Girls of Riyadh

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Discuss in what ways Girls of Riyadh demystified or confirmed your gender perceptions of the quintessential Muslim society that Saudi Arabia is meant to represent. Girls of Riyadh is the poignant delineation of Saudi Arabia’s secluded society where young women who silently cherish westernized aspirations are weaved within the strict conventional web of the Arab law. Alsanea challenges the dictatorial and Islamist regimes of Saudi Arabia by contentiously incorporating prohibited issues such as homosexuality, the quest of love, sexuality and subjugation of the women in her work. She generally attempts to demonstrate “that a Western code of life in an Arab society is more preferable and suitable than the Islamic one” (Mubarak, 2011). Subsequently, she reiterates, between Muslims and the West, the existing chasm which is grounded on the latter’s perception of Islam as an obstruction to the Arab woman and her struggle for independence. This paper accordingly elucidates the various ways this novel demystifies gender perceptions in the typical Muslim society that Saudi Arabia is meant to represent. The characterization of the four protagonists namely Gamrah, Sadeem, Michelle and Lamees condemns Islamist fundamentalism as misogynist and calls for autonomous and secular political legal frameworks. The text simultaneously divulges the prevailing inconsistency between the opposite sexes in the Saudi society. While Doumato (1992) articulates in her work that Arab women are prohibited to travel without their ‘mahram’ or male guardian, Abdulla (1981) further exposes the prevailing sex segregation in Arab countries where the Muslim girl is anticipated to learn how to become an ideal housewife to her husband and a successful mother to her children instead of looking forward to join competitive fields such as geology, meteorology and so on which are explicitly for the men. Alsanea, by applying western tints to her novel, defies the conservative Arab society with the emergence of her four female characters who confront the political culture of Saudi Arabia as a social force. With the proliferation of technology in the 21st century, Alsanea uses the Internet as a medium to communicate to her readers. By so doing, she connects both male and female readers in a country where “integration of the sexes, at least in public, is still non-existent” and where “veiling is enforced” (Bahry, 1982). The virtual interaction between Lamees and the other masculine cyber users remarkably contradicts the Arab society where such crossing point is out of question. The internet, “the narrative topological main figure” (Ghadeer, 2006), becomes also a space where the narrator and her virtual female characters (“I’ve decided to change all the names of the people I will write about”) interact with the youth culture anonymously to expose the horrendous principles of the Arab society. It additionally acts as a prominent tool in shaping the feminine’s individualism. Lamees, for instance, teaches Gamrah how to make use of the internet which helps her to isolate herself from the bitter memories of Rashid’s betrayal: “With the help of Lamees, Gamrah got to know the world of chatting”. Alsanea provokes the conventional Saudi community as Lamees plunges in the virtual world to such an extent that she can even figure out the dissimilarities between men in Riyadh and those of the eastern and western provinces: “guys from Riyadh are a little different than the eastern province boys, and they’re different from the western province and so it goes”. Virtual communication hence reconstructs the existence of the wired Saudi girl beneath her abaya into an inquisitive connection of primitive culture and technology. Digital technology appropriates the reality of the Arab feminine personality as it enables her to show that she also has a voice. As such, this Arab feminine struggle broadens democratic space in the society as a whole (Esfandiari, 2004). At the same time as the author...
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