Sunday, September 8, 2013

Saudi: Everyday Breakdown

Saudi director Haifa Al-Mansour said it best; everyday life in Saudi Arabia is hard, and these difficulties "build up and can break a woman down". 

It's in the details; knowing that your most significant life decisions cannot be made without a male guardian's permission. Asking for help from a man, only to be ignored because he doesn't want to speak to a female. Being late to an appointment because your driver doesn't show up on time, or because there is no public transportation and you're not permitted to drive yourself. The man who tells you to cover your face because it's a "sexual temptation", or the man who hits on you thinking you are a woman with no morale simply because your face isn't covered. The man who refuses to sit next to you on an airplane, or who refuses to shake your hand when he's introduced to you, all because you are a woman. 

It's not every man who is like this, but there are enough around to keep women constantly on guard.
Sometimes it doesn't feel human.

If you wear niqab and wear too much eye make-up...they will call you a temptress. 
If you wear hijab and show your face....they will question your purity.
If you choose not to cover your hair...they will doubt your faith. 
If you cover your entire body in black...they will believe you are holy.
Appearance is everything, and they are most comfortable with women who are entirely unseen and unheard. The women who are seen are simply asking to be disrespected. 

A society consumed by public image, in every way imaginable;
Shorten your thob and grow a beard to be considered the "better Muslim". 
Take a loan out of the bank to buy a car you cant afford to "buy our respect". Yes, it is for sale. 
Lather yourself in French and Italian designer clothes, let it be a reminder of the producers power over the consumer.
Complain about your maid or your driver, but don't be ashamed that you're violating their human rights.
Do whatever the hell you want, just make sure you pray five times a day. 

Let the empty streets comfort you. 
Find humanity inside the malls.  

-B. Al-H. 


  1. Amazing article , although we study and work , but the family system still run like the wild west , how come and educated Muslim woman is treated as minor and property i thought islam came to enlighten nations !!!

  2. thanks so much for this. I recently came back after finishing my undergrad and have been internalizing these "daily frustrations" as they accumulate on a daily basis. articulating symbolic violence is difficult -- you need to live it to know what it's really like. but you did a great job. I think the worst part is normalization. it seems like all the women around me are trying to find ways to cope to survive that they stopped seeing how abnormal this is.

    your article (in muftah) helped a ton. just knowing that there is someone out there with consistent politics who's as frustrated and angry gives me hope. please don't give up just yet -- it always "seems impossible until it's done."

    thanks again and hope to run into you sometime.

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