Monday, October 15, 2007

Good Girls Don't Date Saudi Boys

Arab News reported that a new DVD entitled Gurlz vs. Guyz will be on sale over Eid. Gurlz vs. Guyz is a 12-minute long video that was based on a year-long survey on young Saudi men and their views on dating the opposite sex. The DVD is being released by Izzaty Islamy, which is a women’s social club in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Dating as we think of it in the West isn’t allowed in Saudi Arabia, so “dates” are usually secretive meals or coffee. The Arab News article states that:

“Perhaps because of the Saudi notion that “good girls” stay away from boys until they go through the social and religious customs that typically culminates with marriage, the boys in the video speak with distain about the girls they know, even denigrating them and generally saying they would never consider marrying these girls.”

The idea that “good girls” don’t date isn’t just confined to Saudi society, of course. The patriarchal notion that there are “good girls” and “bad girls” is prevalent in most societies, and it’s definitely not confined to Muslim circles. However, despite the negative associations with dating, there are Muslim men and women who do date, whether they’re looking to marry or not.

It’s important to talk about this—no matter what we think of dating, “halal” dating, or just being “friends” with the opposite sex, there will always be people that participate in these activities. And it’s important to talk about it freely without judging their behavior so that if people choose to date, they can do so wisely and without false impressions. Do these women think that their boyfriends plan to marry them later? Or are they just having fun?

An interesting and insightful quote from the article caught my attention: “The young men in the DVD were judgmental about the girls they know, but not of their own behavior, which is as much a violation of Saudi social standards.” We are always quick to point the finger at others and not analyze our own behavior. I’d love to get my hands on this DVD; the DVD includes findings from the survey that show most of the boys wouldn’t marry the girls they date, many boys said they hang out with more than one girl, and most thought that the criteria for a wife is different from the criteria of a girlfriend. But is there any analysis in the DVD? Does the DVD point out the sexist outlook of these young men? Or, since the DVD is put out by a women’s social club, is it meant more as a cautionary tale: “girls, don’t date, because boys don’t marry girls they date”? Or a “Why should a man buy the cow when he can get the milk for free?” kind of thing (excuse the phrase—I really hate that saying, but it seemed most appropriate)?

I’d prefer that the DVD discusses men’s behavior with both sexes: as the article states, these young men are “sinning” or “breaking the law” just as much as the women (if not more: often it’s men who initiate contact for a date).

It’s important to discuss taboo social interactions, and so I’m glad this DVD has come out. Hopefully, it speaks to both “guyz” and “girlz,” instead of pitting them against each other.