Nothing is worse for a Saudi man than imagining himself a woman

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.


Filed under Culture, Gender Apartheid

48 responses to “Nothing is worse for a Saudi man than imagining himself a woman

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  2. Coolred38

    If men only knew that for many of us women…being a man is the worst thing we can imagine. Works both ways.

    Would have loved to see that episode…while sitting among a group of shell shocked men. LOL to the tenth degree.

  3. I loved the show last night. It put a great twist on Polygamy, putting men in the womens shoes, and men in the womens. It truly made transparant how idiotic it is to keep marrying over and over again, till you have reached your maximum allowance, 4. And to show how truly stupid some men take it, divorcing one wife to make room for a new bride (it really does happen!!!).

    As for an outcry of anger from the show, people just can’t handle the truth, and the only time one actually feels how awful something can be, is when they are put in the shoes of the other.

    6ash did it again! Keep up the great work!

  4. Kamran

    We are Muslims. Every religion has its rules and regulation to which we are bound to abide by. No girl or man, who calls himself to be a true Muslim can ever think of doing such a hateful and cheap act. It is not commendable in any society of the world. The reasons for it are both logical and obvious; and a person having a little common sense can easily figure them out – that is why I am not gonna mention them – In Islam, it is not only illegitimate for a woman to marry more than one man at the same time, but it is also a punishable act.
    Islam is the only true religion. The Bible, the Torah, and all other scriptures and their saying were abrogated with the dawn of Islam. And for a secular person who does not believe in one God, I would recommend him to do research-like watching authentic videos and listening to the talks of Muslim Scholars and many other non-Muslim scholars – and think logically before leaving any comment.

    ( If anybody wants to have discussion with me, my email address id is – we can communicate through email or through online chat 🙂

    • Marcus

      Hey, Kamran…

      Do you know something, your post actually highlights a very important point stating the Quran abrogates any previous books and scripture…

      Wow… absolutely stunning argument..
      Ya just couldnt dream that stuff up if you tried…

      • muslimwoman

        I completely agree with you. I am not a saudi but i am a muslim and this reminds me of the same debate on larry king recently on how far is too far (re the teddy bear in south park) and the interviewees had valid arguments that sometimes how far do we take it to make people laugh and this is ridiculous … thank you for blogging about it just to see how pathetic it is that you actually applaud the idea … i see less and less muslims in saudi .. sub7an allah ..

  5. jenna

    Oh Kamran, blah blah blah… in fact there are several socities (very stable, very peaceful, very non violent communities) where women have multiple husbands… tribes in the Amazon basin, ethnic groups both within China and parts of Nepal and remote India… usually the woman will marry brothers, or keep one man for status and have a younger “play-man” ( grin) and the children are raised by all of them no one knowing (or caring) who the father is.. they are co-raised. The men can stay married or not if they get jealous which happens sometimes it gets dealt with. Usually with the brother scenrios that doesnt happen though… these arose to ensure scarce land stays within the family and doesnt get redivided to nothing.

    Evidence of these societies show a higher than average peaceful nonviolent society, lower than average dometic violence to children or women, higher than average fair distribution of tasks, higher than average power distribution between genders, lower than average crime rate both within the society and also against (warring) other societies…

    Dont believe me? Get your own Anthropology degree 🙂 like mine.

    Look it up…. Polygynous marriages study their societies before blathering on about how horrible it would be to have 4 husbands Qu’ran thumpers… the data shows that it could actually be a GREAT thing.

    • Unnamed

      You want to see a true matriarchal society sister? Visit the ghettos of North American and Europe.

      We’re not interested one bit in your “anthropological” retrospect, subjective interpertation of the so-called evidence.

      • Loveanthropology

        Unnamed–Your a moronic bastard. You know nothing. Period.

      • Unnamed

        August 16, 2010 at 8:22 pm

        You’re showing your clearly dazzling levels of intelligence by… A) Making pre-emptive judgments about my faculties. B) Insulting me and my parents by calling me a “bastard”.

        Way to go.

  6. realme

    arent there many other bigger issues to discuss than a tv show?

    who cares?

  7. Pingback: Comedy tackles sensitive social issues in Saudi | Sajad Jiyad

  8. Umm Latifa

    I do agree with the title of this article. My husband said his grandmother always used to say: I wish I was a man ;). I do believe the show was to make people (men) think and use their imagination, like Eman said: “to put men in womens’ shoes”. On the other hand, as I always say: there are women who choose to be second, third, fourth… Why?

  9. For once reading this post I feel uplifted that such a show exists in Saudi to challenge the norm.

    • Alicia

      Whether you speak Arabic or not, it is a hilarious show! My husband translates for me when needed, but I can usually figure out what is going on when we watch it. The episode where one pretends to be a woman so they can get into a family apartment and the landlord falls in love with him (draped head to toe in black!!) is the funniest thing I have ever seen! My husband comments that here in the states everyone is trained not to stare, but the people dress to be stared at while in the ME everyone is stared at while they dress not to be stared at! People are a trip and a half.

  10. I think the reason why men (and surprisingly some women) didn’t like this episode is that they acknowledge the problem, yet they don’t want to talk about it, specially in the media. Tash and previously Nadin Al-Badair literally shoved it in their faces. Polygamy nowadays is not the polygamy of the Quran. It is now used to humiliate the first wife or “renew youth” as they say. It’s not about what the two want but what the man wants. This storm of anger and hatred toward the show is illogical. I remember one of the tweets that compared the episode to porn! I wanna see that same guy saying this to a polygamist man 🙂

  11. Jenna…lol

    I recall studying such societies. They were snapshots of the cultures within a course on gender studies.

    Are you a graduate student or are you finished with that already?


    • Jenna

      anthrogeek10… I currently work within the field of applied Anrthopology hence my continued interest and lurking in lovely blogs such as this one 🙂

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  13. I think polygamy might have been a solution in ancient times. But people do evolve and it is not compatible anymore to modern humans, their sense of self, and their advanced morals.

    Jenna, loved your comment. And agree absolutely. There have been many, and there are still some societies where women can marry more men, and they are a lot more peaceful, and treated the men a lot better than today’s societies treat women, where men can have more than one wife, and women are relegated to third class non-sentient beings.

    • “I think polygamy might have been a solution in ancient times. But people do evolve and it is not compatible anymore to modern humans, their sense of self, and their advanced morals.”

      So are supposed to just rip up and ignore this ayat:

      “Then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four.” (Qu’ran 4:3)

      Modern humans” know better than Allah? Something is wrong with you.

      • norfolkfiona

        You left half the ayat out. This is what men do when they want to use the Quran to lie, and allow them selves things that are not allowed. It says “If you fear that you will not be able to be just to the orphans, marry…”. How many of the men in Saudi who marry plural wives do so because they are guardians of orphans and in fear of not being able to care for them? That is the clear premiss of the Quran. If..then.

  14. Of course, I don’t think anyone here is literally calling for polygyny .. right?

    I have not watched the episode myself but from what I read it seems to be a good effort at shaking up society’s view on polygamy, reviewing the true reasons men do it, and maybe, just maybe, instilling a bit of consideration in those men.

    I can’t go so far as saying I disagree with polygamy, but that’s only because of my belief that Allah has permitted it, but I can say that I cannot see any practical circumstance in which it would work.

    Also, I think the men who marry more than one woman did not marry for the right reason in the first place, and don’t have an idea what marriage really is. Selfish and inconsiderate doesn’t even get close.

    • Alicia

      Marriage is not permitted to satisfy lust, so, polygamy on the basis of boredom or most reasons men give is not the right reason. Also, several women scholars have noticed that the permission for polygamy is given in the context of orphans; implying that the permissibility of it is in the context of an excess of women who require some kind of protection.

    • Of course, I don’t think anyone here is literally calling for polygyny .. right?

      You’re correct 🙂

      • Alicia

        I have asked myself the same question about not marrying for lust, but it’s just what the Quran says and it appears to be directed at men in particular. On teh surface, don’t marry just because you find the other person hot. My guess to the deeper meaning is that it is to further enforce the verses that command married people to live together as companions in love and faith. While it is good to have sexual attraction in a marriage, it is a very small part of it. If this is the basis of your marriage, it is more likely that you will get bored and want to move on. If the basis of your marriage is a commitment to live together, supporting each other in faith and good works, then it seems you are more likely to have a lasting and beneficial relationship (ending in Paradise, inshaAllah.) If you marry only to have sex, you are moving in the opposite direction of Islam.

  15. Alicia

    I find it interesting that men defend their polygamy to younger women by saying they are following the sunnah; however, outside of Ayesha, The prophet pbuh married women who were older, divorced, widowed etc. He also gave them the option to divorce him if they were unhappy with him as a husband (and he would provide for them, as Allah has commanded).

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  17. Jenna,

    Email me if you like. I am doing some ethnographic work at Lake Apopka in Central Florida (Eco-tourism type stuff). I am going into graduate school soon.


  18. Unnamed

    Some of the feminist propaganda here is amusing.

    In response to the fact that “the worst thing for a Saudi man is to imagine himself as a woman” (allegedly…. worse than dying or losing a loved one?)…. they’re spinning yarns about how matriarchal societies are more peaceful, loving etc etc…..Awww, dont you just love that image? A little Eden right here on Earth.

    It’s two sides of the same silly coin.

    I’m a European man and I can’t imagine myself as a woman, my wife (also European) can’t imagine herself as a man. I can empathise with her as a human being though and vice-versa.

    • nuetral “can’t imagine” is different from disgusted, repulsed and thinking it a downgrade and demeaning. When a man thinks that of women than the best that could be expected of him is to patronize and pity them, definitely not respect and empathize.

      • Even in ”the west” there is still the notion that being called ”girly” or womanish or something feminine is considered an insult to a man!!!!!
        It’s these small details which make very clear in what regard women are held.
        There certainly is no equality in ”the west” for women, and in Saudi Arabia…. there are no words strong enough are there?

  19. If I were a man I would be a really great bloke… :mrgreen:

  20. A'idah

    @ Unnamed who says:

    ”Some of the feminist propaganda here is amusing.”

    Really, what is amusing about wanting equal rights for women, without whom there would be no men?

    There is no such thing as “feminism” only humanism. Women are half of the human race.

    ”I can empathise with her as a human being though and vice-versa.”

    Evidently that “empathy” does not extend to equality.

    ”I’m a European man”

    As a European woman I find your male supremacist chauvinistic attitude decidedly un-European. You sound more like a UK Muslim.

    • Unnamed

      Go ahead, project whatever you like on a username on the net and pretend you’re saying something worthwhile.

      I can’t recall stating anywhere that women are inferior or rejecting ‘equality’ sweetheart. (Yes, I’m patronising to those who speak first without thinking their thought process through).

  21. Excellent post, with backgrounder. My response to the episode (which I watched on a free download) is in my new post (which included the link to the full episode):

    If It’s Ramadan, It Must be Tash ma Tash Season: Social Satire or Carnivalesque?

    This post of yours is linked of course. 🙂

  22. Unnamed

    August 17, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Of course it is and rightly so. If I said you are very masculine and manly, would you take that as a pleasant compliment? Let’s not be so sensitive.

    I personally dont buy into that whole gender-bending, ‘we are all the same’ school of thought. We all have 2 eyes, a mouth, a heart, 2 lungs etc…. yet men and women are different biologically speaking amongst other things yet equal as human beings.

    Being unable to imagine yourself as a woman is not derogatory in itself. I can’t imagine what going through a period is like or giving birth, nor would I want to. Does this mean I see Women as inferior etc?

    Only if 2+2= 7

    • Alicia

      Men and women have biological differences, but they are not that great as some would like to believe. Also, women can’t imagine what birth is like if they haven’t gone through it. I think what makes many of us women so angry is the idea that men learn through experience and so need to be free to act in the world but women are somehow preprogramed to know all about “women things” and so can be limited in our experience and yet fully expressive of our “womanhood”. The argument isn’t that we are the same, it’s that we are a lot more the same than many think we are. If I may, too many men have argued that treating women unequally is fair because they have special female needs: like they can’t figure out paperwork or take responsibility for their actions. They call this respect. It’s an insult and it’s really infuriating.

  23. ali

    In ALL societies.. many men have more than one woman ( legally or not) and many women cheat on their husbands.. Humans are sexual creatures.. no debate on that. The most vital thing in a marriage is the “WILLINGNESS” of both parties. Men having 4 wives makes a lot of sense when you see the population ratio and the number of single and available women.. as compared to men. Some women have NO chance of ever being married.
    But, here is the problem.. all this looks great when the WHOLE of Sharia and Islam is practiced ( and it is NOT – otherwise no one would be complaining to begin with)..
    Majority of MUslim Men DO NOT practice Islam or nurture the belief they should.. they practice some of it.. and most what suits them .. AND, this is the reason why there is INJUSTICE in society and women are retaliating. They are simply NOT fair to anyone, not just women.

    This is true for most societies. There is NO example of a complete and happy society in this world.. all nations are in some sort of mess. USA is definitely NO example for anyone.. more women being violated there every minute than anywhere else ( fact).
    When MAN includes his nonsense in God’s recommendation.. he makes a HUGE mess.. and this is what most men in most nations/ religions have done..
    Jews, Christians, Hindus.. and now.. Muslims. Everyone has shown their FILTH by modifying religion to suit their needs.

    It is a FACT: Women have been SEVERELY violated in every SO CALLED MUSLIM country by the use of SHARIA BY men who claim AUTHORITY over ISLAM yet they DO NOT implement the WHOLE of the Quran.. Just bits of it. Of course, you either apply ALL or nothing.. thats the deal. You cannot choose what to apply and what to ignore.. this is what we have done.

    This is the SADDEST part of today’s reality. The result of this is going to devastate them soon. From talk to action to destruction.

    This is an era of individuality.. some guys have it all.. some have nothing.. and its their own damn fault. Their actions, thoughts and STUPIDITY has brought humility to them.

  24. ali

    Men and women are not and cannot be equal, sorry.
    In some things women have a higher degree of respect and in some , men do. This idea of equality is ridiculous!
    They both, however, should be free to drive, think, decide, choose their spouse and work, dress and way of life. Because they are both human. And, if humans cannot practice what they will, then they cannot be judged or defined. Both men and women should be free to choose their act and hold the responsibility of their act. This still does not make them equal. The balance of equality keeps changing with the human function or status. Mother will always have more rights than father. Men will always have to secure women and so on. Use logic and common sense. I definitely cannot treat a woman like I would a man! I would ask my brother to carry my bags, I can’t ask my sister to do that! He is stronger and he won’t mind if I asked him that with a smack on his back. I would never ask my wife to provide for our home, for example. Yet, the choices we make as men and women is our right as human beings.I cannot interfere with the God Given freedom to any human being, male OR female.

  25. Angelica

    How wonderful to read this! Of course men are upset, because they have to uphold the idea that genders are different to uphold discrimination. I am from Sweden, and I am glad if I can shock a saudi man by saying, that I am truly living with three men. They are younger than me, as I imagine saudi men’ second wives are, but they live with me because they want to, not because they are forced to marry me, and we live as equals. Swedish women are free, but once, they were slaves: it will be the same for you.

  26. I love reading feminist things from smart Saudi women. Great. 🙂

  27. Showlag

    روى الإمام مسلم رحمه الله في صحيحه في باب الإيمان عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال: “يا مَعْشرَ النساء تَصَدَّقْنَ وأكْثِرْن الاستغفار، فإني رأيُتكُنَّ أكثر أهل النار. فقالت امرأة منهن جَزْلة: وما لنا يا رسول الله أكثرُ أهل النار؟ قال: تُكْثِرْنَ اللَّعن، وتَكْفُرْنَ العشير، وما رأيت من ناقصاتِ عقلٍ ودين أغلبَ لذي لبٍّ مِنْكُن. قالت يا رسول الله وما نقصانُ العقل والدين؟ قال: أما نُقصانُ العقل فشهادة امرأتين تعْدِلُ شهادةَ رَجُل، فهذا نقصان العقل، وتَمكثُ الليالي ما تُصلي، وتُفطر في رمضان، فهذا نقصان الدين. ومعنى الجَزْلة أي ذات العقل والرأي والوقار، وتَكْفُرْنَ العشير أي تُنكرن حق الزوج.
    وهذا الحديث لا يمكن فهمه بمعزل عن آية الدَّيْن التي تتضمن نصاب الشهادة، وذلك في قوله تعالى: … واستَشْهدوا شهيدين من رِجالِكم فإن لم يكونا رَجُلَيْن فرَجُلٌ وامرأتان مِمَّن تَرضَوْن من الشُّهداء أنْ تَضِلَّ إحداهما فَتُذَكِّرَ إحداهما الأخرى… (البقرة: 282).

  28. Pingback: Ten Most Beautiful Saudis 2014 | Saudiwoman's Weblog

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