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Driving While Female: Saudi women risk imprisonment to protest the ban
October 26, 2013 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Women in Saudi Arabia may not drive. Today, many take to the road in protest, despite grave risks. Even cyber support may be grounds for arrest and the movement's primary website has been blocked. It's been an issue for decades; here's a writer remembering women donning disguises to drive and the sad case of a mother unable to take her injured child to the hospital. Driving may be the point of a sword aimed at securing other freedoms and attaining more autonomy.
posted by carmicha (34 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Any time I hear a conservative acquaintance bitch about fuel mileage laws, solar projects, or what have you, I remind them, once we're off the Saudi oil teat, those sheik-ish sons-of-bitches will fold.
posted by notsnot at 7:53 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


2023 Bad luck Briana, Saudi edition:

Finally wins right to drive; Self cars become standard
posted by MuffinMan at 7:54 AM on October 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


The hell of it is there isn't an actual law on the books forbidding women drivers, it's just done out of more or less pure misogyny and bastardization of religion. So, instead of criminal penalties for breaking a (stupid) law, these women are treated to having their lives/careers ruined by more subtle means.

Hell, I hope they rename that country eventually, as naming a nation-state after a family name is fucking insane. There are plenty of Saudi kids getting exposed to other cultures while getting their schooling in the west, and things are looking better. It's just disheartening to see that people have to make such big sacrifices with their lives to bring about a confrontation to inspire change. Here's hoping KSA can successfully turn this corner.
posted by planetesimal at 7:55 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Our Allies the Saudis.


Who (along with the Israeli government) are pitching and absolute fit over the US talking to Iran
posted by edgeways at 7:59 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Any time I hear a conservative acquaintance bitch about fuel mileage laws, solar projects, or what have you, I remind them, once we're off the Saudi oil teat, those sheik-ish sons-of-bitches will fold.

Not really. There will always be a market for their oil as long as it still comes out of the sands. The Saudis are also using all those petrodollars for massive investment in non-petroleum industries and infrastructure. The "sheikh-ish sons-of-bitches" (an odd turn of phrase here when we're talking about the rights of women) who lead the country have to appease the Wahhabis, who can easily fuck up everything like they did in 1979. So, it's a crazy dance of a bit of progress here, a bit of appeasement there, and we can hope that the general trend is towards equality.

Let's also not forget that US culture is still highly sexist, and if we compare development of women's rights in KSA versus USA, we might see that KSA has adapted and evolved more quickly in the time it has been a country than the US has since 1776.
posted by planetesimal at 8:01 AM on October 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


And of course, where conservative nonsense meets resistance, pseudo-science comes to the rescue.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:15 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hell, I hope they rename that country eventually, as naming a nation-state after a family name is fucking insane.
Amerigo Vespucci agrees. :p
posted by Jacob Knitig at 8:19 AM on October 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


As do our lord-emperors, the House of Vespucci.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:32 AM on October 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


[One comment deleted; subject of thread is not "general thoughts on cars." Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:47 AM on October 26, 2013


Sadly, in one last cruel bout of misogyny, what happens to these women will depend largely on the status of their husbands.
posted by fingerbang at 8:52 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Let's also not forget that US culture is still highly sexist....

No, for the sake of this post and comments there on, let's do. Your way lies moral equivalence, which softens and trivializes the offense being high-lighted here.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:20 AM on October 26, 2013 [23 favorites]


No woman, no drive.
posted by AwkwardPause at 9:22 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Your way lies moral equivalence, which softens and trivializes the offense being high-lighted here.

Maybe, but it might also help prevent the same tired and unexamined dismissals of other cultures.
posted by planetesimal at 9:26 AM on October 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm starting to feel like this sensitive leftie moral equivalence game is just another form of cultural narcissism. When somebody jumps in to every conversation about a non-Western country to explain that every bad thing is just as bad as an American thing, and the US's fault anyway, the net effect is still to derail the conversation to the US just as much as some chest-pounding jingo would.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 10:07 AM on October 26, 2013 [29 favorites]


Their website has been defaced :(
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:08 AM on October 26, 2013


When somebody jumps in to every conversation about a non-Western country to explain that every bad thing is just as bad as an American thing, and the US's fault anyway

Who is doing that? I was responding to the "sons of bitches" comment, not excusing anything (see my previous excoriation of the whole matter). The game being played here is to just want to be outraged without understanding wider context. Making a comparison is not making an excuse.
posted by planetesimal at 10:13 AM on October 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sheikh Saleh Al Lohaidan warned women on the website Sabq.org that "physiological science" has shown that driving "automatically affects the ovaries and pushes up the pelvis ... and that is why children born to most women who continuously drive suffer from clinical disorders of varying degrees."

Bullshit lies cut from only the finest of whole cloth.
posted by double block and bleed at 10:34 AM on October 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ha - Westerners apparently used to say that about stairs too, and studying too hard. I can't remember the exact source, but IIRC, in the US in the late 19th century, there was some controversy over buildings with stairs at women's colleges, since too many trips up and down the stairs would be bad for the students' reproductive system... to say nothing of all the studying, which deprives the uterus of its needed resources or something.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:38 AM on October 26, 2013


(Not commenting on equivalence or cross-cultural issues, just commenting on the hilarious theories developed to support this stuff.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:39 AM on October 26, 2013


just commenting on the hilarious theories developed to support this stuff

This is just the substitution of rationalization (in support of an unexamined premise) for reason. For more examples of this, I would refer you to essentially everyone on the planet every day.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:44 AM on October 26, 2013


How about, we remember we have our own issues (we = non-Saudis), and we support these women and their Saudi allies how we can (there's a conversation - how?) so we're not morally generalising, and agree this is wrong, but aren't trying to set terms as outsiders.

In no such cases do we disparage everyone in cultures outside our own, or god forbid (though obviously unlikely in the case of SA due to money reasons), bomb them.

Is that so hard?
posted by iotic at 10:59 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sorry, that came across as more dismissive than I meant; I mean we are all conflicted beings, full of irrational impulses and fumbling to offer up support for our guesswork about how the world works. I have considerable contempt for people in positions of power who try to remake the world through laws or policies that force everyone to conform to their own rationalizations.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:00 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I worked with a female professor who was originally from Saudi Arabia. Had a Ph.D from a midwest school. Wore pants and no head covering. Even wore make up from time to time. She was very feminist and very modern.......and convinced when she had children, she'd raise them in Saudi Arabia, especially if she had girls.

I, and many other women who worked with her, couldn't fathom how she could reasonably maintain one foot in each world like that.......as culturally sensitive as I try to be, this just never made any sense to me......
posted by zizzle at 11:24 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


The game being played here is to just want to be outraged without understanding wider context.

I'm pretty sure there isn't a wider context which makes treating women like chattel and punishes them if they dare to do things like drive, appear in public without a man, uncover their faces, or report a rape anything less than horrific and unacceptable.
posted by Justinian at 11:39 AM on October 26, 2013 [22 favorites]


I'm pretty sure there isn't a wider context which makes treating women like chattel and punishes them if they dare to do things like drive, appear in public without a man, uncover their faces, or report a rape anything less than horrific and unacceptable.

Quoted for truth, because I can only favorite it once.

I got sick of unthinking cultural relativism around the time when people started telling me that I should respect all that rubbish and refuse as "a different culture." No blasted lie it's different. It is also nothing, nothing that deserves an iota of my respect, ever. Yes, some of the eyes that find it unacceptable can be described as the "Western eye", and that somehow makes it "Western judging" and therefore wrong to believe that it is inhuman and just plain unacceptable to treat women that way? You have to make a decision here, and one that goes all the way down to what you feel human rights are---universal or not. You have to make that decision knowing full well that there are women who have grown up in that system, have seen nothing but that system, and will do their level best to live by that system and ensure their own daughters stay suffocated by that system. You have to make a decision whether you still think wrong is wrong or not.

There are things in different cultures that are just different. Some people from Eastern Asia react to cheese with "ew rotten milk," some people where I come from react to sushi as "ew raw fish," which means they don't eat any if they don't want to, they don't care that I eat some if I want to, and everyone is happy. There are things in different cultures that are in gray areas. Hijab is one---whether it's "just different" depends very, very strongly on whether it is externally unimposed and externally unenforced or not.

But the same thinking that would trap girls in a burning building because they didn't have head coverings are not in the same universe as "gray areas." The same thinking that puts a bullet into Yousafzai's head because she talks about how important it is to educate girls isn't, either. And I can't be convinced that they are unconnected and there isn't a link from one place (can't drive) to the other (can't appear in public head uncovered, can't talk to men not outside her family) and to the end point (in fact, is property and not fully human).
posted by seyirci at 12:59 PM on October 26, 2013 [18 favorites]


I can only point my finger at one cultural trainwreck at a time. Gimme about ten seconds, America, and I'll get back to pointing at you.
posted by klanawa at 2:13 PM on October 26, 2013


Without speaking to the human rights issues already addressed in this thread, let me say in my entirely non-PC way, completely disregarding the planet's environmental woes, that driving either cars or motorcycles is one of my personal favorite releases and I hope these women get to soon enjoy this same privilege, unfettered by stupid patriarchal laws. I can't imagine having this release unavailable to me and I wish them all the best. Here's to the Saudi Arabian 2015 Formula One team, with a female at the wheel! Keep the shiny side up!
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 2:15 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Goddamn it.

That is all.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 3:16 PM on October 26, 2013


driving either cars or motorcycles is one of my personal favorite releases and I hope these women get to soon enjoy this same privilege, unfettered by stupid patriarchal laws....Here's to the Saudi Arabian 2015 Formula One team, with a female at the wheel!


Saudi women's rights, forged in the crucible of Motorsports!!
posted by fingerbang at 4:21 PM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I put this FPP together, I wanted to include a link to something useful people from outside Saudi Arabia could do to help advance this and other related causes. But I could not find any specific suggestions.
posted by carmicha at 5:14 PM on October 26, 2013


Zizzle, regarding your professor colleague's seeming major contradictions...I can only say that, as a highly critical and skeptical (and liberal) person raised in an anti-feminist and anti-intellectual conservative faith and also now raising children, I can empathize with her (though I'm sure my situation isn't nearly as difficult). Despite all of my personal reasons and rejections of that often oppressive culture in which I was raised, I still want to raise my children in that faith.

Perhaps it's naive to think you can have both progress and tradition: faith and community tempered by science and reason, but here we are.

I'm sure it's the same for many folks in KSA.
posted by Doleful Creature at 5:48 PM on October 26, 2013


If only they produced a product. Then maybe we could boycott it and put economic pressure on them to change their ways. But alas, I can't think of anything they produce that we need.
posted by Gungho at 8:18 AM on October 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Doleful Creature, I don't doubt she has her reasons --- I mean, it is her home, and many of us in some form or another want our children to experience some version of our own childhood. Not always, and certainly not completely.

So I tried to understand it from that point ---- but i found it difficult, as the mother of a daughter, that I could want that for my daughter, you know?
posted by zizzle at 11:52 AM on October 27, 2013


According to NPR, the hashtags #Saudi, #Oct26Driving and #Women2Drive provided a running commentary of the protests, where least 60 women took part, and more than 20 women posted videos. NPR had another short segment this morning, noting that women are unable to get drivers licenses, and Saudi Arabia is the only country that does not issue women licenses.

Also interesting is that a primary issue is financial: lots of middle-class women work, but to get to work, they have to have a relative drive them, or hire a driver. This economy of hired drivers is large, and a significant expense for the middle class.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:19 AM on October 28, 2013


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