My World: Confusing Contradictions

In a strict Muslim country where men actually hold paying jobs censoring books and magazines by applying black marker to photos of women showing exposed skin, I can only shake my head in disbelief when I see something like this window dressing in an upscale mall here in Jeddah. I just don’t get it! The store mannequins here are all headless (reason: something about idolatry), and it is perfectly ok for them to expose skin or expose their erect nipples through the sheer fabric draped over them. But in a magazine, seeing an image of a woman’s bare arms is too much for the good people of this country to be able to handle, so it is censored by being scribbled over with black marker.
How does this make any sense? I would love to understand this, but I just can’t wrap my head around all the contradictions of this place. Women can’t drive because it’s not safe, but it’s perfectly okay for 8 year old boys to be behind the wheel? When out in public women must cloak themselves in black from head to toe, but it’s okay for store displays to feature mannequins which show off their skin and nipples? Women are not supposed to be alone with men other than their own husbands (or other relative), yet they must resort to having male drivers or riding in taxis with total strangers because women are denied the right to drive.
There are so many things that just don’t make sense to me here – and I doubt that they ever will!
Well, That’s My World for this week! That’s My World! offers a unique glimpse at life all over our planet. Take a peek at other people’s lives from all over the world by visiting That’s My World!


About SusieOfArabia

American woman now living in hubby's homeland of Saudi Arabia
This entry was posted in Clothing, contradictions, Culture, Life, Odd or Unusual, Photo, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Shopping and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to My World: Confusing Contradictions

  1. Pingback: Tom And Jerry

  2. Pingback: Headless Schoolgirls « JEDDAH DAILY PHOTO JOURNAL

  3. Thamir Alhashemi says:

    Hello Susie,

    Believe me, it doesn’t even make sense to us Saudies! All these “contradictions” are the result of “ad hoc” fatwas!


  4. مها نور إلهي says:

    It’s good to see other people’s perspectives on one’s society… I’ve never even looked at the mannequins…I usually look at the clothes it is displaying….However, to clarify the point of cutting the head…it is considered a statue and statues are forbidden to keep in Islam in one’s house because they keep the angels out of the house which makes the house loses its blessing….All statues in Saudi Arabia are cut or actually distorted and disfigured , not just women’s statues….there is a camel and horse statues that is cut into three parts…it’s an odd piece of art indeed, but if one liberal artist decided it’s a trend, everyone will follow suit 🙂

    I don’t really know whether the Hadiths about statues are true or not, but this is how the people here see it…
    Anyway, the distorted mannequins serve their purpose well and that’s the most important thing…who cares about a mannequin without a head? and who cares about looking at their nipples since they are not even close to real?
    I find this a very minor detail… I dress in the most fashionalbe way despite the disfigured mannequies and that’s the most important thing for me, but if any religios man tries to cut my head, I’ll cut his ******!

    The magazines are different..they are real women…plus…very few magazines are marked in black..I think they do this only with American magazines (just because they are from America) they have a pecular kind of sensitivity when things are from America 🙂

    And Susie, young boys aren’t allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia and if they are caught they are punished…so I guess that makes women equal to boys 🙂

    I hope I clarified the point…it might seem weird for people from other cultures, but many practices in America seem as weird for Saudis…it’s just a matter of cultural differences…

    Thanks, Susie!

    • Thanks for your explanations, Maha. I guess I just notice the little things here more, especially if they happen to relate to women. I understand about the heads missing – and I am glad that ALL mannequins are this way, men, women and even children. But as far as the nipples on the mannequins – it just seems so contradictory to me to have something like this in a country where women are required to cover up so. My feeling is that it only serves to make men even more obsessed with sex in this society – and even though the mannequin is not real, I can see how it might affect men. For all the outcries of how women in the West are treated as sex objects, these nippled and half naked mannequins do the same thing.
      I have previously published the “Hungry Horses” sculpture on this blog. You have idea how many times I have tried to take a good picture of that one!!! It’s so difficult because of the location – I’ve told my husband that one day when there is not much traffic, he must stop and I will walk from the grove of palm trees over to the horses so I can get some good shots!!!
      There is one difference when young boys drive here as opposed to when a woman tries it. If men see a woman behind the wheel, they will begin to follow her and honk their horns and bring attention to her, and she will have a huge caravan of vehicles behind her which will likely make her nervous enough to have an accident. But when a young boy is driving, that doesn’t happen.
      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I never get any answers from my husband… 🙂

  5. alyaba says:

    funny how i thought the same thing as soon as i saw the pic, no head but you can see nipples lool.

    However i dont think its a contradiction at all, you have to see the whole picture, its not like this was approved by anybody, the rule is no heads on mannequins thats it, so when these get imported inspectors see no heads and look at the next shipment, things like this always gets threw, i guaranty you that the first time a person brings this up to the authorities this will be taken down immediately. you guys are making it sound like the law allows showing nipples but outlaws heads on mannequins.

    When it comes to the woman and driving issue, its not because its not safe its because somebody in authority a long time ago, probably a religious scholar ruled that its un islamic for a woman to drive..

    • Thanks for your comment. I understand what you are saying. I see mannequins like this everywhere though – many of them model strapless evening gowns with lots of skin showing – or other garments with arms showing or legs showing. Why is this okay? Why don’t people get upset about it so something would be done about it? I don’t get it. If I must wear an abaya to cover just about every inch of skin on my body because some man may not be able to control himself around my beauty when my vision of complete and utter beauty walks past him, then how is he supposed to control himself when he sees half naked images of women in a store window?
      You don’t even want to get me started about women not being permitted to drive here – it has absolutely nothing to do with Islam. It has to do with men maintaining control over women. Period.

  6. Yogi says:

    Lots of contradictions. That would be a racy mannequin here in the USA. It would be interesting to see what somebody from outside my culture would have to say about our contradictions here in the States.

    I really like your blog. I am learning so much that I never read or see about here about life in Saudi Arabia, especially from a woman’s point of view.

  7. Dina says:

    Well, at least you seem to be free to speak your mind.

  8. ladyfi says:

    I can only agree with you and shake my head at the double standards of morality…

  9. Jerry M says:

    I too am surprised at the mannequins in the store windows. Far more risque than in most US stores. But of course seeing a FACE of a WOMAN would be a sin!

  10. I baffled by the mannequin, too! I had a funny mannequin posting on my blog a few days ago entitled “headless for the holidays.” Take a look

  11. Martha says:

    I can only guess that men hope to take this garment home to their wives and have them parade before the husband in it.
    In almost all cultures a plurality or majority of men wish to control women, I have sometimes wondered if they are jealous that they can’t bear children and are never sure who sired the children of their wives.

  12. J Bar says:

    Seems like the world is full of contradictions. I can’t understand it when I see girls wearing the hijab to cover their hair but are also wearing tight jeans and t-shirts that leaves nothing to the imagination.

  13. diane garwood says:

    The Saudi government seems to follow the rules of man more and Islam less! If they actually followed the rules of the religion there would be less hypocrisy. In my humble opinion. 🙂

  14. Photo Cache says:

    I am shaking my head with you. I don’t get it either. Lovely party dress though. Not my color however 🙂

  15. Makes no sense to me, either. It’s so interesting to see and read a little bit about how things work in a Muslim country, even with its contradictions.

  16. Ah, Susie, you do make me appreciate my world — I wouldn’t be able to get my head around such things. I don’t understand it, don’t understand how it can still be the case in this modern age and I can’t understand men that would insist on such things. I don’t mean to be critical of other societies because they are so different, but it would be difficult!

    Thanks for sharing.


  17. Carver says:

    The contraditions are amazing to me but then again, life seems to have so many contraditions that few things people decide are correct would surprise me. Great post from your part of the world.

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