Saudi Arabia – The Protruding Ribs

So recently there’s been a bit of controversy with Primark displaying models with “protruding ribs”. After one tweet, everyone seemed outraged with this picture leading Primark to remove the mannequins from the window.

Oh, Hi Angie!

Personally, I feel that if stores can be commended for displaying plus size mannequins then why can’t those with a body more resembling this image be represented. Double standards of the western world, Ladies and Gentleman. Double standards of the entire world.

In stores back in Ireland, the mannequins are usually around a size 10 (UK Size). The few stores in Saudi Arabia (none come to mind) that actually do have mannequins are much the same. Walking through the malls and shops of Saudi, you will notice that most stores will have any image of women censored. I recently walked into a store which sold hair dye – every box was covered in black tape where the model’s face should be! The legs are censored in packaging for tights and any images on the wall are heavily pixelated around the face and arms. I think after this, one can safely say that the perception of beauty in Saudi Arabia doesn’t necessarily come from images and mannequins in popular shops. Of course, everyone would look like this in that case…

If you come from a very traditional North African community such as myself, a size 10 is by no means the “ideal” size. Anyone between a 12-14 could go about their day without being target or interrogated. As they get older the “ideal” size tends to be even bigger but a teeny, tiny size 8 such as myself could never dream of a day without an intense Q&A session. What a privilege it is in Ireland where a woman can go about her day (most of the time anyway) without someone commenting on her weight! In some other cultures there is nothing in telling someone you don’t reaaally know to “lose some weight/gain some weight”.
This picture goes out to the Belarusian girl who suggested I go to the doctor “and check for flatmates” while pointing at my tummy and laughing at her ridiculously inappropriate joke. At times like those, I’ve very glad I’ve perfected the art of the fake smile.
Don’t get me wrong, we can see that the western word is having a greater influence here each day. The sales of blonde hair dye and blue contact lenses are sky rocketing, stars such as Nancy Ajram and Asalah Nasri taking the plastic surgery route and dark skinned beauties are feeling the pressure to get bleaching (you may as well pour acid on your face, that is how safe bleaching is). Personally, I hoped that the end of the perception that the white, blonde, and blue eyed were superior to others died a little with Hitler. I’m not saying it’s not a good look (Helloooo Blake Lively) but, it’s not quite for everyone is it?


We must remember that a huge part of the perceptions of beauty in Saudi Arabia comes from religion. “A woman in a hijab is just like a pearl in its shell”. The woman here not only wear the headscarf but they also wear a long head to toe cover called an abayah. For modesty, for privacy, for protection and because God asked them to. These are worn while outside the home, the hijab is worn in the presence of the opposite sex but in the presence of ones family and female friends they can wear whatever they like. The woman here do not feel the need to expose themselves to the world, to every strange eye in the street. No self confidence comes from a smile and a wink from a strange man in the street, more accurately it comes with a sick feeling in the stomach and a sudden charge to your nearest trash can. (Added benefit: No-one has to hold your hair back thanks to your head scarf).


If  you followed my previous post, you will remember how irritating it can be to receive the constant stares. There is no doubt that the shameless gawking would be amplified without the hijab. My blood boils when people speak about how they “feel sorry” for woman in abayahs and niqab (face cover – which I highly recommend in some places) because you can bet that the Arab world is “feeling sorry” for the Miley Cyrus’ of the world. Let’s keep in mind that men can’t necessarily go around in short shorts either and of course, that the abayah can be a beautiful thing… 


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