Saudi woman who opposes gender equality admires Clinton

Rowdha Yousef, a Saudi woman, was alarmed when some of her female compatriots started advocating for greater personal freedom, so last August she started a campaign called "My Guardian Knows What’s Best for Me" (with "guardian" referring to the male relative who serves as a Saudi woman’s guardian and has authority over her when it ...

-/AFP/Getty Images
-/AFP/Getty Images
-/AFP/Getty Images

Rowdha Yousef, a Saudi woman, was alarmed when some of her female compatriots started advocating for greater personal freedom, so last August she started a campaign called "My Guardian Knows What's Best for Me" (with "guardian" referring to the male relative who serves as a Saudi woman's guardian and has authority over her when it comes to many legal and personal issues.) Given Yousef's conservative views, as reported in this great New York Times article, it might be surprising to many Westerners that she's an admirer of Secretary Clinton. I wonder what Clinton would think!

Here's the Times description of Yousef, with my bolding:

She is a 39-year-old divorced mother of three (aged 13, 12 and 9) who volunteers as a mediator in domestic abuse cases. A tall, confident woman with a warm, effusive manner and sparkling stiletto-heeled sandals, her conversation, over Starbucks lattes, ranges from racism in the kingdom (Ms. Yousef has Somali heritage and calls herself a black Saudi) to her admiration for Hillary Rodham Clinton to the abuse she says she has suffered at the hands of Saudi liberals.

Rowdha Yousef, a Saudi woman, was alarmed when some of her female compatriots started advocating for greater personal freedom, so last August she started a campaign called "My Guardian Knows What’s Best for Me" (with "guardian" referring to the male relative who serves as a Saudi woman’s guardian and has authority over her when it comes to many legal and personal issues.) Given Yousef’s conservative views, as reported in this great New York Times article, it might be surprising to many Westerners that she’s an admirer of Secretary Clinton. I wonder what Clinton would think!

Here’s the Times description of Yousef, with my bolding:

She is a 39-year-old divorced mother of three (aged 13, 12 and 9) who volunteers as a mediator in domestic abuse cases. A tall, confident woman with a warm, effusive manner and sparkling stiletto-heeled sandals, her conversation, over Starbucks lattes, ranges from racism in the kingdom (Ms. Yousef has Somali heritage and calls herself a black Saudi) to her admiration for Hillary Rodham Clinton to the abuse she says she has suffered at the hands of Saudi liberals.

My hunch is that much of this reaction against calls for greater women’s freedom is driven as much by anti-Western sentiment as by a sincere conviction that the conservative status quo is the best. Calls for women’s rights can represent Western influence seeping in, meddling, interfering — and a lot of women don’t like that. (Of course, stilettos and Starbucks seem to be acceptable forms of Westernization. Fashion and food can be hard to resist.)

On a related note: As seen in the photo above, Clinton received a rock-star reception when she visited Dar al-Hekma College this February, though it seems that the views of students at an elite Saudi women’s college might not be representative of Saudi women as a whole. It’s also worth noting that Clinton’s reception there was in stark contrast with that of Karen Hughes (George W. Bush’s undersecretary of state for public diplomacy) in 2005.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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