The painter’s conclusion, shared by Rogaia, was that behind the appearance of patriarchy and male dominance, Qatari couples operated “like everyone else.” Where wives are the stronger personality, they will be in charge.
Rogaia disputed the dichotomy between modern and traditional in discussing the roles of women. She concluded bluntly, “I don’t subscribe to the idea of tradition making women subservient or holding them back.”
Most of the young men and women in our school would be easily recognizable in a middle-tier American liberal arts college. Some were bright, some weren’t; some worked hard, some didn’t. They had the customary range of abilities and interests and identities. Many were mature and motivated. Others were just occupying space. And why not? Education for their children was one of many benefits Qataris and their families expected from the state. Students were fulfilling expectations that they reflect the family’s position among a status conscious people. Georgetown offered another expensive import: a prestigious university degree.
Girls seemed better prepared, more focused on getting good grades, sometimes just smarter. Figuring out why was not beyond faculty speculation. Many of the boys we were teaching, especially those from the Gulf, were already familiar with the material pleasures of life: Porsches, summers on the Riviera, fast catamarans, drivers, servants. They came from closely knit, wealthy families in which they had inherited an elevated position. If they were Qatari, they were guaranteed a well-paying, not-very-demanding government job if they wanted, supplemented by financial grants from the regime that allowed them to live a very comfortable life. Bottom line: Gulf men did not have to do well in school to do well in life. Unsurprisingly, teachers who voiced an opinion thought Qatari male students were less motivated than the women. The president of Qatar University, Sheikha Missad, might concur: “This country doesn’t have a woman problem,” she was often quoted as saying, “it has a man problem.”