DAVOS: One of the biggest misconceptions about Arab women is that they are victims — but they are in fact “sassy,” according to Haifaa Al-Mansour, Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker.
Speaking on Wednesday during a panel at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Al-Mansour discussed the various judgements made about women from the region.
“All the scripts I get about Muslim and Arab women (imply they are) all victims and sad,” she said. “But we are very sassy, we are very strong, so don’t take us for granted.”
Al-Mansour explained that although some Arab women are constricted for various reasons, it is not accurate to view all Arab women in this way.
“We are way more than what they think Arab women are,” she said.
Reflecting on her personal journey, Al-Mansour explained that although she comes from a conservative society, social norms are changing.
“I knew I came from a society where women are expected to take a more traditional role, but I feel this is changing because I now feel more celebrated at home,” she said.
Saudi Arabia has seen a push in social reform spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman through Vision 2030, an initiative that aims to broaden the Saudi economy. Major recent changes in the Kingdom include lifting the driving ban on women and reopening cinemas.
“Saudi Arabia is building its arts and culture industry, and that’s where we should put our energy,” Al-Mansour said.
Speaking about Saudi women entering the workforce in the Kingdom, Al-Mansour stressed the need for women to “support each other” on the professional playing field.
“Women don’t want to be marginalized any more — that’s why we see things like the #MeToo movement,” she said.
On an international level, Al-Mansour argued that we should get beyond thinking about East and West and concentrate on working together to achieve something universal.