Saudi women blog about oppression

The Web lets young Saudi Arabian women rage against the machine.

Published January 25, 2006 1:17AM (EST)

In this week's issue of the conservative Weekly Standard, writer Stephen Schwartz reports that women in Saudi Arabia are finding equality in the blogosphere. More and more young Saudis are blogging, and some have even proposed online and in-person blogging conferences for men and women. "Men and women blogging together, of course, represents a total flouting of Saudi rules mandating sex segregation," Schwartz writes, but "there can be no turning back."

The key, Schwartz points out, is that the relative anonymity of the Web makes it difficult for the Saudi government to enforce the rules: "Saudi authorities cannot confiscate all the computers, Blackberrys, and cell phones in the kingdom."

For Schwartz, all this blogging is a welcome result of the United States' efforts to spread freedom. "They are so daring in their freedom of expression," he writes, and "the globalization of American culture obviously has a lot to do with it." Whether or not you agree with that, it's pretty cool to read expressions of dissent, independence and just day-to-day reflections from Saudi women.

"Farah's Sowaleef," which Schwartz deems "the most startling and thought-provoking Saudi blog," explicitly challenges the role of women in Saudi culture. Some of the posts are tough to follow, since frequent poster Farooha often seems to be answering her detractors without quoting them, or referring to local events without much context. But some entries, like this snarky translation with commentary of another Saudi site's list of traits a man should look for in a wife, are worth a visit.

Here's an excerpt:

Ninety-nine "traits a man would love to find in his wife:

4- That she does not leave their quarters without his permission. (no shizz? Men would like that? You don't say?)
5- That she is grateful for her husband, for he has aided her in protecting herself [from her sexual whims]. Also, through him, God has granted her a son, and she has become a mother. (riiiighht ... because she was the only one who enjoyed those hot nights and you see, their brood isn't his too, so no he shouldn't thank her for almost dying while squeezing the little thing out.)
9- That she does not leave her home with make up on. (because, you know, he's the only one who deserves to see her all dolled up ...)
23- That she admits that her husband is her "master." (sit, doggy, sit)
24- That she is well aware that her husband's rights are great, and that she must attend to them; for they are greater than her rights ever will be. (Wellll, all I can say is I admire your straight-forwardness. Screw political correctness! You people just don't believe in at least beating around the bush in the vain hope of coming off as *gasp* polite! Just tell it like it is, ay? I admire this splendid trait of yours. You know, just about as much as I admire a yeast infection.)"

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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