Recently the program “Kalam Nouaem” (Sweet Talk), broadcast on MBC, focused on the daily lives of Saudi women.
The episodes featured a number of prominent females from the Kingdom, representing the Saudi women in all her glory. However, the context in which some issues were discussed was closer to superficial cosmetic surgery, rather than a thorough investigation into the causes of the illness. I also didn’t understand the logic behind some of the choices of participants. What does a popular male Saudi artist have to do with social, political and intellectual issues relating to women? Why was he given so much airtime?
What really got my attention was one of his answers, asserting that, “The Saudi woman is probably the most spoiled woman in the world”. Farah Bassisou, who hosts the show, added, “She is also envied.” the rest of the panel, all female, nodded in agreement.
In my view, the harshest argument about women is one based on inhumane standards. According to popular consciousness, a discussion of women’s rights is either for or against the West. This attitude might be justified when it is held by simple, uneducated people. But it is unacceptable when the host of a popular current affairs program adopts that view.
In their evaluation of women’s rights, they were more interested in attacking western paradigms than examining the human rights of women as individuals. Of course, the west invented the concept of women’s rights and created mechanisms to protect it and develop it. The female participants didn’t seem to notice that all the Saudi women who took part in the program received a western education. They couldn’t deny the west’s contribution in teaching them the principles of a decent life and the value of men and women alike. Perhaps they also didn’t notice that the western world gave many Saudi women the chance to shine on the global stage.
“Some of the debates in the media regarding the Saudi women media remain very traditional. I don’t understand how the King Abdullah center for national dialogue can examine women’s issues and their rights in politics and society, while the majority of discourses on women remain superficial and treat women as “a protected gem”. What makes it even worse is that many young women are convinced of this and do not want change, which, in my opinion should be a duty,” said Samira Mlibari, aged 24.
Arab and western media closely monitor the status of women in Saudi Arabia. It is shameful for the Arab media to focus, almost exclusively, on criticizing the west, without considering its credibility. The western world, which we vilify, day and night, is the one whose embassies we queue at, in the hope of study or work opportunities or even citizenship. We must realize that the west has a deep-rooted history in managing societies and repeated condemnation will not rescind this truth.