Prior to my trip abroad, my American professors, friends, and family didn’t know much about Jordan except for the fact that the queen was very popular, a fashion icon, and very “western-looking”—whatever that means.
But truthfully, yes, she is very popular in Jordan, but not to the same extent that foreigners might view her. Much like Michelle Obama, she is an icon for her people and her country, and people revere her. For both of these leading ladies they symbolize a great deal of pride for their country’s and many people—regardless of their political views—admire these ladies. At the same time, the programs and organizations they are responsible for aren’t as popular. Every leading lady has her causes and organizations they want to support as they are in a position of power through association with their husbands, but the effectiveness of these programs are hidden and only serve a small number of their countrymen.
According to Jordanians, Rania not only is a symbol of national pride, but also a role model for women in Jordan. Rania is a Palestinian, well-educated, woman that is able to bring together the multitude of cultures and religions. Her website and blog attempt to create understanding that Jordan is not just Jordanians, but Palestinians, Iraqis, Syrians, Muslims, Christians, men, and women. However, many Jordanians are unfamiliar with the Queens efforts, but regardless they still have the upmost respect for her.
Foreigners that give her the title of “modern”, “progressive”, or “out-of-place” are terribly wrong. For women in Jordan she is a role model and an example of how women are currently and where they are going in the future. Jordanian women much like their queen are well-educated, motivated to work hard, and contribute to their communities. Many Jordanians feel that Rania is more concerned with local policies and issues as opposed to her husband who doesn’t appear as much in a positive spotlight.
At a the same time, it cannot be ignored that although Rania is this great symbol of Jordan, she is also a part of the Jordanian hereditary monarchy that’s laws restrict women’s rights and has less than 20 percent of women in parliament. One could argue that she could use more of her influence for legislative change, but that is the tension that appears frequently in Jordanian society. This tension between women advancing in every aspect of society and the static status quo that many in positions of power do not see the need for change.
But much like Americans’ opinions of Mrs. Obama, Queen Rania as a symbol and as a role model is giving hope to her country—regardless of her husband’s politics.