Middle East

Saudi working women love cropped curls – Middle East News – Report by AFR

When Saudi doctor Safi took a new job at a hospital in the capital, she decided to combine her standard white lab coat with a look she would have previously considered dramatic.

Entering a salon in Riyadh, she ordered the barber to crop her long, wavy locks to her neck, a style that’s becoming increasingly fashionable among working women in the conservative kingdom.

The haircut – popularly known by the English word “boy” – has become conspicuously visible on the streets of the capital, and not just because social reforms pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman no longer require women to wear hijab headscarves wear. De facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.

As more women enter the workforce, a key element of the government’s effort to reshape the Saudi economy, many are describing the “boy” haircut as a practical, professional alternative to the longer cuts they might have preferred in their pre-workdays .

For Safi, who asked to be identified with a pseudonym to maintain her anonymity, the gaze also serves as a shield from unwanted male attention so she can focus on her patients.

“People like to see femininity in a woman’s looks,” she said. “This style is like a shield that protects me from people and gives me strength.”

– A practical time saver –

At a salon in central Riyadh, demand for the “boy” cut has skyrocketed — with seven or eight out of 30 customers asking for it on any given day, said Lamis, a hairdresser.

“This look has become very popular now,” she said. “The demand for it has increased, especially after women entered the labor market.

“The fact that many women aren’t wearing hijab has underscored its prevalence,” she said, while urging even more shoppers to try it out, particularly women in their late teens and 20s.

The lifting of the headscarf requirement is just one of many changes that have reorganized the daily lives of Saudi women under Prince Mohammed, who was named heir to his 86-year-old father, King Salman, five years ago.

Saudi women are no longer barred from concerts and sporting events, and in 2018 they were given the right to drive.

The kingdom has also relaxed so-called guardianship rules, meaning women can now obtain passports and travel abroad without the permission of a male relative.

Such reforms, however, have been accompanied by a crackdown on women’s rights activists, part of a broader campaign against dissent.

Getting more women into work is an important part of Prince Mohammed’s Vision 2030 reform plan to make Saudi Arabia less dependent on oil.

The plan originally called for women to make up 30 percent of the workforce by the end of the decade, but that number has already reached 36 percent, Deputy Tourism Minister Princess Haifa Al-Saud said at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month.

“We see women in every single job type today,” Princess Haifa said, noting that 42 percent of small and medium-sized businesses are run by women.

Many working women interviewed by AFP praised the “boy” cut as a tool to help them settle into their new jobs.

“I’m a practical woman and I don’t have time to take care of my hair,” said Abeer Mohammed, a 41-year-old mother of two who runs a menswear store.

“My hair is curly, and when my hair grows long, I have to spend time that I don’t have in the morning tending to it.”

– ‘Strength’ –

Saudi Arabia has traditionally banned men who “impersonate women” or wear women’s clothing and vice versa.

But Rose, a 29-year-old shoe saleswoman in a Riyadh mall, sees her cropped hair as a way to assert her independence from men, not to imitate them.

It “gives me strength and confidence … I feel different and able to do what I want without guardianship,” said Rose, who declined to give her full name.

“At first my family rejected the look, but over time they got used to it,” she added.

This acceptance reflects in part the influence of Arab stars like actress Yasmin Raeis or singer Shirene, who have adopted the style, Egyptian stylist Mai Galal said.

“A woman who cuts her hair this way is a woman of strong character because it’s not easy for women to give up their hair,” Galal told AFP.

Nouf, who works in a cosmetics shop and preferred not to give her last name, described the message of the ‘boy’ cut: “We want to say that we exist and our role in society is not very different from that of men. “

Short hair, she added, is “a demonstration of female strength.”

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