The more I hope they change even more!
Saudi Arabia grants women right to drive – but with some bizarre conditions http://t.co/jprfDwIZPM pic.twitter.com/M7LED1uJrd
— RT (@RT_com) November 8, 2014
I'm one of those people who doesn't drive. Not because I can't or believe I shouldn't, but because I don't want to. I walk, I bike, I take public transport and feel good about doing so, about using environmentally friendlier modes of transport than using a car to get just me from A to B. Driving is not usually necessary where I live as public transport runs on a regular schedule and can get me most places.
Sometimes though, especially after being harassed on the bus or tssssk-ed at while waiting for the train or ogled while on the tram or followed home from the metro, I wish I did drive. I do not ask to be harassed. I do nothing to suggest I might want strangers to approach me. I wear a ring around a significant finger to show that I am taken, if anyone bothered to check. I am not "asking for" attention, in fact the opposite is true : I do what I can to divert attention away from me.
I am so much more than just the exterior one sees at first glance - I am a human being with a heart, soul and mind, with feelings and ideas and emotions. I love blogging and writing stories, learning about the world's people, cultures, languages and religions. I am a person, a human being with a mind of my own. I am not just a body and I very much resent being treated as nothing more than an object simply because that is what men the world over are accustomed to.
Especially after being harassed by strangers or made to fee unsafe by the actions or unwanted attention of others, I think about buying a car and how that would make me feel. I don't mean that I would see the car as a status symbol and be proud of it. I don't even mean the feeling of immense financial satisfaction buying a car - and paying for it on the spot - would give me. I am talking about the feeling of safety I would have inside a closed-off space others would have to break into to get to me. Being able to lock the doors, being able to drive away fast or honk my horn loudly, being able to simply get from A to B without strangers being able to come near enough to talk to me, make unwanted noises at me, harass me or assault me - that is the feeling I hope for. It sounds like a dream come true, to live in a world where men do not feel that they have the unalienable 'right' to objectify, harass, insult and assault me simply because I am a woman, because I dare to leave the house on my own and have the nerve to go about my own business without a male escort.
Perhaps if I lived in a country where male chaperones were the norm (like Saudi Arabia) and unaccompanied females a glaring exception, I could better understand being harassed by men when leaving the house on my own. Yet I live in The Netherlands, not in Saudi Arabia. Women are equal to men here, by law at least. There are laws against the mistreatment of people, including women and minorities. There are laws meant to protect me, a female, from the actions or inaction of others. Yet I am still harassed, assaulted, objectified.
Following lengthy campaigning on the behalf of Saudi women’s groups, the 150-member Shura Council, which is permitted to propose legislation to the King, proposed that women over the age of 30 should be allowed behind the wheel, but only until 8pm each day, and without the application of make-up, a council member told AP.
The Gulf State country of some 30 million people has no law on the books forbidding women from driving, only religious edicts supported by leading religious authorities. Muslim clerics in this Gulf State fear "licentiousness" will get out of control if women have the freedom to drive.
Source: Saudi Arabia mulls women’s right to drive - but only for over-30s ‘without make-up’RT.com | 08 November 2014
Licentiousness, according to the Oxford dictionary:
Promiscuous and unprincipled in sexual matters
Licentiousness, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary:
Lacking legal or moral restraints; especially : disregarding sexual restraints
Honestly, the idea that allowing someone like me to drive - female, over the age of thirty, someone with no interest in wearing make-up or looking 'desirable' to strange men - would lead to licentiousness is ridiculous to me. Unless the licentiousness mentioned refers to how the men of Saudi Arabia would act and behave towards women drivers, in which case I agree 100% that licentiousness needs to be curtailed severely.
As far as I'm concerned, allowing women to drive in The Netherlands means they are safe inside their own closed off cars. It means they do not get sick from standing in the cold, wind or rain while waiting for public transport. It means they do not get harassed, assaulted, insulted or spoken to by strange men. It means women are free to live their lives without having to wait for a male to go with them and protect them FROM OTHER MEN.
Yes, women being able to and allowed to drive means that women are less restricted by men and more free to go where they please, to visit family when they want to, to shop or see friends or go to work or simply take a child to hospital for a check-up. It does not mean that 'suddenly' the country's women have changed or will act differently. It simply means that they are treated as people, as human beings, as citizens, as thinking adults instead of little children. While giving women in Saudi Arabia more freedom and independence is something I very much applaud and can only agree with, I want to send a message to the government of Saudi Arabia:
Covering up your women and forcing them to stay home will not change how men think about women. Keeping women locked up as animals or covered up as if they were radioactive will not change how men think about and act towards women; will not make women safer. The only way to make driving and being in public safe for women in Saudi Arabia is to change how MEN think about women, to change how MEN treat women, is to change how MEN approach women.
While men and women are different, we are also very much the same in many things. We think, we feel, we dream, we hope, we love, we care, we laugh, we smile. Women are human just like men and wish to be treated as such, not locked up or forced to stay inside because the world is ruled by men who perpetuate the abuse and misuse of women. It is simple: Women will not be safe unless the men in this world understand that it is not 'okay' or right or good or wanted or desired behaviour or 'cool' to abuse women, to objectify women, to ogle women, to grope women, to publicly harass or assault women, to suggest indecent acts to women, to treat them as less.
I'd like to end this article with a quote from the Qur'an (Pickthal translation) to illustrate my point. The Qur'an tells both men and women to lower their gaze and be modest. I believe it is time for men to realise that Allah / God does see everything they do, that men realise that they will be held accountable for their actions, that men understand that they too need to be modest in dress and behaviour and yes, in how they treat and approach women.
024:030: Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Lo! Allah is aware of what they do.
024:031: And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to [men close to them by blood or marriage]. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed.