Today in my International Politics class, we were talking about human rights and foreign policy. In conjunction with this lesson, my professor showed a video in class of a BBC news story. We didn’t finish it, but the 8 minutes I saw of it was enough to get me fired up. The woman, Sue Lloyd-Roberts from the BBC, before traveling to Saudi Arabia, had to go and buy a special all black robe, called an abaya, just so she could walk around in Saudi Arabia. The video is worth watching, but essentially Lloyd-Roberts goes to a shopping mall with a woman who is trying to organize a revolution in retail, where women are forbidden to work. Except for in radio and TV, women are not allowed to work side by side with men. When Lloyd-Roberts and the woman went into the store, the male shopkeeper wouldn’t allow the male BBC cameraman to come into the store. There are strict rules about men touching women who are not somehow related to them. The contradiction continues as Lloyd-Roberts said she needed to buy a bra and get fitted and the only people who worked there were men. For some reason, they could still help fit her.
One of the arguments for why women shouldn’t be able to work side by side with men is that they are unable to drive. That is another part of the strict law. Women can only be driven by male relatives to and from work, so for many women this just isn’t possible. On top of that, women must get the permission of their male guardian (either their husband, father or brother) to work at all.
Later on in the video, Lloyd-Roberts meets up with a different woman who works as a volunteer social worker in the poorer part of the city. The women who live there do not have male guardians (for many different reasons). Because of this, they cannot do anything. The BBC report showed a women who was incredibly sick, suffering from Diabetes with no medicine because she didn’t have a male guardian to go and turn in the proper paperwork in order for her to get the medication she needed.
Now you might think that the reason I’m writing this post is to go on some feminist rage (if you think that, though, you clearly don’t know me). I walked away from this news report incredibly upset. How can this be happening in this day and age? Then, all I could think about is how lucky I am to live in the United States of America. However, it seems that many of my more vocal fellow ladies of the States don’t agree. In fact, all the time you hear people screaming about the Republican Party’s “War on Women.” The ACLU defines the War on Women by saying it is a series of restrictive policies that cut back women’s “rights.” These restrictions on “rights” detailed in the ACLU’s list are numerous, such as not having their birth control paid for by someone else, funding cut for a government organization that kills babies, waging taxes on the murder of babies, and mandating a waiting period for women to think about whether or not they want to terminate the life of their child.
Seeing that list of the “rights” that are being “taken away” from women seems petty when you compare the lives of women in Saudi Arabia. These women CANNOT DRIVE. They cannot do ANYTHING without the permission of their MALE GUARDIAN. They cannot work alongside males. They are not even given the decency of getting fitted for intimate wear by someone of their own gender! They are mandated to walk around in an abaya, a full length black robe, so they will not get arrested by the MORALITY POLICE.
So the next time you hear someone claim there is a “War on Women” in America, give them a good slap upside the head for me. Or at the very least, educate them on the struggles of women around the world. Maybe if we could stop being self-centered for 30 seconds, we could help the women around the world who are REALLY being oppressed.