The Generation of “Firsts”

August 5, 2012 Posted by Mgguzman

Marriam Mossalli first collaboration with Hamzah Tarzan 2008-09

I love being Saudi. If you’re Saudi and well, breathe, chances are you will at some point in your life have the honor of becoming a “first.” And if you have two X chromosomes, you’ll not only be labeled a “first,” but the title will most probably come with some valueless award or meaningless certificate of some sort, which you can hang on your wall next to your degree as the first female Saudi graduate from some middle-of-nowhere community college.

But in all honesty, we absolutely love it! As a Saudi, your achievements are not admired by the merit they warrant, but rather how marketable they are. Now, we’re not just our job title, we have the added mandatory clarifiers: Saudi and female. And well, when you write “First female Saudi actor,” versus just plain “movie actor”—all of sudden you have the LA Lady Filmmakers Festival nominating you for Best Actress and BBC contacting you for an interview! (Yes, both happened!) Call it positive reinforcement or glamorized mediocrity, but it’s producing a generation of self-entitled brats (me, included).

It’s not our fault though. Although, if I were to admit it was our fault, than I’d be the “first Saudi” to accept responsibility. Instead, it’s everyone else’s. These trivial titles still make their way into mainstream articles and get highlighted in resumes with no references whatsoever. And here, with a media industry that rarely fact checks at all, our go-to source is the user-generated content of Wikipedia.

If I only had a halala for every first Saudi business owner of [insert industry here], I’d be the first self-made Saudi billionaire! In fact, “FFS”—first female Saudi—should become officially accepted as a title on business card, just like Dr. or PhD!

Don’t get me wrong we have some very impressive firsts: Arwa Al Ghalib—first female Saudi graduate of the prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Dalma Rushdi Malhas became the first Saudi female athlete to compete on the Olympic stage when she rode at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010. Now, Sarah Attar and Wojdan Shahrkhani.

Dalma Rushdi Malhas

Wodjan Shahrkhani

Sarah Attar

These accolades are impressive, not because these girls are exceptionally talented, but because in these cases “first” and “Saudi” mean more—they symbolize the breaking down of old societal walls rooted in a bygone ideology of an outdated and sexist tradition. They personify the change we are desire and will surely achieve.

As long as we put our XX chromosomes where our mouths are and #LIVEtheCHANGE


Marriam Mossalli, FFS
The “First-Female-Saudi-Fashion-Editor-Turned-Blogger” :)




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