Saudi women can drive but have a long way to go

Jerry Waters, Contributor

It’s beyond comprehension that the other day was historic because Saudi Arabia’s king finally decided to let women drive automobiles. Until the royal decree becomes effective in a few months, Saudi Arabia will still hold the ignoble distinction of being the only country in the world where women are prohibited from driving. Check your iPhone X and tell me what year this again…

Before you start celebrating a huge victory for women’s equality, it’s critical to note that women are still undoubtedly second-class citizens in that country. Saudi women still must adhere to a strict dress code and aren’t allowed to make their own decisions. They may soon be able to drive, but they have an incredibly long road to travel before they achieve anything remotely resembling equality.

The country’s conservative Wahhabi Muslim establishment is not at all happy about this blow to patriarchy and they see this as a sign that country is about to become a sin-filled Hell hole. They said the same thing in the past about educating women and letting women watch television. To them, women will be driving on the highway to Hell.

Hearing this news really put the issues that women in America face into sharp focus. In the US, we are still dealing with pay inequality and women’s healthcare issues. Although we are not as oppressive as the Saudis, we’re still a patriarchal society. American oppression just takes more subtle forms. Look at how we treat women in business and politics. Look at all the double standards we have that are embedded in our culture.

Yet, Americans love to believe that they are so much more advanced. It wasn’t really that long ago in the history of our nation that women fought men for their right to vote. We never quite could pass an Equal Rights Amendment. Although Obama was able to pass the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Trump is doing everything he can to try to tear it down. Abortion may be legally a woman’s choice, but with all the restrictions imposed by states, good luck finding a clinic or insurance to cover the procedure. Women still don’t have equal representation in any level of our government. Only a sparse handful are CEOs.

Women are routinely discriminated against in America, but we like to pretend that we’re past all that now. Just like having a black president made racism magically disappear.

Globally, young girls are forced into sex or marriage every single day. They are tortured and abused and sold. In some countries, women who have been raped are stoned to death or murdered by family members in “honor” killings.  The ones who aren’t killed often end up disfigured or seriously injured for life.

So, let’s not spend a bunch of time congratulating an asshole king for deciding that women could finally be allowed to drive. Don’t pop the champagne corks thinking that this means that radical reforms in religion and government are coming rapidly to usher in an unprecedented age of equality for women around the world. The Saudi king took a baby step and it’s a very small step in the right direction. But let’s be real, it’s unbelievably overdue and it’s miniscule when compared to all the other changes that will have to be made for women to have true freedom and liberty in that country.

Here in the US, we’re electing misogynist clowns like Trump who will do everything in their power to roll back all of the progress women have fought for and won. Make no mistake, there is a real war against women.

Soon, Saudi women will be driving and that’s a great thing. Let’s not lose sight of the goal and let’s remember how much further we have to go. We’re still not anywhere close to where we need to be.

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