In World War II and post-war U.S. “women drivers” jokes were all the rage, a stereotypical joke form that has long since died. But in Saudia Arabia attitudes towards women drivers — and women driving — is no joke. And women there are doing something about it:
Women in Saudi Arabia have been openly driving cars in defiance of an official ban on female drivers in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
The direct action has been organised on social network sites, where women have been posting images and videos of themselves behind the wheel.
The Women2Drive Facebook page said the direct action would continue until a royal decree reversed the ban.
Last month, a woman was arrested after uploading a video of herself driving.
Manal al-Sherif was accused of “besmirching the kingdom’s reputation abroad and stirring up public opinion”, but was released after 10 days having promised not to drive again.
“All that we need is to run our errands without depending on drivers,” said one woman in the first film posted in the early hours of Friday morning.
The film showed the unnamed woman talking as she drove to a supermarket and parking.
“It is not out of love for driving or traffic or the experience. All this is about is that if I wanted to go to work, I can go. If I needed something I can go and get it.
“I think that society is ready to welcome us.”
Another protester said she drove around the streets of Riyadh for 45 minutes “to make a point”.
“I took it directly to the streets of the capital,” said Maha al-Qahtani, a computer specialist at the Ministry of Education.
Here’s an excellent CNN report on this story:
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.