The essay entitled “Saudis in Bikinis,” written by New York Times author Nicholas D. Kristof, is a journalistic work that is self-explanatory in nature. That is, the title “Saudis in Bikinis” accurately describes the content that the essay discusses. The essay at its root addresses the underlying societal “problem” of female discrimination in Saudi Arabian culture, and on a grander scale, Middle Eastern culture. The structure of this work utilizes personal anecdotes and responses from authentic Saudi Arabian women, as well as examples of the discrepancies between Western and Saudi Arabian culture. The essay offers a somewhat balanced view among those who believe that they being repressed and those who disagree for various reasons. Though on the surface much of the essay may appear to be objective, the work is written in what some may perceive as a condescending undertone.
The essay “Saudis in Bikinis” was written in an op-ed form in the New York Times and as such, Kristof, as the author of the work, is entitled to give his opinion on the issues. However, the strong emotions expressed in the article may dissuade some readers as recognizing it as a credible source. Kristof does offer insight into the rationale of Saudi women who disagree with the assertion that they are repressed; however, the manner in which he introduces their comments and how he typically refutes them, demonstrates his “side”. Kristof is obviously writing this work for a targeted Western audience that has likely had their view of Saudi culture affected by the mainstream media. One can infer that this is the intended audience as he refers to the West as “us” in the excerpt that reads, “So what should we make of this? Is it paternalistic of us in the West to try to liberate women who insist that they’re happy as they are?” (Kristof). As an op-ed piece, it is essentially the author’s job to offer his or her opinion on the subject manner, and often this is the reason why people read a particular column, because they respect the author’s opinion. Thus, it is also likely that much of the targeted audience concurs with Kristof’s assertion that Saudi women are indeed being repressed and ought to be liberated immediately. From the essay, one may extract that the manner in which Saudi women are treated has negatively affected some people’s opinions of not only the culture, but the country, the government, the economy – everything connected to Saudi Arabia!
The primary discussion in the essay “Saudis in Bikinis” is on the issue of whether or not Saudi women are repressed or if they may be considered free. The author, Kristof, hopes to communicate the idea that though Saudi women may believe that they are indeed free, they have not been exposed to true freedom and have thus been mislead. The final excerpt of the essay that reads: If Saudi Arabians choose to kill their economic development and sacrifice international respect by clinging to the 15th century, if the women prefer to remain second-class citizens, then I suppose that’s their choice. But if anyone chooses to behave so foolishly, is it any surprise that outsiders point and jeer? (Kristof). highlights Kristof’s belief that Saudi women are essentially “brainwashed” and would “prefer to remain second-class citizens”. Thus, Kristof is not disputing that some Saudi women may not believe or recognize that they are being stifled, but rather that these women do not realize the true definition of freedom. Kristof’s point is that these women who profess religious freedom and prefer to wear the abaya would be just as capable of doing so if it weren’t mandatory by the Islamic state for all women. His contention is that women should be able to decide whether or not to wear the headscarf or veil, and isn’t necessarily arguing against the use of them., but instead against making it mandatory. As a result, Kristof leaves an open-ended response to the “problem” and allows for a debate of whether or not to intervene, to arise. From the context, one might infer that Kristof believes that the West shouldn’t intervene despite recognition of these problems, because he says: “Dr. Balkhy emphasized that Saudi women want to solve their problems themselves. These days in particular, she said, even liberal Saudis feel on the defensive and are reluctant to discuss their concerns for fear that foreigners will seize upon the problems to discredit their country (Kristof) However, as evidenced by the writing of this essay, Nicholas Kristof wishes that Saudi women would recognize such discrimination and act in their own accord to rectify it.