FEMME FEED | AN INSTALLATION OF “OF THE MOMENT”
STORIES FOR GIRLS IN THE KNOW.
When you begin to scan the opening lines of this article you may think, “oh heavens, I’ve suffered a time warp.” Allow us to reassure you, you have not. Today, the 26th of September, 2017, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has finally lifted its laws on women’s driving privileges. As of this coming June, women in Saudi will be allowed to obtain drivers licenses.
The decision seems to have been made as somewhat of a PR move by a country hoping to redeem their reputation the world over. Due to the international pressure Saudi has received regarding the ban on women’s freedom to drive and its needy economy — women’s participation in the workplace will better their economical value. While the concept of having a chauffeur might sound just absolutely luxe to us, when it’s at the forfeit of your own independence it’s no longer a luxury but a prison cell on wheels. Women in Saudi are also not allowed to take public transportation or travel without a “guardian”. What is this chaperone you might ask? A male family member to first allow you, and then to escort you wherever you might want to go. This role can be filled by a brother, son, husband, or most frequently a father.
A little bit of background:
The history of the laws are rooted in what is called Wahhabism: a regression back to the purest form of Islamic culture which supports segregating genders in places like shopping malls, the veiling of women, and the illicit socializing of the sexes. The propaganda of women conforming to these laws runs deep, including commercials of young girls singing about how as females they are not made for driving but for keeping up the home. in 2013 Jamie Kucinskas, a teacher of religion and society at Indiana University told The Atlantic “The incident catalyzed a moral campaign meant to reinforce the feminine ideal of a pious, secluded wife and mother.”
Back in 2011, female activist Manal al-Sharif posted a video on Youtube of herself driving a car. She claims the ban is “… a way to emancipate women…” and was arrested for this act. Women like Manal continue to speak up, and out, although at their own risk — the government does not take kindly to it. Manal was only freed due to international backlash.
It’s up to all of us:
Now, we don’t want to come off as mocking — any women’s movement success is shared by all of us, and Saudi’s female population is well-deserving of this triumph. The work of female activists to further women’s rights in the country have been tireless, and this step forward should be celebrated. The female population of this Islamic state are also forbidden from activities such as competing in sports unless they can wear their traditional dress, and swimming — there is still a long way to go for equality — but with the continual support from their sisters internationally we can further this fight along.