’s back, so that gives me empowerment.

What is your best quality/ characteristic?

·      I think I’m really nice. I think for the most part, I think I try to see the best in people. I kind of really like my eyes, they are shiny.

In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?

·      I wish certain people weren’t Middle Eastern. For example, the Boston bombings, I was so sad, obviously a lot of people were hurt, people died for no reason, and not that reason would justify it, but innocent people were hurt. I was sad because of that and after that I thought, “oh my god, I hope they were not Muslim or Arab”, because it makes the rest of us look really bad

What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture?

·      The whole Jihad thing. Jihad is an inner struggle within yourself. Some girl’s jihad is wearing the Hijab, that’s the struggle within themselves also to cover up, or that struggle not to eat pork. That is what jihad is, and that s the highest level of jihad, the inner struggle with yourself. Then there is the jihad where you are getting attacked and you fight. People are twisting it and using jihad to justify the killing of innocent people. I want to clear up what jihad is and what jihad is being displayed isn’t really Islamic. And another thing is women’s rights. When Islam came, it gave women so many rights in the Middle Eastern world. Before Islam came the Arab pagans would bury their daughters alive and they thought it was a disgrace to have Arab children, but when Islam came it brought women up to that pedestal. Even the prophet said that paradise lies at the feet of your mom, that’s how great they value women. But then in the Middle Eastern culture they have kind of gone backwards. I think people need to differentiate between culture and religion. And also, not all the Middle Eastern countries think that. For example, Egypt has a lot of conservative areas and  pretty liberal, open-minded areas like Lebanon and even certain villages in Palestine where women can not go to school and others where women need to get an education.

What are you personally passionate about?

·      I am really passionate about my religion. And also my education. I want to go places, I want to do something.

What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?

·      I told you some negative stereotypes about being Middle Eastern, but I think its good because it gives me character. I think it gives me edge, definitely, because its tough but not really. I love riverside because everyone is so open-minded, and you get a few remarks here and there, but in this specific time I’m lucky to be in America where we are allowed to be whatever you want, and practice whatever religion you want. And in Middle Eastern cultures you cant do that, I mean you would know [referring to the interviewer], you are Christian and it is not right. But I’m really grateful to be in America, especially in 2013 when people are more open minded.

What do you want people to know about your culture?

I would want them to know that our culture is like anybody else’s. we  have our own food and our own clothing and our own language and music. Just because you are from the Middle East does not mean that you are Muslim. I think people should know that because a lot of people have a hard time differentiating “oh there are Christian Middle Eastern” “oh there are Jewish Middle Eastern” so I would want people to know that and know that our culture is just like yours.

"Egyptian/ European. I am Diverse"
"There are strong Christians in the Middle East"
Jennifer Sayed
History major with an emphasis in American History
 Egyptian-American

Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being raised in?
·      It became normal, my culture was different than all the other white kids, I had two Christmases and two Easters and my dad didn’t eat certain foods on different days for weird reasons. Like church wasn’t just a religion, church was my culture so that’s where I grew up. Going to church every Sunday, or a lot as a kid, especially in the summer, that was normal. Church kids club, that’s all you would do, you would get up, and be doing whatever your parents did with you over the summer and then at night you would go to church and play all night and your dad would take you home after he played dominoes for a couple of hours, that’s how it was. I mean having two parents of different races and then being raised in a country that my dad wasn’t from, things were separated but you were the kid who was the unit so it felt normal.
Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?
·      Yea, I wish I could not feel so guilty about my major choice and if I did just want to be a teacher or a historian or if I just wanted to go back to a tech school and be a technician, I wish my culture accepted that. I wish my dad would just accept that.
Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?
·      Marrying someone of the same race? Yea that’s fine. I never thought about it. I don’t necessarily sit here and plan on marrying anyone specific of a race. I plan on getting married.
Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?
·      I want to say no because my dad and my uncles have always respected, the fact that I have wanted to do something big. I don’t think my dad or uncles or even the other women in the church have ever made me feel  undermined for wanting to be what I want to be, or striving towards something because I know that one lady in the church holds a high position as an engineer for Boeing, and I don’t think I have ever felt undermined.
Are there any scenarios you have been placed in that contradict your culture that you have had to defend yourself for?
·      Being Coptic Orthodox at a Christian school, like I wasn’t just Christian, I was Coptic Christian, and I brought Abouna in for one of my projects because I didn’t know what other way would be better to explain my religion than to have Abouna come and not only did my teacher come, but pastors came just to see what he would say to us High School kids for an hour and in that hour, they extended it longer and laid into him the entire time and questioned everything and at the end I remember a teacher asking me, “Well, do you still believe in what you believe in then? After learning everything we learned today?” and I just looked at him and I was like “yes” “You see NOTHING wrong in what you believe in?” “no”  and I never knew if there was something he didn’t agree with but he just looked at me.
In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?
·      In front of the Muslim culture, you feel raw. Not only was I an American in Egypt, but then I tried to respect them and I thought I was doing that and then to get slapped by one and not understand what she said, I mean you just feel raw.
What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture? (Centering your life around others, being selfless)
·      Being diverse. Since I am both Egyptian and American, I am a diverse individual within myself. And this is what makes me empowered. But this same force that empowers me also hinders me. Because I am not a full Egyptian, I did not have the chance to learn Arabic or live in Egypt for months at a time. I am never seen as one full race, I am the white Egyptian.
What is your best quality/ characteristic? (Patience/ eyes or hair)
·      My big eyes!!
·      My best characteristic is that I am really friendly
In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?
·      Being someone who is not only Christian, but also Coptic Christian made it hard for me attending a Christian school. One time I brought in my Abouna [the priest] to explain to them my religion. As the teachers of my school came to hear, it was more than just a question and answer time, they began to drill him for his differing ideas. Its hard for others to accept that you believe something other than them.
What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture?
·      That we are not all camel drivers. And that not everyone from Egypt is a Muslim or of an Islamic background. There are strong Christians in Egypt but because of the stereotypes others hold, they always assume that I am a Muslim.
What are you personally passionate about?
·      I am personally passionate about those around me that I love.
What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?
·      There was a time after September 11, 2001 where a teacher gave us a worksheet on the Muslim faith and when confronted about this homework by my father, the teacher explained herself saying that this was an exercise she always did. The fact that while the images of 9/11 were still fresh in our minds, the timing for this exercise seemed to be insinuating  different idea. I was a terrorist, not only in the eyes of my peers, but also in the eyes of the teachers
What do you want people to know about your culture?
I want them to know how diverse it is. Also, how kids our age, especially our age are able to get along together, especially as different religions, I keep saying religion because that’s how I see it, but as different races. Only a few people think that races can get along but they just assume that, and to top it off, they assume that races with a different religion can not get along. I never thought I could have different Middle Eastern friends, and Middle Eastern friends with different religions and backgrounds. I think that’s something people don’t understand. Its not all hate amongst Middle Easterns, there is peace and friendship and love.

"Egyptian/ European. I am Diverse"

"There are strong Christians in the Middle East"

Jennifer Sayed

History major with an emphasis in American History

 Egyptian-American

Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being raised in?

·      It became normal, my culture was different than all the other white kids, I had two Christmases and two Easters and my dad didn’t eat certain foods on different days for weird reasons. Like church wasn’t just a religion, church was my culture so that’s where I grew up. Going to church every Sunday, or a lot as a kid, especially in the summer, that was normal. Church kids club, that’s all you would do, you would get up, and be doing whatever your parents did with you over the summer and then at night you would go to church and play all night and your dad would take you home after he played dominoes for a couple of hours, that’s how it was. I mean having two parents of different races and then being raised in a country that my dad wasn’t from, things were separated but you were the kid who was the unit so it felt normal.

Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?

·      Yea, I wish I could not feel so guilty about my major choice and if I did just want to be a teacher or a historian or if I just wanted to go back to a tech school and be a technician, I wish my culture accepted that. I wish my dad would just accept that.

Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?

·      Marrying someone of the same race? Yea that’s fine. I never thought about it. I don’t necessarily sit here and plan on marrying anyone specific of a race. I plan on getting married.

Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?

·      I want to say no because my dad and my uncles have always respected, the fact that I have wanted to do something big. I don’t think my dad or uncles or even the other women in the church have ever made me feel  undermined for wanting to be what I want to be, or striving towards something because I know that one lady in the church holds a high position as an engineer for Boeing, and I don’t think I have ever felt undermined.

Are there any scenarios you have been placed in that contradict your culture that you have had to defend yourself for?

·      Being Coptic Orthodox at a Christian school, like I wasn’t just Christian, I was Coptic Christian, and I brought Abouna in for one of my projects because I didn’t know what other way would be better to explain my religion than to have Abouna come and not only did my teacher come, but pastors came just to see what he would say to us High School kids for an hour and in that hour, they extended it longer and laid into him the entire time and questioned everything and at the end I remember a teacher asking me, “Well, do you still believe in what you believe in then? After learning everything we learned today?” and I just looked at him and I was like “yes” “You see NOTHING wrong in what you believe in?” “no”  and I never knew if there was something he didn’t agree with but he just looked at me.

In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?

·      In front of the Muslim culture, you feel raw. Not only was I an American in Egypt, but then I tried to respect them and I thought I was doing that and then to get slapped by one and not understand what she said, I mean you just feel raw.

What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture? (Centering your life around others, being selfless)

·      Being diverse. Since I am both Egyptian and American, I am a diverse individual within myself. And this is what makes me empowered. But this same force that empowers me also hinders me. Because I am not a full Egyptian, I did not have the chance to learn Arabic or live in Egypt for months at a time. I am never seen as one full race, I am the white Egyptian.

What is your best quality/ characteristic? (Patience/ eyes or hair)

·      My big eyes!!

·      My best characteristic is that I am really friendly

In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?

·      Being someone who is not only Christian, but also Coptic Christian made it hard for me attending a Christian school. One time I brought in my Abouna [the priest] to explain to them my religion. As the teachers of my school came to hear, it was more than just a question and answer time, they began to drill him for his differing ideas. Its hard for others to accept that you believe something other than them.

What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture?

·      That we are not all camel drivers. And that not everyone from Egypt is a Muslim or of an Islamic background. There are strong Christians in Egypt but because of the stereotypes others hold, they always assume that I am a Muslim.

What are you personally passionate about?

·      I am personally passionate about those around me that I love.

What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?

·      There was a time after September 11, 2001 where a teacher gave us a worksheet on the Muslim faith and when confronted about this homework by my father, the teacher explained herself saying that this was an exercise she always did. The fact that while the images of 9/11 were still fresh in our minds, the timing for this exercise seemed to be insinuating  different idea. I was a terrorist, not only in the eyes of my peers, but also in the eyes of the teachers

What do you want people to know about your culture?

I want them to know how diverse it is. Also, how kids our age, especially our age are able to get along together, especially as different religions, I keep saying religion because that’s how I see it, but as different races. Only a few people think that races can get along but they just assume that, and to top it off, they assume that races with a different religion can not get along. I never thought I could have different Middle Eastern friends, and Middle Eastern friends with different religions and backgrounds. I think that’s something people don’t understand. Its not all hate amongst Middle Easterns, there is peace and friendship and love.

"My family is "strict", but I am GRATEFUL"
"Don’t judge others; you never know what struggles lie between the surface"
Elizabeth Haddad
3rd year Neuroscience major
Jordanian
Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being raised in?
·      I was born here. I’ve actually never been to Jordan. I love that my parents were raised in a different culture. They’ve definitely come a long way from how they lived growing up. It’s just another thing that shows me how successful they’ve been throughout their lives.
Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?
·      No. The path that I want to take in my life is my choice. I’ve been brought up with such rich values that my parents know that whatever decision I make for myself, is best for me. I think if you’re raised right, there’s really no need for these expectations.
Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?
·      I don’t think that race is necessarily the BIGGEST factor, but it definitely plays a role. Honestly, I think I would have a deeper connection with someone if they were familiar with my roots and how they’ve played a role in shaping me. In terms of Arabs, the different countries don’t really matter to me. Arguing over different colloquial dialects shouldn’t really be a deal breaker. 
Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?
·      I don’t believe I have. Again, I grew up around a bunch of males with little female influence besides my mom. I feel like my mentality on gender roles would actually be more geared towards a male’s view, rather than a female’s. My brothers have always described how a woman should be towards her significant other, and I feel like I’ve molded myself considering that image. I’d be happy to take on those stereotypical female roles in a household. If I truly care for that person, I’d be happy to do those things for them.
Are there any scenarios you have been placed in that contradict your culture that you have had to defend yourself for?
·      I’ve actually never had a problem with something like this.
In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?
·      There hasn’t really been anything too drastic for me other than being called a terrorist in 4th grade the day of 9/11 during lunch period. I’m actually really fortunate in that I haven’t had to deal with anything too drastic. I know my brothers and other close family members have had much bigger issues with this. I’m usually pretty good at explaining the concept behind stereotyping in the event that it occurs against me.
What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture? 
·      One thing I’m proud of is trying my hardest not to judge anyone, under any circumstance. You don’t know what a person has to go through, it could be more than you’ve ever had to endure yourself. I’ve learned this THROUGH my culture. I’ve seen Middle Easterners, of all religions, get discriminated against throughout my life. How can you judge anyone without knowing their story, without knowing their sentiments, without knowing what empowers them? You can’t. It wouldn’t be fair to. Equality is what so many people strive for. How can we ever get equality for all if we can’t start with the most underlying problem?
What is your best quality/ characteristic?
·      I try my best to be as kind as I can. I think it plays a big role when trying to be nonjudgemental. As far as a physical attribute? I don’t know? I’d say my biceps are pretty impressive.
In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?
·      No. It’s shaped me in every way possible. I have a lot in common with my good friend Kanye West in that we both believe that everything we’re not, had made us everything we are. All joking aside, I really do believe this to be true for me personally. I don’t care about superficial things like partying or the “C” on a certain handbag. I feel like I’ve been shaped by figuring out what isn’t important, leaving what is at the center of my attention.
What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture? 
·      As a child, I was always frustrated with the restrictions that my parents had put on me. Not only were my parents strict, but I have 4 older brothers as well. Think about it, the only girl AND the youngest of 5. I have to admit, it wasn’t the easiest to cooperate with. People have always questioned me about the ‘strictness’ of my family. “Liz, why do you even listen to them, why don’t you just sneak around?” Growing older and more mature, I am grateful that I have found myself at the best answer possible. I think this answer essentially makes up who I am today: I am nothing but grateful to have the family that I do. Who would complain about having every necessity and want satisfied? Who would complain about being sheltered and protected at all possible times? Who the heck would complain about having the most nurturing, fun, and loving family possible? It’s evident, at some point during my adolescent years, I realized that the only reason this “strictness” existed was because they CARED about me. My family always said to me, “It’s not that we don’t trust you; it’s that we don’t trust other people.” It made sense considering the tragic events that we see daily. This mentality also stems a lot from what I see and read every single day on the news. There are people dying for their freedom everyday, ESPECIALLY in the Middle East, and unfortunately there is little I can do to help. The least I can do is not complain about being kept safe.
What are you personally passionate about?
·      I’m really passionate about health and fitness. I’m a personal trainer and I’m constantly working with people to help them achieve their goals. I love it! 
What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?
·      I’m not exactly sure of the distinction relative to other time periods, but I do know that my parents grew up with an EXTREMELY different lifestyle. My dad always jokes around saying, “Oh, when I was a kid, I had an iPad BETTER than yours!” If I were to compare my American lifestyle with my parent’s lifestyle growing up, the differences would be incomprehensible. Sometimes I wonder if we’d all be happier living the simple life that they did. I think this would help in appreciating all the little things peoples take for granted. Getting back to the question at hand though, my culture has influenced most of my morals that make up the person I am. I don’t think I’d be as level-headed as I am had it not been for my culture. I’m glad that I grew up in America because I get to share my perspective with people of other cultures. 
What do you want people to know about your culture?
·      I would want people to be open-minded and willing to learn how other people live their lives. I think we’re able to grow as people when learning about each other. We are able to compare differences and similarities and eventually realize that we are all human. No characteristic makes one inferior to another. I’d want them to know that the Middle Eastern culture is filled with rich values, and loving families. I’d challenge them to learn more about us, and I’d return the favor for any other culture!
·

"My family is "strict", but I am GRATEFUL"

"Don’t judge others; you never know what struggles lie between the surface"

Elizabeth Haddad

3rd year Neuroscience major

Jordanian

Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being raised in?

·      I was born here. I’ve actually never been to Jordan. I love that my parents were raised in a different culture. They’ve definitely come a long way from how they lived growing up. It’s just another thing that shows me how successful they’ve been throughout their lives.

Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?

·      No. The path that I want to take in my life is my choice. I’ve been brought up with such rich values that my parents know that whatever decision I make for myself, is best for me. I think if you’re raised right, there’s really no need for these expectations.

Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?

·      I don’t think that race is necessarily the BIGGEST factor, but it definitely plays a role. Honestly, I think I would have a deeper connection with someone if they were familiar with my roots and how they’ve played a role in shaping me. In terms of Arabs, the different countries don’t really matter to me. Arguing over different colloquial dialects shouldn’t really be a deal breaker. 

Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?

·      I don’t believe I have. Again, I grew up around a bunch of males with little female influence besides my mom. I feel like my mentality on gender roles would actually be more geared towards a male’s view, rather than a female’s. My brothers have always described how a woman should be towards her significant other, and I feel like I’ve molded myself considering that image. I’d be happy to take on those stereotypical female roles in a household. If I truly care for that person, I’d be happy to do those things for them.

Are there any scenarios you have been placed in that contradict your culture that you have had to defend yourself for?

·      I’ve actually never had a problem with something like this.

In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?

·      There hasn’t really been anything too drastic for me other than being called a terrorist in 4th grade the day of 9/11 during lunch period. I’m actually really fortunate in that I haven’t had to deal with anything too drastic. I know my brothers and other close family members have had much bigger issues with this. I’m usually pretty good at explaining the concept behind stereotyping in the event that it occurs against me.

What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture?

·      One thing I’m proud of is trying my hardest not to judge anyone, under any circumstance. You don’t know what a person has to go through, it could be more than you’ve ever had to endure yourself. I’ve learned this THROUGH my culture. I’ve seen Middle Easterners, of all religions, get discriminated against throughout my life. How can you judge anyone without knowing their story, without knowing their sentiments, without knowing what empowers them? You can’t. It wouldn’t be fair to. Equality is what so many people strive for. How can we ever get equality for all if we can’t start with the most underlying problem?

What is your best quality/ characteristic?

·      I try my best to be as kind as I can. I think it plays a big role when trying to be nonjudgemental. As far as a physical attribute? I don’t know? I’d say my biceps are pretty impressive.

In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?

·      No. It’s shaped me in every way possible. I have a lot in common with my good friend Kanye West in that we both believe that everything we’re not, had made us everything we are. All joking aside, I really do believe this to be true for me personally. I don’t care about superficial things like partying or the “C” on a certain handbag. I feel like I’ve been shaped by figuring out what isn’t important, leaving what is at the center of my attention.

What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture?

·      As a child, I was always frustrated with the restrictions that my parents had put on me. Not only were my parents strict, but I have 4 older brothers as well. Think about it, the only girl AND the youngest of 5. I have to admit, it wasn’t the easiest to cooperate with. People have always questioned me about the ‘strictness’ of my family. “Liz, why do you even listen to them, why don’t you just sneak around?” Growing older and more mature, I am grateful that I have found myself at the best answer possible. I think this answer essentially makes up who I am today: I am nothing but grateful to have the family that I do. Who would complain about having every necessity and want satisfied? Who would complain about being sheltered and protected at all possible times? Who the heck would complain about having the most nurturing, fun, and loving family possible? It’s evident, at some point during my adolescent years, I realized that the only reason this “strictness” existed was because they CARED about me. My family always said to me, “It’s not that we don’t trust you; it’s that we don’t trust other people.” It made sense considering the tragic events that we see daily. This mentality also stems a lot from what I see and read every single day on the news. There are people dying for their freedom everyday, ESPECIALLY in the Middle East, and unfortunately there is little I can do to help. The least I can do is not complain about being kept safe.

What are you personally passionate about?

·      I’m really passionate about health and fitness. I’m a personal trainer and I’m constantly working with people to help them achieve their goals. I love it! 

What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?

·      I’m not exactly sure of the distinction relative to other time periods, but I do know that my parents grew up with an EXTREMELY different lifestyle. My dad always jokes around saying, “Oh, when I was a kid, I had an iPad BETTER than yours!” If I were to compare my American lifestyle with my parent’s lifestyle growing up, the differences would be incomprehensible. Sometimes I wonder if we’d all be happier living the simple life that they did. I think this would help in appreciating all the little things peoples take for granted. Getting back to the question at hand though, my culture has influenced most of my morals that make up the person I am. I don’t think I’d be as level-headed as I am had it not been for my culture. I’m glad that I grew up in America because I get to share my perspective with people of other cultures. 

What do you want people to know about your culture?

·      I would want people to be open-minded and willing to learn how other people live their lives. I think we’re able to grow as people when learning about each other. We are able to compare differences and similarities and eventually realize that we are all human. No characteristic makes one inferior to another. I’d want them to know that the Middle Eastern culture is filled with rich values, and loving families. I’d challenge them to learn more about us, and I’d return the favor for any other culture!

·

"The Struggle"
"I’m Not Submissive"
Leanne Bishara
2nd year Psychology
Palestinian
Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being raised in?
·       First generation born here. It was difficult being raised by such conservative parents, but if it were not for the way that they raised me, I would not be who I am today.
Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?
·      Everything I have ever wanted to do in life, I still did regardless of the cultural expectations.
Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?
·      Everything I have ever wanted to do in life, I still did regardless of the cultural expectations.
Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?
·      Definitely. All of the women in my family are housewives and have not been educated. I want to break that cycle and show the strength that women have. 
Are there any scenarios you have been placed in that contradict your culture that you have had to defend yourself for?
·       I shaved my head…….. I constantly have to defend my reasons for doing it because everyone in the Middle Eastern culture thinks that “a woman’s beauty is in her hair”
In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?
·      All the time. Especially after 9/11, I was scared to go to school. I attended an all white private school and I was the only Arab. People kept accusing me of being a ‘terrorist’. 
What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture? 
·      The struggle that Palestinians face all over the world and everyday is something that empowers me. It inspires me to want to promote peace and positivity to others, (especially Israelis) .
What is your best quality/ characteristic?
·      I am incapable of holding a grudge. I always try to maintain peace in my life. 
In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?
·      They expect women to be submissive. WOMEN SHOULD HAVE THE LOUDEST VOICE, especially in Middle Eastern culture. Did they ever consider the fact that maybe all the conflict in the Middle East has to do with the fact that they aren’t letting women be in charge? 
What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture? 
·      We aren’t all terrorists and we aren’t all Muslim.
What are you personally passionate about?
·       Making an influence in the world. 
What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?
·      As a child I hated being Middle Eastern because everyone around me kept putting me down for it. As of now, I have SO much pride for being Middle Eastern and I want to spread our culture to as many Americans as possible, so they can experience what a beautiful culture we have. 
What do you want people to know about your culture?
·      Everything about our culture is SO rich in beauty and in love and we have such strong family traditions and ties that we can never be torn apart. 

 

"The Struggle"

"I’m Not Submissive"

Leanne Bishara

2nd year Psychology

Palestinian

Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being raised in?

·       First generation born here. It was difficult being raised by such conservative parents, but if it were not for the way that they raised me, I would not be who I am today.

Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?

·      Everything I have ever wanted to do in life, I still did regardless of the cultural expectations.

Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?

·      Everything I have ever wanted to do in life, I still did regardless of the cultural expectations.

Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?

·      Definitely. All of the women in my family are housewives and have not been educated. I want to break that cycle and show the strength that women have. 

Are there any scenarios you have been placed in that contradict your culture that you have had to defend yourself for?

·       I shaved my head…….. I constantly have to defend my reasons for doing it because everyone in the Middle Eastern culture thinks that “a woman’s beauty is in her hair”

In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?

·      All the time. Especially after 9/11, I was scared to go to school. I attended an all white private school and I was the only Arab. People kept accusing me of being a ‘terrorist’. 

What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture?

·      The struggle that Palestinians face all over the world and everyday is something that empowers me. It inspires me to want to promote peace and positivity to others, (especially Israelis) .

What is your best quality/ characteristic?

·      I am incapable of holding a grudge. I always try to maintain peace in my life. 

In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?

·      They expect women to be submissive. WOMEN SHOULD HAVE THE LOUDEST VOICE, especially in Middle Eastern culture. Did they ever consider the fact that maybe all the conflict in the Middle East has to do with the fact that they aren’t letting women be in charge? 

What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture?

·      We aren’t all terrorists and we aren’t all Muslim.

What are you personally passionate about?

·       Making an influence in the world. 

What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?

·      As a child I hated being Middle Eastern because everyone around me kept putting me down for it. As of now, I have SO much pride for being Middle Eastern and I want to spread our culture to as many Americans as possible, so they can experience what a beautiful culture we have. 

What do you want people to know about your culture?

·      Everything about our culture is SO rich in beauty and in love and we have such strong family traditions and ties that we can never be torn apart. 

 

" Accepting"
"Terrorist"

Sara Alulama
Freshman, Psychology
International Student from Dubai

Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being raised in?
·      No, I was not born here.
Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?
·      No, I am content with my culture and expectations. I do not feel as though I need to be like other people from different cultures, for Americans, or Europeans. I have been brought up in the way I am and I respect my values
Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?
·      Yes, I plan on marrying a Middle Eastern man. I would marry someone from my own race because I would be more comfortable and we would be the same culturally. No, it is not the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country because who knows what that different country may be. The person has to be Arab.
Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?
·      Personally I can’t recall being undermined for my gender, but generally speaking women, unfortunately cannot do some things men can. For example, in Arab culture women are to follow strict rules in a household. For example, they are not allowed to be out late at night or be alone whereas a man can. They do not have as much freedom, but then again this all depends on the family
Are there any scenarios you have been placed in that contradict your culture that you have had to defend yourself for?
·      No.
In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?
·      At times some people refer to Arabs as terrorists. Not saying it happened to me, but its this stereotype that Arabs are “terrorists.” I don’t actually remember anyone discriminating against me being Arab but if anyone does so I will gladly defend myself 100%
What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture?
·      One thing that empowers me within my culture would be the fact that I am accepting of different cultural beliefs and traditions, I take a high interest in for example what Christians, Hindus, Chinese, etc do to celebrate certain things.
What is your best quality/ characteristic?
·      My best quality/characteristic would have to be my eyes and hair.
In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?
·      I do not regret anything about being Middle Eastern, I am appreciative of my culture, keep strong with my traditions and I always keep in mind where I come from and how I have been raised.
What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture? 
·      I don’t know if this is really a stereotype, might be but how young girls get married at a very young age and that education is not important. Well, this was back in the day but now things are changing more and more women are getting educated, getting degrees, have good jobs, positions, are somebody for themselves. 
What are you personally passionate about?
·      I am personally passionate about being Middle Eastern because I value collectivism and the way Arab culture shows that. I am not saying any one culture is better than the other but I see my culture in a very positive light—same with everyone about where they are from, culture. Following my culture made me who I am today, if I did not value or keep up with it I would be a nobody with no values, no traditions, no guidance, nothing. 
What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?
·      I have been raised in Dubai, United Arab Emirates all my life, all 18 years. I have just recently arrived to the United States in the Fall 2012 to study and earn a degree. 
What do you want people to know about your culture?
·      We are very warm, welcoming, hospitable people. Middle Eastern culture is very interesting and has a lot to offer from arts (calligraphy), to religion, to languages, to media, etc.  

 

" Accepting"

"Terrorist"

Sara Alulama

Freshman, Psychology

International Student from Dubai

Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being raised in?

·      No, I was not born here.

Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?

·      No, I am content with my culture and expectations. I do not feel as though I need to be like other people from different cultures, for Americans, or Europeans. I have been brought up in the way I am and I respect my values

Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?

·      Yes, I plan on marrying a Middle Eastern man. I would marry someone from my own race because I would be more comfortable and we would be the same culturally. No, it is not the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country because who knows what that different country may be. The person has to be Arab.

Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?

·      Personally I can’t recall being undermined for my gender, but generally speaking women, unfortunately cannot do some things men can. For example, in Arab culture women are to follow strict rules in a household. For example, they are not allowed to be out late at night or be alone whereas a man can. They do not have as much freedom, but then again this all depends on the family

Are there any scenarios you have been placed in that contradict your culture that you have had to defend yourself for?

·      No.

In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?

·      At times some people refer to Arabs as terrorists. Not saying it happened to me, but its this stereotype that Arabs are “terrorists.” I don’t actually remember anyone discriminating against me being Arab but if anyone does so I will gladly defend myself 100%

What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture?

·      One thing that empowers me within my culture would be the fact that I am accepting of different cultural beliefs and traditions, I take a high interest in for example what Christians, Hindus, Chinese, etc do to celebrate certain things.

What is your best quality/ characteristic?

·      My best quality/characteristic would have to be my eyes and hair.

In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?

·      I do not regret anything about being Middle Eastern, I am appreciative of my culture, keep strong with my traditions and I always keep in mind where I come from and how I have been raised.

What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture?

·      I don’t know if this is really a stereotype, might be but how young girls get married at a very young age and that education is not important. Well, this was back in the day but now things are changing more and more women are getting educated, getting degrees, have good jobs, positions, are somebody for themselves. 

What are you personally passionate about?

·      I am personally passionate about being Middle Eastern because I value collectivism and the way Arab culture shows that. I am not saying any one culture is better than the other but I see my culture in a very positive light—same with everyone about where they are from, culture. Following my culture made me who I am today, if I did not value or keep up with it I would be a nobody with no values, no traditions, no guidance, nothing. 

What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?

·      I have been raised in Dubai, United Arab Emirates all my life, all 18 years. I have just recently arrived to the United States in the Fall 2012 to study and earn a degree. 

What do you want people to know about your culture?

·      We are very warm, welcoming, hospitable people. Middle Eastern culture is very interesting and has a lot to offer from arts (calligraphy), to religion, to languages, to media, etc.