Did the campaign against male guardianship fail?



I WROTE about the case of Rahaf Al-Qunun in my last article, titled “What is behind the Saudi teen’s escape?”

I wrote how the case was magnified on social media in less than 48 hours of her escape and how the international media was excited about it.

I wrote how difficult life would be for this girl who threw herself into the unknown by fleeing to a country and society whose culture and interests she is ignorant of.

I also wrote about the difficulties the family was going through and the concerns of her parents when she broke out of the safety net provided by the family and decided to travel to an unknown world without any protection.

I asked in my previous article whether Saudi girls escape from their families as a result of a foreign conspiracy or due to internal family conflicts.

In a poll that I put to my readers, 40 percent of the respondents suspected foreign conspiracy behind the phenomenon while the rest were divided in their opinion with many saying these are isolated cases. Others thought family conflicts are responsible.

Credulous as we are, we tend to believe there is an outside conspiracy behind all this and the enemy is trying to destabilize our society and undermine its security.

The most important element of security is the one provided by the family and society. But are we as a society open in discussing our social issues in a transparent manner?

There is nothing new when I say how social media influenced interaction in our lives. We all agree on that. But truly, do we understand the language of the new generation? We can use the same tools of communication they use but the language itself is missing.

On Twitter, there was a campaign to revoke the male guardianship law. It was one of the strongest campaigns targeting Saudis on Twitter and those who care for Saudi affairs.

The question is: Did this campaign against male guardianship fail? No one really knows who was behind those campaigns because it was started and managed by unknown individuals. Were they fair in their demand to call for an end to male guardianship or was it an irresponsible campaign? Was this campaign based on ground facts and after understanding our values and objectives, or was it another wave of the vicious propaganda, which is not different from the language of the “Sahwa” movement in its strong, aggressive and eliminative tone.

Before I continue my analysis of this campaign, it is very important to point out that this campaign contributed one way or another to raising awareness about women’s issues in Saudi society and fed its targets a variety of information. This campaign brought to the forefront a group of females who are hardworking and who have proved their ability to carry forward the dialogue in a sane and rational manner by providing ideas on how to improve women’s lives.

But where does the problem that made some people use offensive language to describe the campaign and its supporters lie? Has this movement affected directly or indirectly the mental image of feminist thought?

Either way, it reflected the frustration of feminism as a whole. This explains why many women researchers do not want to be labeled as feminists.

The main flaw of this campaign from an analytical point of view is its language. Yes, the language. The title of “Revoking male guardianship” itself made this campaign suspicious and therefore difficult to deal with or adopt openly. Many of the women who supported this campaign withdrew their support eventually in order to drive suspicion away from themselves, which is a logical step. No one wants to lose credibility or be under attack because of the slogan for revoking guardianship. This slogan goes against the culture of Saudi society where we were raised inside a family with a grandfather, grandmother and uncles.

This is the true structure of our society that we love and that we are proud of. The word “revoke” evokes a strong and unrealistic idea. It should have at least been replaced with a milder word that is more acceptable like “women empowerment”.

Any message that targets the system of guardianship provokes Saudi society. Male guardianship as understood by the Saudis is based on love, appreciation and respect. Did we now realize the danger of the language and how the use of a single word can change the course of a battle?

In either way, this campaign scored some positive points. It drove home the fact that is not inevitable to build the foundations of society on what we were used to. Diversity and difference of opinion is a healthy sign.

Further analysis of the language default only indicates that there are outside hands that do not understand the mentality of the Saudi man who sees his family as all what he cares about. I believe that outside hands cannot put pressure on the country by tampering with its social issues.

Social reforms were introduced by governments throughout history. The critics should look at the example of girls education, which was forced on a society that did not accept women’s education at that point of time.

The attempt to undermine the achievements of Saudi women is a losing game. Efforts to expedite some of the decisions can be understood and they may be necessary at times. But a policy of arm-twisting and misinformation is quite unacceptable. And it is more dangerous at a time when the foreign media is targeting our country.

The “Sahwa” period had spoiled the lives of many women. I am not going to blame the girls in these situations for being extremist as they were in the eyes of many.

Saudi girls should understand their identity as independent human beings and as Saudi citizens, as well as their role as a productive fire with value. The Saudi girl should not undermine herself, her dignity and the dignity of the country because of ignorance. The development of female trends as a balanced intellectual movement is a true sign of society’s maturity that goes along with Vision 2030.

Maybe not many people will count on awareness, but I am confident these Saudi women are the ones that will matter on both the local and international scenes.