The Only Place I couldn’t Drive Doesn’t Exist Anymore

**Disclaimer: This is not a judgment on the land itself. It is merely an account of a resident, an outsider, someone who wishes things were different. Better. **

Did y’all hear? Women in Saudia Arabia can drive now. Yeah, isn’t it the best? Did you also hear that we are moving out of here? People say, ”oh now that things are getting better you are leaving? What terrible timing.” Oh, but it’s not you see. There is no bad time to move out of a place that has just “given” women the “right” to drive. It’s 2018, things are changing. Everyone is so excited for the brave new world that is about to come our way as women living in Saudia Arabia. I’m sorry but I thought I was born with those “rights”.

I sort of understand the excitement over it and I sort of don’t. For all of us who had to wait for a big strong man to be free from his important works to come to our aid to take us to the pharmacy so we could buy our… You know…womanly things…because, how else?…or food to feed our children (also his children) because how else? Seriously. Because how else? This was meant to be sarcastic but in our good old Saudi, HOW. THE. HELL. ELSE? Unless you can afford a chauffeur, which is not practical for everyone.

So, yeah I get the excitement on some level. What I don’t get is getting on the bandwagon of ”woman empowerment” while taking away these powers in the name of religion/culture/custom what have you, and then giving it back in the name of the same religion and or culture.

Let me try to explain my crazy train of a thought process; When this ban was executed decades ago it was in the name of religion/custom/culture if you will. Maybe, even all of the above. That’s not the Muslim tradition. One cleric even went as far as to bring science into it by saying that ”driving could affect a woman’s fertility and ovaries”, just as recently as 2013.

Somehow I don’t feel like this one can be chalked up as a small victory. We didn’t achieve it, the powers that be around here decided it was time to grant us this privilege. Again, something that’s not a privilege at all but a basic human right, to be able to travel by any means available. Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it?

Those same people that are granting these great permissions to do great things like getting behind the wheels of monstrous beasts still haven’t allowed us to do many things that in every other country are considered everyday business.

Women in Saudia Arabia need permission from their male guardians to work, study, and in some cases even travel, also start a business. The last one might be on its way to change but this kind of news travels slowly here so still working on confirmation on that one.

We can’t have our own bank accounts. We can have a joint account with a male guardian but not our account by ourselves.

I’m sure most of you are aware that there is a strict rule that women have to wear a long dress before leaving the house. Ideally, it should be black, but it’s a progressive country, they tolerate subtle color deviations. Men have no such restrictions. Here’s the deal; I’ll be completely transparent with you. I’m a Muslim. I live by certain rules. I follow a certain dress code myself. Also, not everyone is a Muslim. Not everyone should be forced to dress in the same way. Let me rephrase that. Not all women should be forced to dress in in the same way because men are not forced to dress the same, and rightly so. I know I have said this before, it’s important so I’ll say it again; I wouldn’t want anyone to force the scarf off my head, and I hate to see anything being forced on anyone by people who claim to be the keepers of my religion.

Let’s talk about shopping. We don’t get any fitting/dressing rooms. There’s one for men. There’s one for kids. None for females. Yes. Nowhere. Not in any stores, any malls.

And here’s the best one; women got the right to vote in 2015 in some places. It’s a monarchy, but they have municipal elections in some cities. Saudi women can vote in some of the areas, still not everywhere elections are held.

Here’s where my train is headed; this whole driving thing might be a step in the right direction but it’s not for the right reasons, and it’s not even a dent in Women’s rights or empowerment. It has nothing to do with religion or culture because the definition of that changes by the minute. The God I believe in doesn’t put chains on half of the creation ”as needed” to empower the other half.

Did I mention we’re moving?