Saudi women are becoming more active, embracing “boyish” lightness

A Saudi doctor, Safi, wears her short hair on June 19, 2022 in Riyadh (Fayez Noureddine / AFP)

When Safi started her new job in a hospital in Riyadh, she decided to choose, in addition to her white coat and sneakers, a hairstyle that Saudi Arabia had once imagined: short hair.

The 26-year-old doctor went to a hair salon to cut her long wavy hair, adopting a style that is becoming increasingly popular among young Saudi women.

The “boyish” syllable, known locally as the English word “boy”, is seen more and more on the streets of the capital of this ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom.

Some women have even taken off their headscarves, encouraged by the societal changes that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has led in recent years.

Women are called to be more active, within the framework of diversifying and modernizing the economy to make it less dependent on oil.

They describe this new trendy cut as more practical.

Safi, who asked to be identified under a pseudonym, points out that this new look is also a way to protect against unwanted male gazes.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, June 22, 2022, in Ankara, during a visit to Turkey
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on June 22, 2022 in Ankara, during a visit to Turkey (Adem ALTAN / AFP)

“People like to see femininity in a woman,” she says. “This method is like a shield that protects me from people and gives me strength,” she told AFP.

In a salon in central Riyadh, the “boyish” haircut has gained popularity, with nearly a third of clients ordering it, says hairstylist Lamis.

“The demand has increased, especially since women entered the labor market,” she told AFP, declining to reveal her surname.

“The fact that many women don’t wear the hijab has only increased its popularity,” she adds, prompting more clients to try it out, especially younger ones.

“no time”

L’influence de la police religieuse, qui jadis imposait des règles strictes comme l’obligation de porter le voile, a été largement marginalisée avec l’ascension ces cinq dernières années du prince Mohammed, dirigeant de facto du pays de auj years.

Saudi Arabia Safi and her haircut
Saudi Safi and her “boyish” haircut June 19, 2022 in Riyadh (Fayez Noureddine / AFP)

But Rose, 29, a shoe salesman in a mall, sees her short hair as a way to assert her independence from men, not to imitate them.

“It gives me strength and self-confidence,” the young woman told AFP. “I feel different and able to do whatever I want without anyone’s guardianship.” Full name.

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

Nouf, who works in a cosmetics store, also sees a “boyish” haircut as a way to assert herself.

“We want to say that we exist and that our role in society is not very different from that of men,” she told AFP, without giving her last name. For her, short hair is “a testament to the strength of a woman.”

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