It’s probably part of your morning routine, like drinking coffee or taking a shower – you pick up your keys, step out the door, walk over to your car. Put the key in the ignition, adjust your rearview mirror, step on the gas, and you’re off, driving down the road, taking the kids to school or going to work or just running down the road to get some groceries.
Not a big deal at all – unless you are a woman living in Saudi Arabia. Then you are not allowed to drive. Or get a drivers license. By law. Even if your child is dying in front of you, you can’t put her in the car and drive her to the hospital yourself. You’ve got to rely on a man – your husband, brother, driver, twelve year old son. You, an adult woman of sound mind and willing spirit, are not allowed to drive.
The reasons have been many, each more irrational than the last. It isn’t safe for Saudi women to drive, the security of Saudi women is most important, the customs and traditions of the Kingdom do not allow for this. If women drive, there will be mixing of the sexes which will lead to women losing their virginity. Driving causes harm to women’s pelvises and ovaries, resulting in children born with deformities.
But today on October 26, brave Saudi women will take to the streets behind the wheels of their cars and protest against being deprived of this right. I stand in solidarity with their protest. I read reports in the news that 200 clerics went to the Royal Palace in Jeddah to complain about the protest, and I also read that the women who are going to drive today are concerned that other activists might use this day as an excuse to get out on the streets and protest for other issues. Which would be a shame because this one needs to have the most attention, and doesn’t deserve to get hijacked – at least not today.
All women must learn how to drive. It’s a life skill that has so many uses in modern life today. I’ve seen women bus drivers in China, women taxi drivers in the UK, women truck drivers in the US, women driving mopeds and scooters in Thailand and India. In Pakistan, women drive. It’s an economic necessity. Not everyone is rich enough to afford a driver.
It’s unbelievable that there’s a country which takes pride in handicapping half its population, and bragging that this is because its women are so cherished and valued that they are treated like queens and don’t have to do something as menial as driving. But the women who want to drive know that’s a whitewash on the fact that the reason they’re not allowed to drive is because the men fear the independence it gives them. A woman who can drive is a woman in control of where she’s going, not just on the road, but in life.
And to a weak man, that thought is almost too frightening to bear.