AbstractWhy do Arab states lag behind the rest of the world in gender equality? Social structural, cultural, and institutional accounts offer alternative perspectives. This study critiques the 'petroleum patriarchy' thesis, presented in Michael Ross's "Oil, Islam and Women" (2008), which claims that the structure of oil-rich economies directly limit the role of women in the paid workforce and thus also (indirectly) restrict women's representation in parliament. In particular, Part I raises questions about the empirical evidence used by Ross, especially the selection of case-studies, the specification of the econometric models, and the lack of direct evidence for cultural values. Part II develops multilevel models demonstrating that religious traditions have a greater influence on attitudes towards gender equality and sexual liberalization than either labor force participation or oil rents. Part III then shows the impact of these cultural attitudes on the proportion of women in legislative and ministerial office. The conclusion summarizes the main findings and considers their implications.