Arab First Ladies: A Blessing or a Curse for falling leaders: While Arab leaders fall will their wives be there to catch them?
As protests spread like wildfire in the Middle East, the often opulent lives of Arab stately or royal wives are in the spotlight. Who’s footing the bill for the First Ladies expenses? Do they provide a false idealized image of their country, with their good works and initiatives in the arena of development and human rights, when on the ground their husband-led regimes are shunning their so-called progressive values?
First Ladies are First in spending
Whether they’re first, second or fourth wives, the First Lady is the top choice for media to photograph and tops charts in her wealth and spending. ,
Celebrated and hailed as stunning ambassadors of their nations, admittedly, the role seems to be reliant on “looking good” as the unofficial face to the regime. Does this suggest an innocence and passivity to the running of the country and fate of the people, or are they more complicit than in their very supportive roles and by leading lavish lives. Should they interfere more or less in politics? The leaders’ wives are especially being scrutinised for their lavish lifestyles.
While some are unarguably popular at home and abroad, they often face accusations of dividing their people and stealing from their nation, especially during this period of Discontent.
They boast their modern stance on family rearing and mothering, as with Syria’s First Lady making public statements unashamedly on running her household on wildly democratic principles" – not really holding up a mirror to how her country is run.
Feminist agendas promoted them, but do not necessarily trickle down to their people seemingly.
Ironically enough, as Arab leaders come under opprobrium and face people uprisings that speak loudly and in no uncertain terms of dissatisfaction with current regimes, the women behind these men, seem on the surface to be anything but old school figureheads who would associate with repression and outdated or anti-democratic dare we say modes of rule. These ladies are often young in the cases of the falling not fallen leaders and educated and progressive. Some like Mubarak or Gaddafi’s wife are older though never too old to have a penchant for indulging in shopping, decadence and shoes.
Some of the newer Wives of Arab Leaders highly educated with prestigious university degrees
espouse the values of a quality education and equal footing in marriage and child-rearing. Firmly reject misogyny and champion gender equality, driving their own cars, encouraging husbands to do the same, devoting extra time to their children. Mothers first then Queens, Princesses or First Ladies. Modern and very progressive in their philosophy of marriage as equal footing showing her involvement domestically and even in state- “I have lived with my husband more than I have with my parents. I live besides him, and know his worries, his hopes, and his dreams for his nation. We believe it is our duty to make things happen!" (Moza, First Lady of Qatar)
Second or third wives, these are the First for camera and state image. Also often first for spending the state’s money on designer shoes and wardrobes in keeping with their classy costly state charm!
Anyway have the better halves been able to catch their husbands as they fall or indeed have fallen? As they say behind every great man is a woman. How sturdy a prop or crutch do these First Ladies really make when it comes to the crunch?
During long regimes, first ladies were often near to absent from the spotlight and public life—women hidden in the private harems of their ruling men.
No longer so: Through their pioneering and championing their own roles, Qatar’s first lady – who is strictly the second wife- even managed to secure her son as heir to the throne in honor of her strides and advances for Qatar (founding the Education City… and overseeing the Doha Debates, advocating for the right of women to vote)
These ladies signal mixed messages as they try to straddle two cultures, Western and traditional, to different degrees of success. Not always an easy feat in the scrutiny of the Arab and western media. Some come under criticism for seeming to pander too much to the Western-born values or working and supporting Western organizations. Advocating for the battle against poverty, while their countries are often one of the poorest nations. Pushing initiatives for progress can be seen as backstabbing to their countries tribal habits.
"People tend to believe that to be modern you have to disengage from your heritage. But it's not true. We don't see the global citizen as someone with no identity, but rather, someone who has confidence and is proud of his culture and history - and open to the modern world.” Said one First Lady, speaking for the latest crop of First Ladies seemingly.
However their grace and elegance doesn’t come for free from States where their people are often wonting for food and better human rights and wages.
Do they promote and feed resentment in people who are already aggrieved by rubbing salt into the wound, or do they save their husbands?