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We don’t want to be ‘liberated’


The basic difference between (newtonian) physics and pschycology is that while you do ’cause’ to get ‘effect’ in the former, you have to often do the opposite of ’cause’ to get to ‘effect’ in the latter.

Khaled Almaeena, the genial and admittedly successful & relatively liberal editor-in-chief of Arab News has this to say in his recent article on the Girls of Riyadh:

To Westerners reading this, I note that what these women sought and what
they wanted was not “liberation” in the Western sense of the word. They were
seeking — and they attained — the right to do and be what they wanted to do and
be; they wanted the same doors open to them as were open to their brothers and
other Saudi men.

But what is ‘liberation’ but the right to be and do what they want to be and do? What is liberation if it is not breaking the stereotype of ‘you are a woman so you have separate rules from what the men have’. But if Khaled Almaeena had said ‘our women must be liberated’ he would be seen with scorn, as a lap-dog of the West. His articles would not be read anymore by even his less-male-chavunistic readers, who might be open to the idea of women’s equality but as as xenophobic as their neighbours. Because he says ‘no, we Saudis are different and so are our women’ he gets a hearing, and he might net out at the same end-result, but he’s led people to the destination with some national pride and the reassurance of having found a unique, suitable, localized solution.

This is like Benazir Bhutto in an old episode of Hard Talk, explaining why she had to wear a headscarf while advocating women’s rights. Like Sonia Gandhi and her ikat saris, which act as shield and interpreter and flag.

For all his support to nascent feminism in Saudi Arabia, it is hard for me to reconcile myself to his intelligence. At times, he is so simplistic in his pattern recognition he’d fail the Turing test:

From my own personal experience, I have seen that Saudi women are not only
intelligent, they are also extremely dependable. In the late 1980s at the Arab
News, there was a reporter named Faiza Ambah who never failed to deliver her
stories on time. We also had Hanan Ahmad Ashi who once, without a whimper or a complaint, edited and laid out five pages in a single day when two of her
colleagues were sick.


Again, this generalization is important to get the inDUHviduals in society and business to accept women as employees or students. But to say ‘Saudi women are dependable and intelligent’ is to ghetto them, create a stereotype. You’re risking all your gains on the non-occurance of non-dependable Saudi women; if unfortunately the first few women in your Saudi business/school are the arbit ones, then the ladder will break and later take so much longer to rebuild. But if you don’t create this extremely easy-to-understand, pure-good stereotype, the Saudi women never have a chance.

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