ROME — A controversial new song and video produced by Saudi Arabian artist-provocateur Majed al-Esa would be hysterically funny if it were only a joke.
Instead, the song called “Hwages,” with the chorus “If only God would rid us of men,” focuses on very real concerns by oppressed women in Saudi Arabia, who aren’t allowed to drive, swim in public, or complete any task without permission from a male guardian. It also contains a veiled warning to American women on the eve of the inauguration of Donald Trump.
The video, which has had more than 2.5 million views since it was released Dec. 23, starts benignly with women in full-face-covering niqab crawling into the backseat of a big car driven by a small boy. The women then appear out of the car, lifting their dark robes to expose brightly colored street clothes and sneakers as they skateboard, roller skate, play basketball, and drive bumper cars.
All the while, men, shot from below to make them seem even more overpowering and oppressive, wave their fingers and use hand motions meant to keep the women submissive.
Then, about 80 seconds into the video, a cardboard cutout of a sour-faced Trump rises ominously from behind a podium with the seal “House of Men” in front of dim signs barring out Hillary Clinton and against women in general.
The oppressed women then roll bowling balls at pins on which men’s faces are taped and enjoy themselves at an amusement park as if that somehow embodies women’s equality. As the sun goes down, the men who were depicted gesticulating and oppressing women early in the video point to the Trump cutout in the backseat of their sedan. It is unclear exactly what the backseat placement means, whether to say “he’s with us” for his views and comments on women, or whether he is relegated there because of his apparent views about Muslims.
The song then slows down as a soloist mournfully sings the chorus of a famous Saudi protest song: “May men go extinct, they cause us to have mental illnesses.”
This is not the first time Majed al-Esa has ruffled feathers in the Arab world. Last year, the artist started another craze with the release of his dance hit “Barbs,” which means “uncoordinated” in local dialect. The dance, which swept the Arab world, features a head-back shuffle dance move that led to several arrests of people who uploaded videos of themselves performing it, because it was deemed “disrespectful” to Islam. To date, the official video has been viewed nearly 38 million times.
So far, “Hwages” has not led to any arrests, but it has been both lauded and condemned throughout the Arab world. Amera al-Taweel, the ex-wife of Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal tweeted a link to the song without comment. Others haven’t been so kind, with Saudi citizen Hassan al-Ghamdi, reportedly tweeting, “The director offends the Muslim women in our country. Where are our preachers to deny this?”