What is the Typical Saudi Woman?

While one should never specifically stereotype nor try to lump all individuals into one big box, a popular question and search term leading readers to my blog is, what is a typical Saudi woman?  I will certainly try and respond here with my candid views but will also rely on readers who are Saudi women or have regular contact with Saudi women to share their views too.


Now with an emphasis on TYPICAL and taking Saudi Arabia as a whole, this is what I believe as the general characterization of a Saudi woman.  Her only language will be Arabic.  She will have been raised to be a faithful and devoted daughter, sister, mother, Aunt and wife.  She would unlikely question the decisions or choices of those whom she respects and trusts such as a Father, Grandfather, Brother or Husband.  She will be devoted to her faith and therefore present herself in a manner which she believes is appropriate such as wearing the abbaya with hijjab and full niqab when out in public.  Among the family who see her without an abaya she will continue to dress modestly in either a traditional Saudi thobe or loose fitting attractive clothes and normally preferring to wear long sleeve shirts.  Among her family she may or may not choose to continue to wear her hijjab to cover her hair.  Segregation will be a way of life in which she has been raised and she will feel most comfortable socially in women-only gatherings.  While she may have some outside friends who are not related to her most of her interaction will be with family members.  Her primary interests will evolve around her family.  She will likely enjoy presenting a tranquil and comfortable home for her family.  Depending on the level of conservativeness of her family she may enjoy watching the Arabic televsion programs to include the dramas and comedies as well as enjoying the arabic music channels. The news may not be of interest to her.  She may dress modestly but will have a keen interest in what are the latest fashions and styles.  She probably will not be an avid reader or very active on the internet.  She likely enjoy using the internet most for chatting via MSN with family members.  She will likely not work outside of the home or perhaps only work until marriage.  And if she works, you would probably find her working in a woman’s bank or school.  She will probably not be widely traveled and never consider traveling unaccompanied by herself.


With the above being said there are always so many exceptions.   There will be the Saudi women who may be more independent and outspoken than any Westerner.  They will be savvy businesswomen, well-traveled and often times might travel alone both within and outside the Kingdom.  They will respect and trust their Father, Grandfather, Brother or Husband but will also not be shy to speak their views or voice disagreement.  Her choices of dress may vary for the occasions.  She will be comfortable in traditional settings of all women but also be at ease in a mixed function as well.  She may be bi-lingual.  Arabic is her native language but she may also speak English or French very well if not other languages too.  She will be univeristy educated and may strive for higher degrees too.  These women will be found in many professions in business, universities, banks, hospitals and government offices.


So which group of women are the real Saudi women?  Actually they both are.  But which one does the media portray most and write about most?  Yes, you got it.. the first one saying she is still living in the dark ages and some may go so far as to refer to her as chattel or being a puppet without a mind or spirit of her own.  Yet you can find these two distinct groups of women in any country and of all nationalities.  Sure, it may be more extreme and more noticeable in Saudi Arabia than America or Australia for example.


Concurrently it also seems that when articles appear about Saudi women, either they are too extreme or too progressive.  There’s nothing wrong with a Saudi woman who has chosen to be a strong activist and advocate  for greater freedoms in the Kingdom but again, I at least think the media builds up these indivdiuals and stories too much, again creating overreaction and misperceptions.  There need to be more “middle of the road” stories on Saudi women and stories which “humainze” them and allow individuals who do not have a clue about Saudi Arabia that while the women may speak or look or act different at the same time they do indeed have the same cares and worries as any other woman anywhere.


One should not be too quick to judge that all Saudi women are either extreme conservatists or vocal activists.


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