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Sexual apartheid
December 22, 2001 5:32 PM   Subscribe

Sexual apartheid suported by American companies such as McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and other U.S. firms operating in Suadi Arabia. Sun City anyone?
posted by Mick (46 comments total)

 
I support women's rights as much as the next person, but it's their country. When citizens of another country come here, I expect them to obey our rules. Why should we be so egocentric as to think our rules apply in other countries?

Should we stop doing business in Europe because they don't support the death penalty? After all, it's the law here.

Now, if Americans want to boycott these companies for doing business in repressive countries, I'm all for it. Vote with your dollars. If enough people turn on them, maybe they'll change their ways. But I think it's ridiculous to try and force our values on the rest of the world.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:51 PM on December 22, 2001


mr davis, nobody said it was about US imposing their views on Saudi Arabia, in fact read here :

[Condoleezza] Rice told Blitzer the United States isn't trying to dictate another country's laws, but she said that the rights of women are a human rights issue and that "any country that degrades women or any country that cuts them off from the vital life of the country is making a very big mistake."

Human Rights, not a petty matter of local laws. Hello ?
posted by michel v at 6:02 PM on December 22, 2001


Human rights: Saudi did not allow American soldiers in if they were Jewish, and they do not allow non-Muslim places of worship. As for respecting another's ways: what if a country had slavery and kept and sold slaves? Is that to be overlooked too because a buck is a buck? Perhaps. Unless one considers that a human rights issue
posted by Postroad at 6:19 PM on December 22, 2001


But I think it's ridiculous to try and force our values on the rest of the world.

Treating women as second-rate citizens is not right, and it's not a 'value'. I suspect, mr_crash_davis, that if the issue was that they hated men and thought they deserved some acid in the face, your opinions would be a little different.
posted by animoller at 6:39 PM on December 22, 2001


Is it sexual apartheid or adherence to a long held social custom?

What people don't appear to understand is that countries need time to change. How long did it take the US to give blacks full rights? Look at what women went through before they were granted the vote in the UK. Being gay in the UK has only been legal for 10 odd years.

Remember Saudi was medieval prior to the 1960's. Imagine the level of change that the country has faced within the space of only 2 generations.

I'll say one very clear and true statement. The US was a far more sophisticate and stable society in the time of Martin Luther King that Saudi is today. It frustrates me that countries move forward, adopt new normals, and then assume that everyone else is willing and/or capable of moving to this new level of enlightenment immediately.

Another point; in many liberal Muslim countries the vast majority of women still choose to be 'segregated' in restaurants even though they have the choice.
posted by RobertLoch at 6:48 PM on December 22, 2001


The writer of the article is only suggesting that American companies with property in Saudi Arabia, refuse to follow sexist laws regarding restaurant seating. There was no call for invasion.
posted by bingo at 6:48 PM on December 22, 2001



The bigger picture of course must include the mention of the key item that breaks the South African analogy. Oil.

Western companies can apply pressure but it can be applied back in a much stronger and more economically damaging way. South Africa only had diamonds to barter with and while they are a girl's best friend they don't make the wheels of industrial economies turn.
posted by srboisvert at 6:54 PM on December 22, 2001


Amnesty International: "The abuse of women's rights in Saudi Arabia is not simply the unfortunate consequence of overzealous security forces and religious police. It is the inevitable result of a state policy which gives women fewer rights than men, which means that women face discrimination in all walks of life, and which allows men with authority to exercise their power without any fear of being held to account for their actions."

There is an historic American civil rights analogy: the lunch-counter sit-ins.
posted by Carol Anne at 7:05 PM on December 22, 2001


"Treating women as second-rate citizens is not right, and it's not a 'value'. I suspect, mr_crash_davis, that if the issue was that they hated men and thought they deserved some acid in the face, your opinions would be a little different."

Incorrect, and a ridiculous stretch to compare the two. No one in Saudi Arabia is physically harmed by having to eat in separate dining rooms, whereas your acid-in-the-face analogy causes actual damage.

It's THEIR COUNTRY. How much more can I emphasize it? I disagree with it, in the strongest possible terms, but goddammit, it belongs to them, not us. We as Americans have every right not to do business with, or in, that country, but it's still THEIR COUNTRY. If you don't like it, boycott anyone who does business there. Picket their embassies. Write letters to your congressmen. But for Christ's sake, butt out! If they want to decree that every adult male wear a tutu in order to work there, then so be it. If you don't like it, DON'T GO THERE OR DO BUSINESS WITH THEM. Holy shit, it's not like anyone's forcing you to go to Riyadh and buy a Big Mac.

I live in Utah, possible the most repressive state in the union. Do I insist that they sell me vodka on Sundays because their views on the sale of alcohol don't agree with mine? No! I live with it, knowing that if I reach the point where I can't deal with all the bullshit I can go elsewhere.

Wake up, America. The rest of the world doesn't always agree with us. Deal with it!

Carol Anne: Good link. Recall that at the lunch counter sit-ins people peacefully protested, within the law, until the segregation was lifted. I admire that. If people want to change the laws of S.A. then they should exercise their monetary power in the same way until the Saudis get the message. But until and unless the American people are willing to do that they should shut up and let Saudi Arabia exercise its rights as a sovereign nation.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:16 PM on December 22, 2001


Women are the niggers of the world.

Yoko Ono got that one right.

Women are killed for not obeying these rules. Many (most?) of them do not want these rules but have no option. And unlike your desire for vodka, mr_davis, it is not the superfluous things of life they are missing. Can't enter a restaurant alone? Can't have seats? Can't go out without covering under threat of arrest? Can't go out alone?

How interesting that the oppression of women is always so acceptable to so many in the free world. Maybe because we still haven't eliminated from our own world, it doesn't seem so unusual.
posted by Red58 at 7:51 PM on December 22, 2001


On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights . Member States pledged to achieve the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, have reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women ...this document has been signed by Saudi Arabia.
posted by Mack Twain at 7:56 PM on December 22, 2001


mr_crash_davis -- "If you don't like it, boycott anyone who does business there."

I think that was the point of the column.
posted by Eamon at 8:01 PM on December 22, 2001


No one in Saudi Arabia is physically harmed by having to eat in separate dining rooms

And Blacks in America weren't physically harmed by seperate schools, seperate water fountains, bathrooms, refusal of service in stores, eatin establishments, refusal of membership in clubs and so on and so forth.

Whether or not there is physical harm involved is irrelevant. Separate is not equal -- in this case it's obvious, when women can't even sit down in a Starbucks. If you honestly believe that it is fine to treat half of the population unequally merely because of their gender, fine. If you honestly believe that this treatment is not a violation of their basic human rights, fine. Most civilised people would disagree.

We've already been given numerous reasons to withhold our money from fast food restaurants and Starbucks, this is another nail in their coffin for conscientious consumers.
posted by Dreama at 8:30 PM on December 22, 2001


I live with it, knowing that if I reach the point where I can't deal with all the bullshit I can go elsewhere.

And where would these woman go? Even as a refugee, it's pretty hard to up and leave. As a young white woman from a western country who speaks English with money in the bank and an American fiance, it took me months and months and months to get a visa that even allowed me to enter the United States. The INS was picky before September the 11th, but after, I bet it would even harder for a woman from Saudi Arabia to immigrate to the United States. People can not always "just leave".

You should count yourself lucky that you could leave Utah because you want to buy alcohol on a Sunday, but it's a little more difficult for a woman who lives in a country that shits on womens rights to flee and live how they deserve.
posted by animoller at 8:54 PM on December 22, 2001


"He said the only exception to their humiliation was Dunkin' Donuts, 'which had an open seating area in which men and women freely ate at adjoining tables just as in the West.'"

I find it particularly appalling that these U.S. firms apparently don't have to enforce gender segregation, they choose to. Bravo to Dunkin' Donuts for not going along with it. I never thought I would see the day that Dunkin' Donuts would become a sanctuary for women's rights.

(Hello, I'm new.)
posted by homunculus at 8:57 PM on December 22, 2001


Whilst there is inequality in Saudi Arabia, this particular issue is not a good example of it. It is not segregation. Men and women can happily sit together as long as they are married or related. The claims that the family sections are rundown is total bullshit, and defies logic.

All that happens in reality is that you have one part of the restaurant filed with single men and another part filed with families and couples. That is not apartheid, and making such a comparison is ignorant. It is also arguably insulting to those that suffered under that brutal regime.
posted by RobertLoch at 9:41 PM on December 22, 2001


Another point; in many liberal Muslim countries the vast majority of women still choose to be 'segregated' in restaurants even though they have the choice

Which countries would those be? I find it hard to believe that women [or anyone else] would segregate themselves voluntarily.
posted by Rastafari at 9:53 PM on December 22, 2001


"If you honestly believe that it is fine to treat half of the population unequally merely because of their gender, fine. If you honestly believe that this treatment is not a violation of their basic human rights, fine. Most civilised people would disagree."

Again, you miss my point. I do NOT (bold, underlined, italicized, with multiple exclamation points) agree that it is OK to treat anyone in such a fashion. I'm 100% opposed to it. However, in their country I believe that it's none of our business.

Do you honestly believe that we (I speak of the United States here) have the right to tell other countries how to construct their societies? How would you feel if the Saudis insisted we make our women wear veils or eat in separate dining rooms? You'd tell them to piss off, I'd wager, as it's not up to them to dictate what happens within our borders.

Saudi Arabia is a sovereign nation. Until and unless they are a territory of the United States, we have absolutely no say in what goes on there. If you're willing to impose your values on their society by force, then by all means lobby your congressperson for military intervention. Otherwise, vote with your dollars. Write letters to corporations that do business there. Boycott them. Do whatever is necessary to stop American companies from conducting business there, but do NOT try and tell the Saudis how their society should function. It's not up to you.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:54 PM on December 22, 2001


animoller:

You say "...it's a little more difficult for a woman who lives in a country that shits on womens rights to flee and live how they deserve."

Agreed. You'll get no argument from me. What do you propose? Do we intervene militarily, and force every nation on earth to live by our values? Clearly that's impossible. I say for the third time in this thread, vote with your dollars. Let corporations know you will not support them in the U.S. if they support such restrictions on basic human rights in other countries. We cannot force everyone on earth to live by our standards. What we can do is change the mindset of the multinational corporations, so that they will realize that for every dollar they spend in repressive societies they will lose that dollar, or more, here at home.

Face it folks. Money talks, and bullshit walks. You've got to convince the people up top that their bottom line is going to suffer if they continue to do business with regimes that trample basic human rights. Welcome to capitalism.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:04 PM on December 22, 2001


What fascinates me here is the emergence of yet another contradiction in the Western "leftist" or "liberal" mindset. Why do I get the feeling that many of the people who are all for "multiculturalism" and minority rights in their own countries are the same people who lambast certain Islamic nations over gender politics.

Example: Hundreds of pundits and celebrities, along with thousands or millions of young people here in the states are active in the movement to free Tibet from Chinese occupation. They say that the Tibetan people should be free to construct their society and live their lives based on their beliefs and traditions, free from the domination of China. So why shouldn't the Saudis have the same right? If your answer involves some value judgement on the practices and beliefs of these respective societies, fine. But then you need to admit that "multiculturalism" is a sham and that you are just as intent on designing the world based on your own beliefs and ideology.

And just so we don't leave anyone out, how about the Christians and other right-leaning individuals who are appaled at the heathen, decidedly non-western state of affairs in the Middle East. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. End the barbaric practices that opress and endanger certain segments of the population. Fine, then we should start at home. If I sit around and watch my child die from a horrible disease that could have been treated, I'll be arrested for neglect, abuse, or even manslaughter. Unless I claim to be a Christian Scientist or a member of another faith that does not believe in modern medicine. Then, by God, I am within my rights as an American citizen, I am practicing my faith in this great country that allows me complete freedom to do so.

Feel however you want to about Tibet, Saudi Arabia, Christian Science, or anything else. But at least attempt to structure your beliefs and opinions with some kind of consistency.
posted by hipstertrash at 10:24 PM on December 22, 2001


'Which countries would those be? I find it hard to believe that women [or anyone else] would segregate themselves voluntarily.'

I repeat that it is not segregation.

This is the case in almost all Arab countries to a greater or lesser degree. Most notably Yemen, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Syria, Jordon and Abu Dhabi. I lived in Bahrain, one of the most 'free' states and still the majority of arab women did not socialise with men apart from those in their family. The fact is that there is a religion, 'values' , history and culture behind this, it is not simply a case of men imposing rules.

Don't get me wrong, I am not a fan of the Arab world, and am a particularly harsh critic of Saudi Arabia, but to label them in this way is wrong.
posted by RobertLoch at 10:44 PM on December 22, 2001


Postroad : what if a country had slavery and kept and sold slaves? Is that to be overlooked too because a buck is a buck?

mr_crash_davis : Welcome to capitalism.

Slightly tangential, but : precisely. I would venture to opine that in most nations that have maquilladoras or their equivalent, a de facto situation of slavery is frequently in effect for local or foreign migrant factory workers. It is overlooked, precisely because a buck is a buck.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:19 PM on December 22, 2001


...and by the way, you guys (and gals) would be equally outraged about the kind of gender inequalities accepted as de rigeur here in Korea. It is not as blatant as the Middle East, or as trendy to note, but it is locked in, and changing very very slowly indeed.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:24 PM on December 22, 2001


I don't know why crash is arguing so vehemently in this thread (4 of 21 comments) against Americans judging an ostensibly friendly country by our set of values. That is a dangerous position to take; one could almost as easily argue that slavery or child prostitution are merely "their culture". Hipstertrash -- this isn't really new, of course. I noted years ago that there is a split within liberalism between (for example) those who believe in the principle of women's rights, and those who believe in self-determination for all cultures. You can easily find this in any one of your liberal friends by sounding them out on the topic of Female Genital Mutilation (or as it's called if you agree it's OK, Female Circumcision). The burqa or other covering garments for women merely provide a less-stark contrast, but the principle is the same.

I know when I faced this problem some years ago, back in college, when the FGM protests were just starting, I decided that I would always throw my lot with the human rights and principles crowd rather than the multi-culturalists.

Another, stickier, example that poses a real problem for American diplomacy is the distinction between human rights, the rule of law, and democracy. They can exist independently; one does not guarantee the other. A democratic regime that is ignoring human rights is much more difficult to criticize. There are also many countries which have advanced human rights and legal systems but do not have pure democracy. There is a growing consensus that emphasizing democracy before human rights or a proper legal system can lead to corruption and failed regimes, and ultimately a decrease in the lot of the governed.

In the case of Saudi Arabia, we have had their geopolitical alliance and friendship since roughly the 1930s. This cannot be understated, as without a powerful US ally in the Middle East it is unlikely that the region would have remained as stable as it is. But there is growing recognition that the lack of human rights and democracy is a real problem. Saudi Arabia may be our friend, but they do not share our values, and this can only be a source of further friction. Certainly the present regent, Crown Prince Abdullah, is less pro-American than his brother the stroke-ridden King Fahd (who built himself a White House replica near Marbella). It is likely that when Fahd dies we will experience a change in our relationship. One key factor is the recent US deal to get oil from Russia via Sakhalinsk. The less dependent we are on Saudi Arabia, the more political leverage we have with them -- whether it's the issue of Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, oil prices, or women's rights. We may never have a better opportunity to press our point that SA needs to open up its society and get more in line even with the Islamic world around it. We know that, whatever else it may mean, the Saudis were 15 of 19 hijackers on 9/11. One theory is that Saudi political life is so controlled that it pops out in these nutcase terror groups.

So, I don't agree that this is just Saudi Arabia's problem. It may not be the most important thing we need worry about in relation to our friendship, but what's happening with columns like Kelly's is that this is no longer going to be overlooked and ignored. If they're really our best pals in the region, how come they're not more like us? If they're not like us at all, how can we be friends? If it weren't women, but another ethnic group, would this be tolerated for one minute? Will the same college students who protested at the South African embassy daily for all those years on behalf of blacks show up at the Saudi Arabian embassy on behalf of women? Is it more in the American interest to promote our values around the world, or does ignoring principle in the case of Saudi Arabia make us hypocrites when we criticize other nations' human rights records?
posted by dhartung at 11:27 PM on December 22, 2001


mr crash davis:

There is one problem with your theory of it's their country: the citizens of S.A. have no say in their country's policies. It is not a democracy, and women have no power to change their circumstances.

So a little outside pressure, from citizens of a country that helps to support and protect the Saudi regime (remember the Gulf War?), may eventually do some good.
posted by jameschandler at 11:56 PM on December 22, 2001


dhartung - Very well put. I'm not sure if I agree with you, but I can't say that I disagree either. I'm still trying to find my place on the "universal values" vs. "different traditions" spectrum. I'd like to see opression in all forms become a thing of the past, but 1) that won't happen anytime soon, and 2) as the years go by, I find myself questioning more and more if the way that "oppresion" is conceptualized in Western leftist/intellectual circles is infallible. Feminism has done a lot of good in this world, but as with any other vehicle of social change (democracy, socialism, etc), absolutist ideological fervor has destroyed perspective. Just as there are many socialisms, there are many feminisms, and painting centuries old cultures and traditions with the broad strokes of conventional wisdom is dangerous territory. To be sure, women should live in a political climate where they enjoy equal freedoms and self-determination. But more often than not, the culture is attacked along with or morre than the political systems. As RobertLoch has pointed out, sometimes women choose to abide by the traditions on their own, just like many women of a certain generation in the US decided to stay home and raise a family even after the advent of a changed cultural climate and different opportunities. Just like some women get off on porn, and some women choose to be pro-life. I can imagine that many women who have been subjected to ogling and catcalls on the street, date rape, sexual harassment, etc., could at least see some of the allure of a society in which the interactions between men and women are widely regulated. "Traditional" Feminism circa the last half of the 20th century embraced the doctrine that any acknowledgement of differences between the sexes was a defacto assault on equality. It seems to me that much of the anger directed at Islam and Islamic societies has less to do with repressive governments and more to do with a contempt for the societies themselves, regardless of whether or not coercion is involved.

One could say that an evil is an evil, and that opposing Saudi Arabia is a good thing regardless of motivation. But to me, at least, it makes all the difference whether or not people are fighting repression or if they are trying to erase a way of life that threatens their beliefs and ideologies. It is vital in situations like this to recognize the line between human rights and cultural imperialism. Open the door for these women, but don't push them through it. Its like the World Bank and the IMF, working to eliminate poverty by pushing subsistence farmers into cash crops. They now have money on paper, acres of soybeans and nothing to feed to their families. Its the difference between offering people a choice and making the choice for them.
posted by hipstertrash at 1:12 AM on December 23, 2001


In order for SA to be protected by a multiculturalism argument, methinks it would have to be a country that has freely chosen its theocratic state, with citizens that are allowed to freely leave the country. As there is no such freedom in SA, it is to us, as members of the U.N., to do what we can to protect the basic human rights of the people of SA. That doesn't necessarily mean immediate declaration of war, but rather the initiative of whatever means of social and cultural manipulation we have available to us. One such form of manipulation is the introduction of 'free' culture through our corporate representatives. Other means of attack include UN trade sanctions, which are, unfortunately, unlikely due to SA's status as an oil power. But ultimately it is our responsibility to see that we do what we can to influence the change of SA's government to one of popular control.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:15 AM on December 23, 2001


Has anyone ever considered that Saudi women don't want to be like US women?Take US women of the 1950's, would they want to be in the position that US women are in today? Maybe in the sense of rights, but I doubt that they would approve of the general morality.

Has it not crossed anyones mind that Saudi women see drunk Western women sleeping with numerous partners, stripping, acting in porn films, etc. and are appalled?

Just a thought.

Anyhow, the point is that article was bollocks, and obviously written by someone that is totally ignorant of that region. He picked the wrong example to highlight, and the wrong point to argue. Apartheid, what crap.
posted by RobertLoch at 1:36 AM on December 23, 2001


Isn't the whole idea that Saudi Arabian woman should have the choice if they want to be subservient? And yes, it is our business.
posted by owillis at 2:42 AM on December 23, 2001


Being gay in the UK has only been legal for 10 odd years

Um, thirty-four years, actually.
posted by Grangousier at 3:10 AM on December 23, 2001


'Isn't the whole idea that Saudi Arabian woman should have the choice if they want to be subservient?'

Yes and no. Yes from our perspective. From a Saudi perspective women must live within the guidance of Allah, or more specifically their interpretation of it. The point being that they don't see what they are doing as treating women as second class citizens.

Also most of the women don't see it that way either. They have the right to education, they are allowed to work, and they can and do run businesses.

All that said, of course you can easily pull all their hypocrisy apart, it is not hard. However that article didn't, it was a cheap and inaccurate shot. Why doesn't the guy get of his arse and do some proper reporting.

I'm bored so here's a story about Saudi,

A guy threw acid at a man's face, blinding him. He is tried and found guity. As punishment his eyes were surgically removed. That is the idea of an eye for an eye lived out to its full.

Grang I stand corrected, although I remember an uproar about something. Equalising the age of consent perhaps. ing.
posted by RobertLoch at 3:41 AM on December 23, 2001


They have the right to education, they are allowed to work, and they can and do run businesses.

Sure, but it's a little inconvenient if you're not allowed to drive there. Even during apartheid, blacks had all the rights you list and the right to drive and the right to go out in public unattended and the right to dress as they wished. In that regard, it is fallacious to compare it to apartheid.

Here's a good quote from the article:
About 55 per cent of Saudi graduates are women but they hold only five per cent of jobs. Of the estimated one million females employed in hospitals, airports and education, over 80 percent are expatriates.
That's a pretty clear picture of how much those 'rights' you listed are worth

I'm bored so here's a story about Saudi,

A guy threw acid at a man's face, blinding him. He is tried and found guity. As punishment his eyes were surgically removed. That is the idea of an eye for an eye lived out to its full.


You're getting boring; I could spend all day listing 'crimes' where the punishment is well beyond eye for an eye there. Guess what the punishment for the women driving was. They lost their jobs, their passports (so much for that leaving idea) and were only released after their relatives promised they would never be allowed to drive again. Despite the fact that there was no actual law against women driving. Is that what Saudi women want?
posted by boaz at 6:42 AM on December 23, 2001


Excessive American acquiescence to Saudi Arabian customs negatively impacts our women citizens, too. Even Jesse Helms (!) is concerned.

Saudi rule looser than Pentagon's. "The U.S. military directive requiring women deployed to Saudi Arabia to wear a head-to-toe robe conflicts with the official guidance that the Saudi government gives to foreigners and also with the State Department's policy for its employees. The military policy provoked controversy last week when an outspoken U.S. Air Force female pilot complained that the dress code discriminates against women. Military officials defended the policy. They said it was implemented years ago out of respect for Islamic law and Saudi customs and to protect its women from harassment by the mutawa, or religious police, and from potential terrorists. However, the Saudi government does not require non-Muslim women to wear a dark robe known as an abaya, according to the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. The official guidance, issued by the Saudi Embassy in Washington, says that foreigners should dress conservatively but they are not required to wear the robe, U.S. officials said."

Five senators want review of dress code."Five Republican senators have pressed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to review the military's strict dress code for women based in Saudi Arabia and expressed concern that the policy could violate the servicemembers' "rights and liberties as U.S. citizens."...The senators, led by Bob Smith of New Hampshire, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, want a top-level review by Rumsfeld. The other signers are Jesse Helms of North Carolina, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee; Don Nickles of Oklahoma, the assistant majority leader; Susan Collins of Maine, an Armed Services Committee member; and Larry Craig of Idaho, chairman of the Republican Policy Committee."
posted by Carol Anne at 7:08 AM on December 23, 2001


And I'll bet those South African blacks were happy living in their little mud huts, too.

If the women were happy with all these restrictions, there wouldn't have to be rules enforcing them. They would happily just do it.

If they had to devise a punishment, then women are being forced to comply.

If I could effectively vote with my money, I would not give any to any company that did business with Saudi. I already don't eat or drink at any of the businesses listed here, I vote for politicians that support cafe standards for cars, I support environmental groups that work for energy conservation policies, I plan to but a gas/electric hybrid car, ...

We all understand that politics is a delicate balance between accepting what you don't like in order to get what you think is important. We've been doing that with Saudi for a long time. Mostly in the name of acquiring oil for our energy sucking culture.

I was disgusted when I watched our government feign interest in the Afghani women when they wanted us to support the war to get bin Laden. We had no interest in the women when we were arming the Taliban to fight the USSR.

That this topic has to be discussed is so sad and frustrating.
posted by Red58 at 7:19 AM on December 23, 2001


If the women were happy with all these restrictions, there wouldn't have to be rules enforcing them. They would happily just do it.

If they had to devise a punishment, then women are being forced to comply.


Then how do you explain all of the Islamic women who choose to abide by these customs and traditions even though they live in places like the US and Western Europe, places where there are no laws to enforce (certain interpretations of) their religion?

(lest anyone forget, the Saudis, the Iranians, etc., are all governed based on certain strains of Islam. The non-Islamic world rarely has more than a cursory understanding of the differences within the Islamic faith)
posted by hipstertrash at 7:30 AM on December 23, 2001


Red58, the USSR collapsed out of existence in 1991. The Taliban movement didn't begin until 1994. So, tell me about the CIA time machine, again? Or maybe you'll start getting your history someplace other than indymedia.

If you're going to say "we had no interest" in women's rights in Afghanistan under the Taliban before September 11, you're wrong about that, too. Our "interest" did not, of course, extend to fighting a war over the burqa, but then, our options were extremely limited, since a collapsed economy is extraordinarily unresponsive to international sanctions, and a government with literally 3 friends in the international community isn't amenable to the recall of ambassadors. In other words, the US government's options for human rights in Afghanistan were a list approximately one-half item long. Given that we had limited options in Afghanistan, and numerous concerns, we were forced to be adults about our situation and prioritize. After September 11, can you argue that terrorism should not have been at the top of our list of concerns with Afghanistan? Or are you still "disgusted"? Is it often your practice to vent "disgust" at people who have nothing to do with the bad thing you're mad at, and very little power to affect it? Finally, are you prepared to argue that the war has not had positive benefits for Afghan women? True, we're unlikely to see all women remove the burqa, but we are likely to see many women return to professional jobs in medicine and education and government. The change for both men and women in Afghanistan is already tremendous in terms of day-to-day life. Whatever concrete accomplishments remain, and there are many, today they have an opportunity to build a future for their nation. Maybe that's not the same as enforcing sexual equality at gunpoint, but you're choosing to discount all of that in order to sneer that we "feigned" interest in Afghan women.

Oh, and by the way, the afghani is a coin.
posted by dhartung at 8:18 AM on December 23, 2001


Then how do you explain all of the Islamic women who choose to abide by these customs and traditions even though they live in places like the US and Western Europe, places where there are no laws to enforce (certain interpretations of) their religion?

Then how do you explain all those who do not in places where they are free not to? I don't think anyone here is trying to get laws passed requiring women in Saudi Arabia to drive, dress in jeans, go out alone, eat together with men, etc. , merely trying to give them the right to do that if they wish.
If there were laws like I listed in America, then I would be protesting our hypocrisy; in reality, we have a constitutional amendment protecting their right to dress according to their (interpretation of) their religious mandates here in America.

(lest anyone forget, the Saudis, the Iranians, etc., are all governed based on certain strains of Islam. The non-Islamic world rarely has more than a cursory understanding of the differences within the Islamic faith)

Sure, but how is this relevant? Just a short time ago, Christianity included a group whose leader felt he had the prerogative to molest, abuse and impregnate young children. Is this the kind of thing you feel should be chalked up to religious differences within Christianity and left alone?
posted by boaz at 8:47 AM on December 23, 2001


. . . merely trying to give them the right to do that if they wish.

I'm all for this. I'm just saying look out for the fine line between "We want you to be free to make your own choices" and "We want you to be free to make the choices that we think you should make." Because while its not explicitly stated in this thread (or many other places for that matter), I get the feeling that campaigns like this are not only aimed at increasing personal freedom, but at attacking cultures that offend our own cultural sensibilities. A woman should be allowed to chose not to act or believe in a certain way, but she shouldn't be forced to abandon that faith because some enlightened Westerner decides for her that she is being oppressed. Its presumptuous and arrogant, and a hallmark of Western cultural imperialism.

Sure, but how is this relevant?
It is relevant insofar as some of the rage surrounding this topic gets blindly directed at the whole of Islam, rather than specific policies of specific governments.
posted by hipstertrash at 9:43 AM on December 23, 2001


'You're getting boring' Child.

five per cent of jobs

And what might the explanation for that be. High marriage levels? Wives expected to stay at home and bring up a faimily? A society where early marriage is encouraged? A society where husbands are expected to look after their wives? A society where low level jobs are all done by expats, and anyone who is anyone has a servant?

The fact is that women arn't expected to work, they are expected to marry well. Does that remind you of anything, like our society in a less developed form?

All I am attempting to point out is that the reason for the unequal treatment of women has deeper routes that people appear to appreciate. Change will happen, and is happening, but like in every other country, development takes time.

In 1945 the US found out the extent of the horror that Hitler had bestowed on the Jews. It took a further 20 years for black Americans to be accepted as equal citizens. I repeat; societies take time to change.
posted by RobertLoch at 9:50 AM on December 23, 2001


A woman should be allowed to chose not to act or believe in a certain way, but she shouldn't be forced to abandon that faith because some enlightened Westerner decides for her that she is being oppressed. Its presumptuous and arrogant, and a hallmark of Western cultural imperialism.

Spare me. We have loads of proof that women are being oppressed in Saudi Arabia; I even provided some (and there's plenty more). Meanwhile, I haven't heard anyone lower on the wacky-meter than Ann Coulter talking about forced conversion. The presumptuous and arrogant party that's foisting its beliefs on women here is clearly Saudi Arabia.

It is relevant insofar as some of the rage surrounding this topic gets blindly directed at the whole of Islam, rather than specific policies of specific governments.

Since what we're talking about specific policies of specific governments, that means it isn't relevant.
posted by boaz at 10:14 AM on December 23, 2001


And what might the explanation for that be. High marriage levels? Wives expected to stay at home and bring up a faimily? A society where early marriage is encouraged? A society where husbands are expected to look after their wives? A society where low level jobs are all done by expats, and anyone who is anyone has a servant?

It seems that, given their restrictions, a woman would need a servant before she could have a job, an ironic, but still grossly unfair, situation.

All I am attempting to point out is that the reason for the unequal treatment of women has deeper routes that people appear to appreciate. Change will happen, and is happening, but like in every other country, development takes time.

Actually, in Saudi Arabia, it's not happening, and, if the rulers and clerics have their way, it won't happen. That driving story I linked to happened in 1990.

In 1945 the US found out the extent of the horror that Hitler had bestowed on the Jews. It took a further 20 years for black Americans to be accepted as equal citizens. I repeat; societies take time to change.

Wow. You must have figured this thread could use a good Godwinning. I'd say the Americans already had the 'don't attempt genocide' policy nailed down before 1945.

BTW, segregation was declared unconstitutional in 1954, a mere 9 years after 1945, and the Armed Forces were integrated in 1948, 3 years later. It's obvious that there was substantial progress on that front following WWII. So, how have the Saudis done in the 11 years since the drving incident? Have there been any law or cultural changes there you wish to inform me of? Any change of note?
posted by boaz at 10:39 AM on December 23, 2001


Since what we're talking about specific policies of specific governments, that means it isn't relevant.

Well then, I guess that since all Woodrow Wilson ever talked about was benevolently protecting the Haitians from themselves, then any discussion of the Hatian Occupation should stay away from issues like paternalism, racism, or cultural imperialism. For that matter, the entire European colonization of Africa should simmilarly be taken at face value, as a noble quest to introduce the African peoples to culture, science, technology, offer them a helping hand to become part of the civilized world. And Vietnam was about helping some poor villagers stand up against a totalitarian regime, it wasn't about the Domino Theory ... oh, wait, hang on, they admitted eventually that it was about the Domino Theory after all ... ok, well, scratch that one. And the establishment of Israel was a gesture of goodwill towards the long suffering Jewish people, not about placing a Western vassal state in the middle of a vital and unstable reigon, as a way to keep a foothold after Attaturk said piss off and Lawrence botched things up in Arabia.

Yes, the world operates completely at face value, and to question maybe the existence of an undercurrent or subtext within a certain diologue is dilatory and irrelevant ... I'm sure that nobody who takes up these types of causes has a bigger axe to grind with Islam, or that the Western media's habitual obsession with the plight of women in SOME Islamic societies isn't indicative of a smear campaign against the religion as a whole. The fact is that, whether they admit it or not, many people have been trained to assume that "Islam=that religion where they all hate and kill women," and that is the first reaction that many people will have when coming across an item like this. I can't prove that anyone in this thread typed "Saudi Arabia" when they were really thinking "Islam," but given the Islamic stereotyes prevalent in Western culture, can you blame me for begging the question and approaching this item with a broader context or a nod to common knowledge?

This isn't forensics or debate, where the arguments and rebuttals are constrained to an ultra-specific range of inquiry, limiting the information in order to simplfy a problem enough to isolate the argumentative and rhetorical skills. This isn't a competition. This is a discussion, and I think that a certain leeway for lateral thought or tangential discussion is appropriate. But maybe that's just me.
posted by hipstertrash at 11:12 AM on December 23, 2001


As someone who lived 28 miles from Saudi for 2 1/2 years, and met a huge number of Saudis during that time, i can confidently inform you that the underlying ethos of the country has changed, is changing, and will continue to change. A new generation of Saudis are coming through that were born into a 'developing' nation, are well educated and are progressive. They wish to see change and are forcing change where possible. However it is a generation thing; those in power still come from the pre development era, and thus resistance is significant.

However do not underestimate the level of change; western ideology has swept through the nation. There are few countries that have moved to capitalism more naturally. Saudi is also opening up, changing rules on foreign ownership of companies and actively seeking dramatic increases in foreign investment as it attempts to diverse its economy away from oil. All of this is good news, and represents gradual movement towards a more liberal society.

I repeat, this country has changed dramatically in an extraordinarily short period of time. It is natural given this rate of change for there to be resistance as the authorities attempt to structure and secure a social identity. They don't want to 'fall' to the level of the West, and if anything resist change more as our society becomes increasingly lower common denominate. However, massive change is a foot; there has been a significant shift in the underlying attitude of the people. The social fallout from the Gulf War was also massive, with the Saudis that I knew describing it as irreversible. Just wait for the next 2 generation to take charge, and the present one to die, then the place will be very very different.

That is my best effort to add a different perspective to this matter, the defense rests.
posted by RobertLoch at 11:19 AM on December 23, 2001


Thank you RobertLoch; that is good to hear. Part of the problem with Saudi Arabia is that because their press is so tightly controlled, it is virtually impossible for an outsider to see things happening at ground level. Just one question: Do you believe that today, those women would be allowed to drive unhindered?

And hipstertrash, you are wrong to be so cynical. While assuming that there is an evil agenda hidden behind the arguments you read here may be emotionally satisfying, it is hardly a fair method of enquiry. The term 'Straw Man' springs to mind.
posted by boaz at 12:08 PM on December 23, 2001


Reuters/Yahoo - "Saudi Arabia has started issuing identity cards to women for the first time to make their lives easier and help prevent fraud, the interior minister said Monday (December 10, 2001)...Saudi women are currently listed as dependents on their father's or husband's card. They are issued with passports but are not allowed to travel unless accompanied by a male legal guardian or with written permission from a male relative."

What would someone like me do? Unmarried, only child, father died in 1990.
posted by Carol Anne at 12:50 PM on December 23, 2001


What would someone like me do? Unmarried, only child, father died in 1990.

If I'm not mistaken, unmarried Saudi women with no close relatives end up living with more distant relatives, spending their life as little more than servants. Of course, it would be cultural imperialism if I were to make a moral judgment on that practice.

My favorite line from the article: "[Saudi Arabia] has consistently said Islam is the best guarantor of women's rights."
posted by boaz at 2:14 PM on December 23, 2001


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