Monday, October 16, 2006

Mystique: I Marry Who He Wants Me To Marry

BBC reports the growth of a new cultural phenomenon in Saudi Arabia:
There's not just an oil boom in Saudi Arabia - there's a blogging boom too. "It really took off last year," says Saudi journalist Rasheed Abou-Alsamh. There are now between 500 and 600 Saudi blogs - in English as well as Arabic - and the bloggers are women as well as men.

This is good news, though it’s a little heartbreaking to think that in a country of roughly 25 million people, a mere five or six hundred should qualify as a “boom.” Here’s the blog of Mystique, a young woman from the city of Jeddah who’s only made a few posts since she started last March. One of them was a poem, titled Rantings of An Arabian Woman:

I am born
A man chooses my name

I am taught
To appreciate
That he did not bury me alive

I learn
What he wants me to know

I live
What he wants me to live

I marry
Who he wants me to marry

I eat
What he wants me to eat

If he dies
Another man controls my life

A Father
A Brother
A Husband
A Son
A Man


They tell me when I die
I am going to be judged on my man-made life.

Mystique also contributes to a group blog called Good Morning Jeddah, where she discusses topics as diverse as Wikipedia (one day she couldn’t access the English-language version and feared the Saudi sensors banned it, though later she posted a joyful update: it is BACK!! I guess Ahmed was right, they just clicked the wrong button I hope), bowling (one of the princes ordered a bowling alley shut down after learning that men and women were allowed to bowl there together), and peak oil:
Other economies like the US are diversified while Saudi Arabia’s is not. All of Saudi Arabia’s economic reform efforts and development plans to date centre around the fact that its economy is essentially oil driven. . . . The Saudi dependence on oil revenue is of great concern to many economists. Saudi Arabia’s oil production is expected to peak in the early 21st century and decline thereafter as the reserves are depleted. In addition, the population of Saudi Arabia is increasing rapidly which means that the revenues from oil production are divided among an increasing population.
This is just like the blogs where I hang out online: a combination of political musings and social reflections. Except Mystique has far more to lose than any blogger I know, should her real-world acquaintances discover her online identity.

I was tempted to post admiring comments in a few of the threads — Allah knows, I like seeing lots of responses to my own posts — but ultimately decided not to. Those comment boards are one of the few places, perhaps the only place, where young unrelated Saudis have to meet and mingle, and I worry it would be rude to intrude on that just to satisfy my American curiosity about everyday life for a woman in contemporary Arabia.

I’ll be a lurker instead.


Anonymous Stevo Darkly said...

That's quite an interesting find.

And it isn't often that I see poetry that appeals to me.

Lord, it must suck to be a woman in Saudi.

I imagine sometimes it must suck to be a woman anywhere.

12:27 AM  
Anonymous Alex said...

You may be polite enough to not comment there, but my guess is that somebody will soon show up on her blog and say "*yawn* This is all rather pedestrian. Anyway, saying that your life is shaped by men really raises questions about the nature of decision-making. Why, just this morning I read a philosophical tract..."

Hey, the virus infects every other blog out there. It's only a matter of time...

5:53 AM  
Anonymous A. Moose said...

Hey, the virus infects every other blog out there. It's only a matter of time...

Why, that comment is rather pedestrian. Saying that the virus infects every blog really raises questions about the act of blogging.....

That said, I have become much more ardent in my opposition to such things when I had my daughters. It is perhaps a sad comment on myself that it took that, but at least I recognize it.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Stevo Darkly said...

Shouldn't this woman be focusing more of her attention on the dangers of high-fructose corn syrup?

7:49 PM  
Anonymous ed said...

I don't know the difference between a rant and a rave, but that poem is neither. It is in fact touching and yet powerful in its simplicity. Thanks for posting it.

5:59 AM  

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