Could Beauty & Fashion Be the Keys to Saudi Women's Independence?

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 10.48.35 AM
Thank goodness for my husband’s intellectual pursuits.  If it were up to me, I would be watching stupid TV and reading People magazine all day.  Unlike me, my husband watches Charlie Rose and reads the The New Yorker.  And since I hang out with him (that would be expected, right? :)), I sometimes pick up what ever he’s reading.  In this case the New Yorker issue from weeks December 23rd & 30th (a double whammy). In it was a fascinating article, “Shopgirls” by Katherine Zoepf, about Saudi women and a first inkling of their independence.
In June 2011, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia decreed that women could, no, should, replace men in shops where female customers are seeking intimate items.  First the law referred to lingerie shops and then the law extended to other typical feminine spaces like apparel and cosmetics, and even into supermarket checkout counters.  For women who have not gone to college (and there are many), this is their first opening to a sort of financial independence.
To us Westerners, that should feel like a “no duh”, especially in a country with such rigid rules restricting contact between the sexes.  Wouldn’t you rather be told your true bra size from a woman than a man?! Ironically, there are many protesting such laws because they fear women (that is, the shop girls) will be in that much more contact with men.
The article certainly highlights the intimidation and family pressure many people receive once starting to work.  It ain’t easy.  But it also shows how much more confident and happy these shop girls are.  Instead of living secluded lives at home or maybe in the malls shopping, these women can learn a skill, broaden their social network and secure themselves against financial ruin (the divorce rate is high in Saudi Arabia and often women lose custody of their children because they can’t afford to care for them).
While so many of us independent, well-educated Western women love make-up and a cute bra or two, we would probably think the last place women would gain a sense of freedom and independence would be at a Victoria’s Secret shop or at the Macy’s make-up counter.  But in Saudi Arabia, these places may not only be wonderful, liberating places for women, but may actually prove to be the spark to set in motion so much more change.
Hear, hear for lingerie!  Oh, yeah, and Happy New Year!

Could Beauty & Fashion Be the Keys to Saudi Women’s Independence?

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 10.48.35 AM

Thank goodness for my husband’s intellectual pursuits.  If it were up to me, I would be watching stupid TV and reading People magazine all day.  Unlike me, my husband watches Charlie Rose and reads the The New Yorker.  And since I hang out with him (that would be expected, right? :)), I sometimes pick up what ever he’s reading.  In this case the New Yorker issue from weeks December 23rd & 30th (a double whammy). In it was a fascinating article, “Shopgirls” by Katherine Zoepf, about Saudi women and a first inkling of their independence.

In June 2011, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia decreed that women could, no, should, replace men in shops where female customers are seeking intimate items.  First the law referred to lingerie shops and then the law extended to other typical feminine spaces like apparel and cosmetics, and even into supermarket checkout counters.  For women who have not gone to college (and there are many), this is their first opening to a sort of financial independence.

To us Westerners, that should feel like a “no duh”, especially in a country with such rigid rules restricting contact between the sexes.  Wouldn’t you rather be told your true bra size from a woman than a man?! Ironically, there are many protesting such laws because they fear women (that is, the shop girls) will be in that much more contact with men.

The article certainly highlights the intimidation and family pressure many people receive once starting to work.  It ain’t easy.  But it also shows how much more confident and happy these shop girls are.  Instead of living secluded lives at home or maybe in the malls shopping, these women can learn a skill, broaden their social network and secure themselves against financial ruin (the divorce rate is high in Saudi Arabia and often women lose custody of their children because they can’t afford to care for them).

While so many of us independent, well-educated Western women love make-up and a cute bra or two, we would probably think the last place women would gain a sense of freedom and independence would be at a Victoria’s Secret shop or at the Macy’s make-up counter.  But in Saudi Arabia, these places may not only be wonderful, liberating places for women, but may actually prove to be the spark to set in motion so much more change.

Hear, hear for lingerie!  Oh, yeah, and Happy New Year!

Weekend Observations: Spaces Matter

Weiden & Kennedy Offices

Having “grown-up” in the advertising world, I used to hear about all the cool architectural spaces that different ad agencies built to inspire creativity.  Usually those spaces were out West where open space was less hard to come by than in the skyscrapers of Madison Ave.  I would listen with half an ear since it didn’t really affect me.  I still had to contend with cubes and modular desks.

But once most agencies touted their new spaces, the conversation around the value of cool architecture to inspire creativity became old news.  Seemingly more important issues like winning business or holding on to existing business became the main focus of the industry’s conversations for the next decade or so.

Years later, I’m fortunate enough to visit agencies across the country in my new gig.  And, boy, do I now realize the impact of amazingly beautiful spaces.  These environments — from Portland to San Francisco to L.A., are unique to each agency and their individual cultures, and breathtaking and fun at the same time.  You want to just hang out in these spaces all day!

I wish I had the luxury of ideating in places like these while in advertising.  I could only imagine how much more inspired I would have been.

Now you’re probably thinking, “I don’t work in an ad agency” or “‘my company isn’t remodeling any time soon, so what does this mean for me?”

True, not all of us have the luxury of working in spaces like these BUT we can do something small to our little work environments to make them more inspiring.  Start by CLEANING UP!  Sometimes de-cluttering makes a world of difference.  Then look for little places and spaces to add color, framed art work or tiny sculptures — the weirder and more creative the better.  Not only will these changes inspire you, but they may get your office mates to do the same.

Example: 5 of my colleagues share an office.  They not ony painted it, but put some wall paper up in spaces, and hung some cool, framed art work.  They also have flowers at their desk.  I love to go visit them as a result!

Once a few people start noticing and following suit, then your entire floor will look more inviting.  And who knows, maybe the office manager will feel the vibe of your floor and say, “hold on here, let’s capture this on an office-wide level.”

Don’t devalue the beauty of the space you occupy everyday.  It can change your outlook, sense of creativity, and can even inspire others too!

Now it’s my turn.  I recently moved offices and it needs a refresher.

I’ll let you know how it looks once we’re all done 🙂