(THIS ARTICLE IS MACHINE TRANSLATED by Google from Norwegian)
I Women of Kuwait Maha Alasaker presents photographs of 25 Kuwaiti women in the bedroom, while Nada Faris has written texts for the images. The book shows a diverse Kuwait, which is represented by, among others, a chef, a veterinarian, a stylist, a journalist and an economist. Alasaker's starting point has been the stereotypical questions she was asked when she came to the United States: "Do Kuwaiti women cover their hair?", "Are they allowed to drive?" And so on.
The message is clear: We are all equal, with or without hijab.
Kuwait is a Muslim country bordering Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The official language is Arabic, and the population is approximately 4,6 million. Compared to other Arab countries, Kuwait is one of the more open about women's place in society, and today there are more women than men in Kuwait's working life. However, women were only allowed 2005 voting rights in May. In 2009, four women were elected to Parliament for the first time, and in 2011, Kuwait was ranked highest by all Arab countries in terms of gender equality in the UN Human Development Index.
As a second-generation immigrant from Norway, living in Austria with a Turkish name, I am often asked where I come from, unless people have already put me in a booth based on my name and appearance. When I reply that I come from Norway, the objection is often: "But Norwegians have blue eyes and blond hair." Then I answer that Norway is the country I was born and raised in, that I identify myself as Norwegian, and that there are many Norwegians like me.
In Women of Kuwait, Alasaker and Faris both break and confirm the prejudices I and probably many others have against Kuwaiti women. Some of them wear hijab and have very conservative and religious values - as I originally imagined them. On the other hand, several of them are also hijab-free, liberal and dissatisfied with women's rights in the country – something they have in common with women all over the world. The message is clear: We are all equal, with or without hijab, whether we have dark or light hair, dark or light skin. The exterior is only a shell; Our skeleton has the same anatomy.
The book's photograph of Fatimah Alyakoob shows a young, hijab-clad woman staring hopefully into the horizon. In the background there is a well-stocked bookshelf, on the table in front of her is a notepad, so much indicates that this is an educated woman. Otherwise, this could as well have been a young Norwegian woman's room, with light pastel colors and simple interiors, so the differences between Kuwaiti and Norwegian bedroom interiors are not necessarily very large. The caption says that Alyakoob recently lost her father, who died of brain cancer. After he became ill, his father realized that he had wasted his life working and that he never really enjoyed his surroundings.
From collectivism to individualism
20 years ago, it was not uncommon in Kuwait for up to eight to ten siblings to share the same room. The country's strong oil economy has led to a dissolution of the collectivist family system, and today the individual is placed more at the center. In Kuwaiti homes, there are often multiple bedrooms to meet the children's individual needs. Simultaneously, the flocks of children are shrinking radically.
In 2011, Kuwait was ranked highest by all Arab countries in terms of
gender equality in the United Nations Human Development Index.
In a Kuwaiti family, the bedroom can become a kind of haven where individual needs are put before the collectivists. Here, the individual can enjoy their own company in an otherwise so family-friendly everyday life. The photographs in this book remind me of Virginia Woolfs A separate room (1929), where she writes how important it is for a woman to have a separate room to work and have time for herself.
Journalist Athoob Al-Shuaibi, pictured on the first page of the book, is terrified of being like his mother, who believed that parents were martyrs. The mother sacrificed her life for her children. But did she have any dreams at all but build a home for her family? We do not know.
Al-Shuaibi's mother reminds me of my own mother – we (my sister, my brother and I) were her life. When we became adults and moved away from home, she suddenly had nothing to worry about. The emptiness filled her, and the depression came creeping.
So-called working mothers are still faced with a lot of criticism today, not only in Kuwait, including being self-absorbed and not prioritizing our children enough. In fact, it is actually the smartest and healthiest thing a mother can do to have a professional commitment, and I never even wanted to. considered to quit my job because I have become a mother. It would be the same as laying down one's own identity.