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The SheHawk: Saudi women finally allowed behind the wheel

Veronica Wernicke, Staff Writer

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Veronica Wernicke is a freshman at UNCW majoring in Communication Studies and is a staff writer for The Seahawk. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Veronica Wernicke may be found on Twitter @itsveronica98. All suggestions and inquires may be sent via email to [email protected]

Women and women’s rights activists are celebrating for their fellow ladies in Saudi Arabia. After fighting 30 years for a right as simple as driving, women in Saudi Arabia have finally been given that right. Women in Saudi Arabia, up until a few short weeks ago, lived a reality where they weren’t permitted to drive. This new policy, which will finally allow Saudi Arabian women the right to drive, will go into place in June 2018, according to a New York Times article.

The reason for the large gap between the announcement and the actual policy going into effect, according to a The Verge article, is to give the country adequate time to both teach women how to drive and teach men how to interact with the women drivers — because seeing women driving is such a shock that you need to be trained how to handle it. Now that’s a good one, because in a feminist issue like this we can’t forget the men. To clarify, women were never legally not allowed to drive, but in fact they were just never issued driver’s licenses consistently by local authorities, according to a The Week article. If women were caught driving or protesting against this policy, they would be thrown in jail.

Ridiculous arguments made in favor of the ban on women driving — according to a New York Times article — include, it’s inappropriate, men wouldn’t know how to handle it, it would lead to promiscuity and that it would harm women’s ovaries. Okay that last one made me spit my water out at the sheer invalidity of points this argument was trying to make.

The process to remove this absurd ban took many years of protest among other factors like drop in oil prices, change in the economy, obstacles women faced in the workplace and finally, after 30 years, a royal decree was made announcing the revoking of the ban.

For those that aren’t aware, Saudi Arabia is very restrictive in their rights given to women. In fact — according to the same The Week article — women in Saudi Arabia women can’t wear anything that shows off their beauty, can’t interact or mingle with men outside of their family for too long, go swimming, compete in sports, try on any clothes they see when shopping, and the one I found most absurd was that they aren’t able to make “big decisions” without the permission of a male.

There are many claims about why Saudi Arabia is so restrictive to its women citizens, including religion and economic reasonings. In a Washington Post article, the author mentions how Saudi Arabia was established as an absolute monarchy and that their legal system is based around a strong interpretation — actually one of the strongest interpretation of Islamic laws — of sharia law. The sharia law is actually based around Islamic religious practices which aren’t very supportive of women, claiming they are minors and that their place is at the home, whereas men are in the outside world, according to an LA Times article. Due to this unsupportive view on women, most of these restrictions towards them are actually based social laws and not actual laws themselves, because religion is such a huge part of their lives.

I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that in 2017 we are still facing issues like women’s equal rights — amongst other pertinent equal rights issues — around the world. What is wrong with our world that we still have people who don’t want to give others the same rights as them just because they’re different? I mean we are all human here! Why is that a topic and idea that some people don’t understand?

Although, as a 19-year-old American woman living in 2017, I relish in the fact that I am able to make whatever decisions I want to make. I also cherish the fact I don’t need anyone’s permission, because I definitely know some men that don’t make smart decisions; so what gives them the right to make decisions for women? Also, up until 2015 women in Saudi Arabia weren’t allowed to vote or stand in as candidates in elections, according to the same The Week article. Again, as a young women growing up in America, I can’t fathom the idea of not being able to do something as simple as go swimming or trying on something cute I saw at the store, because Lord knows I’ve seen cute clothes but when I try them on they lose all their cuteness.

In terms of the feminist movement in Saudi Arabia, this new policy change is so huge and such a big deal for them. They waited long enough for this removal of the policy and this news will only empower them to get rid of all the other restrictive policies and laws they face. Hell, this even empowers me, and it should you as well because it shows that protesting and standing up for what you believe in and your rights actually does make a difference.

When I saw the news break about this women’s right, I saw it as a huge breakthrough for those women, and hopefully as a domino effect for more freedoms, like the ones listed above. Also, to all those reading this, I hope you take away and appreciate all the rights and freedoms we have here in America not just as women, but as society as a whole.

Although we aren’t perfect in terms of equal women’s rights, we are still way farther along than repressive countries like Saudi Arabia. Even though Saudi Arabian women are happy about this new freedom, they are still pushing for more and ultimately equal rights to their male counterparts, which they obviously more than deserve.

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The SheHawk: Saudi women finally allowed behind the wheel