Women and Words in Saudi Arabia
American Journal of Islam and Society
Arebi embarks on cultural analysis via the literary work of ninecontemporary Saudi women writers in this thoughtful and provocativediscussion of gender and literary production at a significant historicaljuncture for Saudi women. The import of this discussion for and aboutMuslim women, by a Muslim woman, exists not only in its particularcountry context but also in the troubling debate now raging over personalexpression and commitment to "feminist" reform versus Muslimperceptions of a continuing
... deological invasion that is heavily influencedby western political hegemony. I need not even mention the nameof Taslima Shahin for readers to acknowledge some degree of anguishin our sharp disagreements over the issue of gender versus culture.The voices of these female Saudi writers range from the avant-gardeto conservative "journalese," and Arebi contends that they illustrate thecomplex nature of female discourse in an Arab-Islamic context. However,she seems to have backed into asserting a unique and nonfeminist positionfor Saudi women, using such slogans as "quality not equality," althoughthe subjects of her study often write otherwise. Arebi arrives at this analyticalquandary by a similar route that has been followed by other sincerescholars and observers. As Leila Ahmed commented some years ago:It is only when one considers that one's sexual identity alone (andsome would not accept even this) is more inextricably oneselfthan one's cultural identity, that one can perhaps appreciate howexcruciating is the plight of the Middle Eastern feminist caughtbetween those two opposing loyalties, forced almost to choosebetween betrayal and betrayal ...