Saudi women, and for long decades, have been governed by a system that treats them as second-class citizens. Up until a year or two ago, rights like driving, traveling alone, getting medical treatment, and participating in sports events, were not an option.
Fighting for such rights has led Saudi women to a path of achievements that commands celebrations, though some people continue to undermine this progress.
The latter is exactly what Egyptian singer Sherine Abdel-Wahab recently did during a sold-out concert in Saudi Arabia. Taking to stage last Thursday, the singer chose to further perpetuate messed up gender roles while Saudi women continue to fight against them.
After singing one of her tracks, a song titled El Watar El Hassas, Abdel-Wahab spoke to the women in the audience, saying: "About the song I just performed, as long as we all can't do without men in our lives, it's better to listen to them, or what do you say?"
The singer's words didn't sit well with many Saudi women. After all, Abdel-Wahab's words are offensive to every woman who has fought to free herself from the patriarchal myths that exist in our societies. This is especially true for women in the kingdom because most of them have had it the hardest.
Hours after the star's concert, footage capturing her statement started making the rounds online, angering many and prompting them to launch a retaliatory hashtag titled #ShutUpSherine.
Some felt the singer was being light-hearted when she spontaneously "joked" around with her fans, but Saudi women were having none of that. Thousands of them have powerfully shut down the singer's statement, proving their fight against unjust sexism and misogyny is as strong as ever.
"Don't blame her she hasn't tried living with a Saudi man. Dear Sherine, you fulfilled your ambitions. You experienced falling in love. You experienced things. You've travelled, you're happy in your life. There are a million other women who couldn't fulfill their ambitions because they were abused, forced to marry or deprived of their most basic of rights. They didn't experience falling in love and that's all because of men so please if you haven't lived through someone's experience, don't judge and keep your advise to yourself."
"Listen to men by yourself"
"Adding her to the blacklist"
Abdel-Wahab, unfortunately, isn't the only celebrity to speak against gender equality
A few Arab celebrities have previously supported gender roles and misogynistic notions that society has been feeding its members for decades. What is even more disheartening is seeing women support the sexism.
You have one Lebanese actress and holder of the Miss Lebanon 2004 title Nadine Nassib Njeim who once said that premarital sex is wrong for women but OK for men. You have another Lebanese singer (Najwa Karam) who once claimed women's rights are getting "out of control" and are threatening "the masculinity of men." Not to forget the one who unashamedly said it's OK for men to hit women as a joke and another who said women who are subject to harassment are to blame.
You even have one artist who stood against women driving in Saudi Arabia and only retracted her statement when the kingdom lifted its ban on women driving.
As you can see, the preservation of sexism in the Arab world is alive and well among many Arabs regardless of their gender. Without a doubt, the perpetuation of such ideas live to serve the patriarchal systems in place and it's time they be shattered once and for all.