At the close of the 2012 election cycle earlier this month, the rhetoric about women in the United States had become one of the hottest topics to ever be discussed in American politics. Accusations that the Republicans have, for years, been waging a “War on Women” by fighting for the life of the unborn, by suggesting that women take responsibility for paying for their own various methods of contraception, and a variety of other suggestions that women exercise just a shred of personal responsibility have–frankly–infuriated me and left me wondering what planet I’m living on.
I mean, seriously. I read the news, and I would hope many women my age do so–if for no other reason, just to stay informed and be able to sound relatively intelligent when having a discussion on current events. I’ve taken particular interest in recent months– given the shrieking of women on the left with regard to inequality and this supposed “war” we’re facing–in studying about women in the Middle East, and gaining a true picture of what real oppression actually looks like.
It doesn’t take one long, with a computer and some basic computer skills, to do a quick Google search on the topic. I challenge you to try it, I think you’d find the results both shocking and infuriating. And, once you begin to read, you may find yourself contemplating the fact that many American women sound more like a bunch of spoiled rotten brats than women who are blessed to live in a free country, and given treatment that is equal to–if not in excess of–that of our male counterparts.
You can imagine my lack of surprise, then, when I learned yesterday that women in Saudi Arabia cannot leave their own country without presenting written permission from a male “guardian,” (that’s nothing new) and that the male “guardian” now receives a text message when his woman decides to travel abroad. “Apparently, as a Saudi woman, I don’t even deserve the simplest of rights like the right to privacy,” Safa Alahmad, a freelance journalist and filmmaker told the Guardian last week. “The core issue remains the same. Saudi women are viewed and treated as minors by the Saudi government. A text message doesn’t change that. It’s just adding insult to injury.”
It’s no secret that women in Saudi Arabia are some of the most oppressed women in the world, but I wonder how many American women realize just how oppressed these women are? In America, I’m able to come and go as I please, driving my own car if I’m fortunate enough to own one. In Saudi Arabia, a woman isn’t permitted to drive a car because that would require her to uncover her face, possibly lead to her leaving the house more often, lead her to have more interaction with males, deprive young men of the opportunity to drive and an “erosion to traditional values.” In America, I am permitted to work pretty much any job I please, should I so choose. In Saudi Arabia, a woman can only work if she has permission from her male “guardian.” In America, I’m permitted to get into my car and go wherever I please. In Saudi Arabia, a woman isn’t permitted to travel alone, and if she does travel, it must be with the permission of her guardian. In America, I have the right to vote for whomever I please. In Saudi Arabia, women aren’t yet allowed to vote (although King Abdullah has declared that women will be allowed to vote starting in 2015). As an American woman, I’m permitted to wear whatever I please. In Saudi Arabia, a woman must cover her entire body except her face and hands. In some regions, only the hands and eyes may be left uncovered. In America, women and men are able to join together in whatever capacity they so choose. In Saudi Arabia, sex segregation in public is a must–in fact, if you want to read something that’ll really knock your socks off, go read about a topic called “breast milk kinship”. While women in Saudi Arabia are now allowed to receive an education, many believe the education that women are given is inferior to that provided to Saudi men.
Clearly, Saudi women know what oppression looks like, and this latest stunt leaves many wondering how long it will be before they are imprinted with a barcode or a microchip so that they can be tracked even more easily. Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, those of us who are fortunate enough to call ourselves American will go about our busy lives, many complaining incessantly about oppression who know nothing about what the real “war on women” actually looks like.
Written by Tami Nantz