Arab American Femininities: Beyond Arab Virgin/American(ized) Whore

As I listened to my mother,1 I recalled several experiences growing up within a bicultural Arab American familial and communal context. Al Amerikan (Americans) were often referred to in derogatory sexualized terms. It was the trash culture—degenerate, morally bankrupt, and not worth investing in. Al Arab (Arabs), on the other hand, were referred to positively and associated with Arab family values and hospitality. Similarly, throughout the period of my ethnographic research among middle-class Arab American family and community networks in San Francisco, California,2 between January 1999 and August 2001, the theme of female sexuality circumscribed the ways my research participants imagined and contested culture, identity, and belonging.