Academic literature on Saudi women remains limited. Intense yet superficial journalistic scrutiny of their lives and persistent stereotypes anchor them in either victimhood or heroism. Most reporting presents Saudi women as victims of their own society, religion, and culture or exceptional women who have reached positions of leadership in business, government, science, literature, and media. The two sides often agree that the Saudi state is a force for emancipation. It pushes women to achieve high educational levels, appoints them to key government positions, and provides generous welfare programs to improve their lives. These persistent narratives indicate limited understanding of gender relations and their entanglements with political, religious, economic, and cultural factors in Saudi Arabia.

Modern Woman in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, by Hend T. Al-Sudairy, does not escape these problematic assumptions about Saudi women and in...

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