Women driving

women drive

It is the 18th anniversary of women protesting the ban on driving by driving through the streets of Riyadh. People keep telling me that lifting the ban will completely change things for women around here. I disagree.

I think the car sticker above explains a lot about social attitudes (I took this picture a few months ago). Look at her hair streaming behind her. A woman who drives is considered to be one who doesn’t cover- she’s free, loose, open. These are not flattering adjectives over here.

People think that lifting the ban will mean women will suddenly have access to transportation, they will be able to work etc. Well, not really. This is not a logistics issue at all. For women who need to work, they find a way. For those who want to work but are faced with “no transportation” as an excuse are dealing with exactly that, an excuse.

For one car families, the primary driver will continue to be the men. In households where the car is shared between several members of the household, the car will still rarely be available for women. For households where there is more than one car, there are also hired drivers to take women around. How many “respectable” households will allow women to drive?

What needs to change is the larger attitude about the role of women in society. The issue here is a cultural one. Once there is an acknowledgment, at a societal level, that women should VISIBLY be a contributing part of everyday life, things will change around here. If/when the ban is lifted, people should not have to worry about facing social castigation for “allowing” the women of their households to drive.

The ban on women’s driving is merely a symptom of a larger cultural issue. A band-aid solution for the symptom will not change the much bigger underlying perspectives.

previous post on traffic: https://ruhsa.wordpress.com/2008/04/27/roads/