"شوية عوانس"... لماذا لا تقول شيرين كلاماً مسيئاً للمرأة إلا في السعودية؟
Within the space of one month, and during two separate concerts in Riyadh Season, Egyptian super star Sherine Abdel-Wahab provoked women by demeaning them, prompting critics to launch hashtags against her.
After calling on women to "listen to men" in a previous event held on 14 November as part of Riyadh Season, yet again she came out with a provocative statement referring to her critics saying: "These women must be spinsters [women who couldn’t marry]."
The latest statement is probably the most provocative to audiences and fans, firstly for describing unmarried women as "spinsters" – a term implying that they are unable or unlikely to get married, and which many feminists combat – and secondly for her view that those who defend women rights must be "single women" with an inferiority complex, she said it in a most condescending tone.
While many on social media platforms heavily criticized and attacked Sherine, her words at the time were received by the audience – both men and women – with widespread applause and much laughter. She began her speech by saying: "The last time they got upset and started a hashtag because I told women to listen to what their men say. Men are honey and sugar."
Following widespread applause, she proceeded: "I don't know why that makes them unhappy. A bunch of spinsters."
Following her statement, the twitter hashtag which Sherine referenced in her speech, #Sherine_Shut_Up, started trending, together with #Sherine_Insults_Single_Women. Meanwhile, Saudi public figures expressed their disapproval at Sherine's statements, including the media personality Muna Abu Sulayman who tweeted: “Instead of fixing things, she ruined them", while writer Sultan Bin Bandar wrote: "Fate and fortunes should never be the subject of ridicule Sherine. She should have stuck only to singing. Singing only.”
It should be noted that Sherine's earlier statement which the hashtags were launched in response to had declared in full: "Seeing that we cannot live without men in our lives then it is better that we should listen to what they say, or what do you think? Why do you have to make their lives miserable; let us raise the white flag!".
What Happens to Sherine in Saudi Arabia?
This was not the first time that Sherine inflames her audience on social media.
During another festival also held in Riyadh commemorating the 89th Saudi national day last September, Sherine called on her husband Hussam Habib to appear on the stage and kissed his hand, before asking him to speak on her behalf as she "cannot formulate speech well", describing him in the process as the "cultured" man who "knows how to speak."
At the time, Sherine declared: "I don't really know how to talk and have taken a pledge not to speak and say my opinion, not to say anything that I feel… but we are in a situation now where we have to speak the word of truth, and I wish that my husband Hussam helps me out; he is here and I would like him to partake in this speech because we are sending a message and he is a cultured and conscious man."
What is noteworthy here is that Sherine's three statements, which many believed were offensive to women, were only declared in Saudi Arabia – a fact which prompted a Saudi tweep: "Have you not asked yourselves why she only says this stuff in Saudi Arabia? Because if she said it in Egypt or elsewhere she would have been told to shut up."
She added that it was necessary that Sherine's words not go ignored, calling for a boycott of her songs and festivals.
Meanwhile, Maryam al-Sultan sarcastically wrote in a tweet that "the admin of the account belonging to the General Department for Counter Extremism under the Presidency of State Security is the one who is telling Sherine what to say in her festivals to rebuke women." The General Department for Counter Extremism's Twitter account had earlier during the month referred to feminism as a form of extremism, before withdrawing the classification following a wave of criticism.
"The last time they got upset starting a hashtag because I told women to listen to what men say; Men are honey and sugar. I don't know why that makes them unhappy. A bunch of spinsters surely": Sherine AbdelWahab, one of Egypt's leading singers in Riyadh
On Sherine Abdel Wahab insulting women: Have you not asked yourselves why she only says this stuff in Saudi Arabia? If she said it in Egypt or elsewhere she would have been told to shut up."
Arab Divas Sherine Abdel Wahab, Najwa Karam and Nadine Njeim represent all the ill of a closed society laced with hypocrisy and double standards, sprinkled with insecurity and misogyny.
Another participant on the Twitter hashtag stated: "I expect a new Saudi hobby where they bring artists who hate women" – while a further wrote that it was likely and unproblematic for Sherine to be hosted again, pointing out that the Chairman of the General Authority for Entertainment, Turki al-Sheikh, adopts the "same patriarchal speech."
One tweet aptly summarized what many Saudi women wrote on Twitter, declaring: "Go worship your husband silently."
It should be noted that Sherine has often found herself in trouble because of her statements, which have even provoked court cases, notably what she declared in a festival in Bahrain: "I am here to speak freely because those who speak freely in Egypt are imprisoned."
Another statement that caused much commotion in Egypt was when Sherine declared: "I am wasted on Egypt" – a statement which could also be interpreted as "Egypt does not deserve me" – as well as her response to a fan who called on her to sing the popular song "Have you not drunk from its Nile?" by answering: "Do not drink from it, you will get Schistosoma."
Sherine is not the only artist who has deprecated women in one form or another.
In 2004, Lebanon's Miss Lebanon at the time, actress Nadine Njeim, displayed a double standard when asked whether she would allow her son to have sex with a girl he likes at the age of 18, responding that "I would encourage him to do so" because he is "a man in the end", and that this does not shame him – but by contrast she would not allow her daughter to similarly have pre-marital sex.
Njeim added: "On the contrary, a man must have several relationships, and live his life, in order for his wife to be happy when he gets married." She further declared: "I am against equality. A woman must remain a woman, and if they equate me with a man, I will feel like a man."
In a related context, Lebanese artist Melissa declared last February that she was not against some forms of harshness against women, such as a "light slap" on the face out of "jealousy and such-and-such" – without explaining what "such-and-such" entailed – while at the same time declaring that she was against "violence against women."
Meanwhile Lebanese artist Najwa Karam was accused in 2016 of offending Lebanese women when she declared "I am against too many women's rights, and compromising a man's masculinity."
Karam added at the time: "I fear that the man will at the end be the one who stays up late at night with the children, and for the woman to come and tell him I am tired today, you should get up and make milk for the child, and in the morning he asks her "What have you cooked for us" to receive the answer "I can't today, I have work"" – adding that she was against women working except if her husband was in "financial need, not for her to fill her time."