Every now and then we come across one of these articles – readers are given a glimpse into the women of [insert name of foreign country] and told that times sure are a’changin – the women just don’t want to get married! They’re choosing instead to get an education and build careers (good heavens). Traditionalists are appalled.
The latest of these exotic spinster chronicles is a look at Saudi women and marriage in an Associated Press piece by Aya Batrawy circulating through major news outlets under titles like Saudi Single Women Challenge Tradition in Love and Marriage, Saudi spinsters: A new generation of women are breaking with tradition and making their own choices on education, careers – and even marriage, and simply Saudi women’s changing attitudes toward marriage.
According to Batrawy,
“The growing number of single women has alarmed clerics, who have responded by pushing for early marriage and warning of alleged evil consequences of “spinsterhood” such as sex outside wedlock.”
Evidence for this is an alleged 2005 speech by the imam of Mecca’s Grand Mosque about “the dangerous phenomenon of life-long spinsterhood,” and some 2011 stats about the over a million single women over 30 and a vague, seemingly incomplete quote from Professor Hatoon alFassi. A woman interviewed, however, talks about career goals and desirable qualities in a mate – clearly, not wanting to remain unmarried. Other examples of anonymous women reveal struggles with failed relationships due to interfering families and expressed desire to find both love/marriage and a career.
Sadly, this generalized shallow account of Saudi women offers little more than reaffirmed stereotypes about Saudi culture and fails to recognize such so-called trends and generational attitude gaps are nothing new and are pretty universal. The numbers of unmarried adults in their 20s and 30s are growing in the United States, as well, and all these single women have been cause for much “concern” and punditry here, too and well, a complex topic for American women themselves. Besides, a few years ago, weren’t we blaming Saudi fathers for preventing their educated daughters from getting married?
So yeah, Saudi women are normal – they’re struggling with the same stuff we do – who’da thought? I bet they swear and curse, too. Someone warn Mike Huckabee.
Nadia Mohammad (@nadiasmohammad) is an Editor for altMuslimah.
Photo Credit: Alixianna Normandeau