Every Ramadan for the past sixteen years a show called Tash Ma Tash, which means something in the literal lines of splash what may, is closely watched by almost every Saudi household. The show is a satire of Saudi society and it’s funny to say the least. It’s also been prohibited by several sheikhs as unIslamic especially due to the actors’ portrayal of those very same sheikhs.
Yesterday’s episode was even more controversial than usual, an episode that had the majority of Saudi men, both conservative and liberal, shocked to their bone marrow. In it a Saudi woman marries four men because she’s “financially and emotionally capable and therefore can’t see a reason why not”. Those very same words we hear over and over again from polygamist Saudi men. However when it’s a woman talking even the most rational Saudi man turns rabid. The expressions of disgust and revulsion were all over the place. One commenter wrote that he lost all respect for them ever since one of the lead actors wore a woman’s dress last year. As if that was the most degrading thing a man could do. We are so inferior as a gender that wearing our clothes, even as part of a comedy show, will demean you as an person.
The episode’s idea is not original. Earlier this year a Saudi writer, Nadine Al Badair, had a piece published in an Egyptian magazine titled “My four husbands and I”. For a good English coverage of the column and the outcry it caused read this Guardian article and this Al Arabiya article. Nadine Al Badair does not have four husbands and I doubt she wants four husbands. The whole point of the article was to put men in our shoes and tell them that if you are looking to polygamy out of boredom, sexual dissatisfaction, or my favorite “renew life” (as though a second wife would magically make hair grow back on his head and shrink his pot belly) then there’s a good chance that your current wife is feeling the same way except she does not have a muttawa sanctioned out like you do. But because Nadine Al Badiar expressed the fact that women have sexual needs and do get bored of their husbands she was called a whore by some and blasphemous by others. There was even talk of a lawsuit against her. The ugliness of the attacks grossly outweigh anything that she wrote.
So this was the inspiration for yesterday’s show and just like the column it too has caused an outcry. Seconds after the closing credits the #6ash went crazy on Twitter. And as I’m writing the morning after, I expect quite a few articles to be written on how low the show has gone to actually delve into something as repulsive as imagining what it’s like to be a Saudi woman in a polygamous marriage.