Friday, June 10, 2011

Women driving: Differentiate between luxury and necessity

Opinion column in the 6/10/2011 Arab News - Ali al-Khishaiban writes that society must differentiate between those women who need to drive and those who just want to do it for luxury. Some interesting arguments here, worrying that if a family has six daughters then each one will have to have a car. And then, women will start competing with each other in the kinds of cars they have.

Though it is easy to chuckle at these arguments sometimes, I think it's a healthy thing that this writer is actually envisioning what it will be like when women start to drive in the Kingdom. And I agree with the author, the car dealers will be ecstatic to have a whole new customer base.

Here is the column and you can link to it: here

Women driving: Differentiate between luxury and need
The acceptance or rejection of new ideas in Saudi society is subject to different criteria.

These ideas have to go through cultural and social filters before they are accepted or rejected. An example would be riding bicycles, an idea rejected more than 50 years ago by people before they finally accepted it.

A recent case is the issue of allowing women to drive. If we are looking for a solution to this issue, then we cannot ignore these social factors. In Saudi society no one rejects or supports the issue just for the sake of it. Everyone has his or her own reasons.

The real problem in allowing a woman to drive lies in understanding the balance between woman's need to drive and society’s willingness to accommodate this need.

Societies are not compelled to meet the needs of all individuals if they negatively affect others. This does not apply only to the issue of women driving, but all other ideological and cultural issues.

The issue of women driving is based on individual needs. In allowing women to drive, society is dealing with a complex issue.

For instance, a family man with five or six daughters would need several cars. It would create a problem between siblings when it comes to equality.

The family would be burdened with huge financial obligations. This is, however, music to the ears of car dealers because they will be making good money out of it.

Therefore, women driving may not be a problem as large as actually providing the cars. We will start seeing daughters wanting to buy better cars than their cousins, sisters or friends.
In my opinion there are no obstacles to Saudi society accepting women driving. But they would have to deal seriously with the financial consequences.

An officer in the traffic department or municipal official would not wish to see the number of cars tripling in our streets, especially in big cities.

Yes, there are some women who need to drive a car. We should support them. However, I think we should differentiate between luxury and need.

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