There is a good reason why I
do not have a Twitter account. My privacy is a commodity. You will never catch me tweeting my thoughts. It just isn’t going to happen. Tweets are a waste of time. My journalism is not based on public consensus. But the nonsense sent out by a man with a Twitter following of 97,000 caught my eye when his thoughts made it to mainstream media. So let’s plod through a bit of some recent tweet-mania.
Abdullah Mohammed Daoud is a Saudi ‘self-help’ author. He gave recent advice for men to help themselves to females in the labour force. This takes the term self-help to a whole new level. Sigh.
In a tweet sent out with the hashtag # ‘harass female cashiers’, a man on a mission again exposes what the generalised national posture is. Saudi Arabia is a nation that prefers the model of enslaved women. The gentle sex is still not trusted to manage a steering wheel and a set of pedals. But as of late, they can scan groceries. The marketplace is opening up to feminine charm outside of the home. The hackles are raised because the manly species prefers an unnatural way of life.
In seeking to entertain his audience and engage confirmation bias the author falls back on Islamic history to make a bizarre pitch. This expert on the human condition recounts the story of al-Zubair, a husband who was unhappy that his wife was going to the mosque to worship (a normal mode of behaviour). The protagonist in the story came up with a less than admirable plan. Disguising himself a bit, he accosted his wife, probably growled in her ear and checked out the real estate. Naturally, she fled back to the safety of her home. Problem solved. The wife remained at home and the husband bragged about it. The story made its way through the ranks of the men, became an oral tradition, probably grew to be an urban legend, and lodged itself in the annals of early Islamic folklore. Even I knew the story of al-Zubair and his wife prior to the tweet-mania of Daoud.
So prior to further discussion as to why marital spats do not make for good advice, let me put out a few ‘tweets’ of my own. This is based on my bumpy marital history of years gone by.
“Tomatoes and radishes: Can you believe it? My husband wants his tomato slices fat and his radishes whole. I slice tomatoes thin and cut the radishes in half. Why did I marry this spoiled child?!”
“Slightly burned beans: Locked myself out of the house and had to crawl through an open window. Beans are slightly burned. Too bad. He will just have to add a bit more salt.”
“Sex! He wants sex after my 12-hour work day, dinner on the table and two loads of laundry washed and put away. Is he kidding?! I am practically comatose.”
Okay. We all get the point. Marital spats happen and happy couples have marital disagreements. But these things do not make for great tweets and are even less desirable for public view. But an author in Saudi Arabia takes a vignette, globalises it, and idolises it as a doctrinal absurdity. Daoud is advocating sexual harassment in the workplace. Let that little tweet sink in. He is advocating that women who add to the productivity of a nation deserve to be molested. If it worked for al-Zubair it works for him.
Females in the work force are split into two simple categories: single or married. The single women usually have living fathers. The married women have husbands. I am blessed to have both a father and a husband in my life. Be assured that if a man attempted what is advocated in the tweet he would find the back of my hand. My father would smack his ankles with a cane and my husband’s fist would rearrange his nose to the top of his forehead.
Here is the deal. Women enter the workforce for many reasons. But we do not enter the work force because we have immoral character. We work because we need the intellectual stimulation. We work because we want to contribute to society outside the confines of our homes. Women work to contribute to family income.
The melodramatic insensibility that has played out with a tweet from a prominent Saudi national is a reflection of a national posture. Throughout the centuries emancipation for various demographics has been a hard-earned right. It should have never been so complicated nor hard to achieve. Because quite simply, emancipation means that each person is given the gift of human liberty. They are allowed to work toward their highest human potential. Or they can take the gift and squander it.
The state of affairs in Saudi Arabia with regard to women begs a question. Has the world been denied a tremendous gift in the world of the math, sciences or medicine because of the capping of human potential for approximately 50 percent of the population? Is the cure for breast cancer residing within the brain of a woman in Saudi Arabia who is denied education, transportation, and access to a research lab? Is the answer to a difficult mathematical theorem that will improve automation in the oil industry still locked within the brain of a woman sequestered in her Jeddah home?
Islamic history contains the story of the women too. They were capable, industrious and certainly intelligent. One woman collected water to save her bloodline. Her name was Hagar. Another financed caravan trade routes. Her name was Khadija. There was also a young Muslim wife who lost her necklace and took solo flight to retrieve it. You know her name. Strong women of the desert each played out their destiny in different eras. The terrain is still the same. But a 21st century desert kingdom continues to deny women their rights.
The writer is a freelance journalist and author of the novel Arsenal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org