Thank you to all of you who attended Lubna Bahamman’s talk today – it was great to see so many of you! Lubna’s paper was a wonderful insight into how Saudi women are represented on Twitter either by themselves or by men. She highlighted the popularity of Twitter in Saudi Arabia and revealed that the majority of users were in their twenties. She also set the tone of her paper by emphasising the misconceptions of Saudi women’s freedoms and lives that are often all too evident in the Western Press.
After providing some context about Saudi Arabia and its laws, in particular those that came into force post 2001, Lubna gave two particular hashtags as an example of the linguistic research she is undertaking. These were: (in translation from Arabic) #newtravelcontrolsforSaudiwomen and #onethirdofSaudiwomenarespinsters. She focused on the first hash tag and explained how a piece of news about women needing the permission of their guardians to renew their passports was misappropriated into an argument about women being allowed to travel on their own. She explained that 63.8% of tweets using the hashtag were by profiles claiming to be women. She also outlined that women were most likely to use laughter and emoticons in the tweets and men were more likely to quote from religious texts. One tweet Lubna showed us was written by a 50 year old woman who was protesting the fact that she is not allowed to travel abroad to medical conferences without her young son’s permission (as her guardian).
Our Q and A included a discussion about women’s opportunities in Saudi Arabia and where such debates about women’s rights took place before Twitter. Lubna highlighted the revolutionary nature of the space Twitter has provided for Saudi men and women because it is it is accessible to them both. Before Twitter, the only place where women could debate such issues with men was within their families.
Thanks again to all who attended and especially to Lubna!
See you next week for a talk on ‘Syrian Men and the Humanitarian Response to the Refugee Crisis in Jordan’ by Lewis Turner from the Politics department at SOAS.