Canoodling with the Prince

In anthropology, Uncategorized on May 10, 2008 at 5:34 pm

So. Due to my Father’s endless gift/penchant for what we Arabs like to call wasta [yes, you can take this sentence to mean that, as Hall’s proverbial de-centered subject, I- on occasion- self-identify as Arab], a cooler word for connections, he landed a job with the perks [and pitfalls?] of occasionally canoodling with Saudi royalty. Me? As an aspiring scholar of this particular “region” [<3 ‘Balkanization’ !! …thumbs down] my academic focus swerves towards those less privileged, particularly religious minority groups and refugee communities, namely in my hometown of Cairo, Egypt. On occasion, when I’m feeling particularly altruistic [towards myself] and unusually non-bitchy, I might even deign to call myself a class warrior [this term, of course, comes with an unusual amount of baggage for me, at once undigging undergrad angst and newly minted petit bourgeois guilt], so my interest in royalty tends to be enthused only by Said Royalty’s physical appeal [funny you should ask, yes Prince William is a hottie] and, more importantly, their clothing.

But, like I said, my dad is gifted in both connection and personality, and so through untold means, was able to land me and Mommy Dearest a spot on the guest list for a reception honoring HRH Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal, business-owner, Lebanese educated, thrice divorced, and married to the most beautiful woman I have ever met. Yeah, I got to meet a princess, and since the rest of the company was both ugly and poorly dressed [Sorry, Harvard Faculty, but it’s true.] got bestowed the surely unique compliment that I was beautiful! Scholarship and unbiased, objective observation aside, this inflated my ego indefinitely [in my defense! I was wearing a really great satin pencil skirt and heels that make my legs look great].

Despite my head reeling from Royalty’s modest compliments and these DUCK-STUFFED CREPES [can you believe I am dating a vegan?], I was able to come away with some observations, both aesthetic and anthropological:

  • Prince Al-Waleed’s entourage is [encouragingly] composed of about 75% women. They are all flawless-looking, in that Saudi way that is just so much prettier [me, subjectively speaking, because I know beauty is!] than any white girl I have ever seen. Hair, makeup, etc. And these women had literally just gotten off of a plane. A private jet, but still! I could also go into detail about their perfectly put-together outfits and their GLORIOUS, GLORIOUS SHOES [some were surely custom-made.] but I would probably start drooling and short-circuit my computer.
  • Of these women, only one was veiled. As far as the contentious feminist debates on this topic, I am personally, unequivocally pro-choice and pro-veil. However, it was really great to see these women exercising their choice to wear, or not to wear. I would be really interested to see them at home and overseas to see what choices they make and have there.
  • In terms of positive roles for women, I wish I could say the same for the Harvard faculty involved in Islamic studies. But I can’t. Shame! Shame on Harvard! I know for a fact, as a frequent student of Islamic studies and varying intersecting disciplines [Anthropology, Arab Studies, Arabic, &c.] that there are an increasing amount of women in this field, so why this stodgy Ol’ Boys’ Club? [and I do mean stodgy. I do believe another reception guest remarked on the humorlessness of this particular group? This statement was not untrue.] It was embarrassing, and my first instinct was ‘Well. Guess I am going to have to become Harvard Faculty some day in order to undo this utter BullShit,’ but second thoughts asked, ‘Why the hell would you EVER want to work with this bunch in the first place? Why not be a professor some day in an open environment where your work might actually mean something?

I think it’s a good challenge for any women who want to pursue this field. Academia is opening up to ladies A LOT, and this fact is really awesome [might I point out blogs such as Bitch PhD. as a starting point?], but the event at large served as a sobering reminder that sexism in academia is still rampant, and made me wonder whether sometimes women pursue terminal degrees in other fields as opposed to Islamic Studies simply because the people involved are total dicks.

Time and again, I’ve definitely thought twice about my love for the Muslim and Arab worlds and how it affects my scholarship, because [blanket statement approaching! I don’t care!] most of the dudes who are studying this are, in fact, all-too-often douchebags and apologists and what-have-you. I have brothers, I have male friends, I can deal with guys being annoying. What I can’t deal with is this faux-masculinity that so many scholars puff themselves up with. Newsflash: if you have your PhD in Islamic Jurisprudence, you are probably a nerd. And? This renders your constructed masculinity obsolete.

Conclusion? Islamic studies needs some Sass. Ladies? I am counting on you to bring it.

  1. […] various systems and interactions, I can say that I still hold a similar level of disdain for it. I wrote complained about it in my personal blog, if you care to read. Filed under: Annie, harvard   |   Tags: ivory tower, […]

  2. i love you

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