Thursday, May 5, 2016

Guest Blog: Society will accept women driving

Welcome to guest Blogger Susie of Arabia, who weighs in on the issue of Saudi women driving. Susie is married to a Saudi Arabian and has lived in the Kingdom since 2007. She is one of the founders of the very popular facebook group of the same name that has over 10,000 members of many nationalities and backgrounds.  Here is Susie's own blog,  Susie's Big Adventure. Thank you, Susie, for sharing your views on the Saudi women driving issue.

By Susie of Arabia - May 5, 2016

A few days ago Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, second in line to the throne, was quoted as saying, “Saudi society, not the government, will determine whether women will be allowed to drive cars.” To that I would ask: Exactly how loud does society have to yell in order to be heard? 
Women have been demanding the right to drive here in Saudi Arabia since 1990 when a few dozen women organized and drove in the streets of Riyadh. They were severely punished – by the government – with the ramifications affecting their lives for many years. Since then, many other women have driven on their own - and those who were caught have also been arrested and punished. In fact, women who drive in KSA can now be charged with terrorism, open to the government’s interpretation. 
But wait a minute! If the government isn’t responsible for keeping women from driving in Saudi Arabia and punishing them if they do, then who is? Society? Really? 
Because that would create big problems if some people in society decided to take matters in their own hands against the women who want to drive, and I don’t think the government would want that. I also think it is safe to say that all people in society will never all entirely agree on any one single issue. 
“Society” is such a broad and vague term. Saying that society will be the one to decide the women’s driving issue is such a cop out. It’s really like passing the buck to an imaginary friend called “Society.” Obviously, there are many in this society who want women to be allowed to drive. I also know there are also some who are against it. But what will the tipping point be? Can we at least get an idea? 
Saudi women are clearly poised and ready to take their roles in Saudi society. Women now account for almost 25% of the work force – and they can’t even drive themselves to work. 
Saudi society has now accepted women working in areas other than just education and medicine. When I moved to KSA eight years ago it was relatively unheard of for women to hold positions in other fields. Until just a few years ago, women were restricted from holding jobs in the sales sector. Hell, women in this prudish conservative country were humiliated and embarrassed for many years as they were forced to purchase their undergarments from men brought into this country specifically to sell underwear to women! 
After an initial uproar by the ultra-conservatives who are against women having their full rights, society has now accepted women working just fine, although I’m sure there are still those who would rather women just stayed home. This pronouncement to allow women to work in a variety of fields was decided by the king, not by society. 
 A segment of this society does everything it can to hold Saudi Arabia back from taking its place in today’s modern world. What they fear is the downfall of society and morals here if women are allowed to drive. To me that’s just ridiculous. Of course it is possible for women to drive here and for the people of Saudi Arabia to retain their morals at the same time. If not, then maybe there is something wrong with the way the strict morals are being imposed on the people here in the first place. I believe that morality is something within people naturally and that people are inherently good. I don’t believe in punishing everyone else because of the actions of a few. Hold people accountable for their own actions. 
 I’m personally tired of all the excuses given for why women shouldn’t drive here. It’s a normal function of women in every other part of the world, but Saudi Arabia is so different and special that it won’t work here? Please. It’s a financial hardship on families and only benefits the taxis services. Women are statistically much safer drivers than men. And making women ride with drivers who are unrelated to them makes about as much sense as forcing them to buy their underwear from strange men. Just do it already. Society will accept it just like it did women working.