Women’s Driving: Standstill

Abdulrahman al-Rashed confirms what I have been saying for the past few months: Saudi women will not start driving their cars in the Kingdom anytime soon. Al-Rashed heads al-Arabiya news channel and is usually described as pretty close to decision makers in the country.

In his column in Asharq al-Awsat last Wednesday, al-Rashed dismissed the idea of petitioning the government to allow women to drive, arguing that women’s driving simply does not enjoy enough public support. Without such public support, the government would never push for a change to the status quo. The government will not take it upon itself to do this because “governments all over the world tend to avoid adventures,” he says.

But today another columnist in the same newspaper expressed his disagreement with al-Rashed’s viewpoint. Mishari al-Thaidy argues that without any practical way to measure public opinion in the country, it is difficult to tell where the majority stands. “Where is this public opinion? How is it made? Where can you see it? Who represent it?” al-Thaidy asked.

Women’s driving, he says, is just like girls education, radio, television, satellite dishes, and combining the administrations of boys and girls together into one governing body. All of these changes were faced with fierce opposition by some elements in society. However, the government did not bow to this opposition. They stood their ground, and these changes were eventually accepted.

Where does that leave us when it comes to women’s driving?

Pretty much in the same place where we were five years ago.

Now some people like to say that women’s driving is not an important issue, and that there are far more important issues for women, and the country at large, to tackle at the moment. It is not a priority, they say. But I call BS on the “priorities” talk.

If you a are a woman who can’t go to work because you can’t drive and you can’t afford a driver then it is an important issue for you. It becomes your priority. I agree with those who think issues like male guardianship and fixing the judicial system to become more women-friendly are probably more important in the long term.

But here is why I think women’s driving matters: I believe that this issue has become a symbol for all other reform issues in the country, especially the ones related to women status. It has become like a psychological barrier. If we can overcome this, then we can cruise into our other challenges with more confidence and determination. I still believe that we need a brave, courageous political decision to make it happen. Without such courage, our society will keep running slowly in the same devoid vicious circle.

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8 thoughts on “Women’s Driving: Standstill

  1. Enough already with the driving it’s getting a little boring
    Society moves slowly because we are easily gets caught in such distracting issues and leaving the core of the problem which are the old mentality officials who glued them self in their big fat authority seats by doing nothing effective an the regular people who prefer to nag to the outsiders will instead of working on their issues

  2. We are running on super slow motion mode right now when it comes to every type of reform or change. I hate when people use maintaining traditions as an excuse to condemn every reform.

  3. I read through the 2005 blog entry on this plus the 58 comments. I would have written there but it seems a bit outdated!

    I really regret people saying that this subject is getting a little boring. It’s not. It’s certainly not the most pressing issue in women’s rights in Arab countries, but it’s certainly the most symbolic in a country that has fallen far far behind. It’s a place I love, it’s where I was brought up, it’s where my father is from, but he had the sense to marry an outspoken westerner and the made the decision when I was 16 to move to Brtain because of me. Because they wanted me to be able to mix with the opposite sex without being branded a prostitute, to drive, to receive equal healthcare and higher education. To marry who I please for love. If I want to marry.

    As to driving, I personally don’t, for the simple reason that I have better things as a student to spend my money on. But it seems to me that the funny thing is that all the reasoning given in the comments on the old post as to why women shouldn’t drive was to protect them against sharking and males cornering and harassing them. There is, of course, a very very simple solution to this.

    Until Saudi young males learn to behave like civilized human beings, equal to men and women in the civilized world (and this is NOT a blanket term for the first world AT ALL- there are many uncvilized people everywhere)- BAN the men from driving. Let the women drive. Hey, presto! Accidents drop to a fraction (have you SEEN the way men drive there? Granted- I’ve never seen teh women drive ;)), and there is no harassment.

    They insist on sex segregation? Perfect. The women drive, the men don’t. End of sharking, abuse, and fatalities.

    I don’t know. I’m sick of defending my country, and I’m sick of going back to visit my relatives and being stripped of my personality and branded a whore to boot. Thank Allah I’m probably now unmarriable.

    Ban men from driving!

  4. Ah, one last rant. I do cover my head. Sometimes. But I’m not sure I completely agree with it.

    There is a major double standard. Women cover their heads in theory as a sign of….wait for it…feminism, so they are not made into sexual objects. It’s the same as driving. THe men are in the wrong, benevolent sexism steps in to protect the women, and it’s disguised as feminism. WTF?

    If the men are in the wrong, let them be punished, not me. NO driving. And blinkers if they can’t trust themselves not to nurse a semi just because of my luscious locks. How very sad.

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