This past week, women in Saudi Arabia obtained the right to drive. Yes, there are now women driving in Saudi Arabia! In the United States, I’ve heard a few different views on this. There are the supporters, who are like, “Yes! Women’s rights!” Then, there are the doubters, who think there are going to be a ton of restrictions that women in Saudi Arabia will have to overcome before they are actually able to obtain a license. They compare it to how African Americans struggled to vote, even after they obtained their right to vote, because of grandfather clauses and literacy tests. Then there are the people who think this is all a political move and nothing is really going to change in Saudi Arabia.
I decided to message a friend – let’s call her Nadia – who has lived in Saudi Arabia all of her life, and ask for her insight on the matter.
Many Americans, including myself, were under the impression that, prior to this law being passed, the women in Saudi Arabia did not know how to drive. I thought that they were stuck in the house unless their husbands or brothers decided to leave. However, Nadia said that these ideas were incorrect, and she decided to clear some things up for me.
First of all, she was never stuck in her house. If she wanted to go somewhere, her family had a male driver to take her and the other female members of her household around. I’m not entirely sure how this would apply to families who could not afford a driver, but Saudi Arabia in general, and, therefore, many of its citizens are very well off.
It is also a misconception that women in Saudi Arabia do not know how to drive. Everyone in Nadia’s family knows how to drive, even her elderly grandmother! Many female members of her family actually have licenses in other countries, like the U.S. and the U.A.E.. They know how to drive! Nadia even admitted that her driver taught her how to drive around her neighborhood in Saudi Arabia!
I also thought that many members of Saudi society would continue to discourage women from getting their licenses. However, Nadia told me that her dad was encouraging her to get her license as soon as she could! He wanted her to have her license! He wanted her to drive!
Basically, most U.S. conceptions on the laws on women driving in Saudi Arabia are incorrect. Perhaps it’s because we think of Muslim women as hopeless and oppressed. Perhaps it’s because we think of Saudi Arabia as a country that constantly violates human rights. But who knows? Maybe these ideas are just more American misconceptions.
But those are questions for another time and another blog post. What do you think about these newly-obtained rights? Write it down in the comments!