“It’s really hard to overcome the idea that women are not funny – and this is universal, to be honest,” says funny-woman Hatoon Kadi who has become a youtube phenomenon, having procured more than 313,000 subscribers all hailing from… Saudi Arabia. Yup, you read that right. In a country where movie theaters have just become legal and music concerts are seldom permitted, young Saudis are turning to social media for entertainment. According to Tubular Labs, Saudi Arabia has achieved the highest YouTube watch time per capita of any country in the world.
CNN reports that “the rise of Saudi women on YouTube coincides with the nation’s ambitious ‘Vision 2030’ program, which promises a wave of cultural reforms to diversify the kingdom’s oil-dependent economy. With more than half of the Saudi population below the age of 25, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been at the forefront of efforts to radically transform the Kingdom, particularly as chairman of Saudi Arabia’s Council for Economic and Development Affairs.”
Saudi women are using YouTube to express their views and according to Google, female driven videos have increased by 75% since last year. Popular female vloggers produce make-up tutorials, cooking segments, lifestyle advice and comedy segments. “I just seized the opportunity, (because) female perspective is lacking,” comments Ms. Kadi who has received up to 700,000 hits for her funny and charming YouTube posts.
“When you chip away below the surface — and we’re talking about an urban elite level — there is change happening, “ says Peter Salisbury, associate fellow of the Middle East and North Africa program at the Chatham House.