Women 2 Drive

Sometime back, there was a lot of hoopla about women driving in Saudi Arabia.  Things have quieted down considerably but that doesn’t mean that the debate hasn’t continued.  As a female expat, I’ve been on the fence about the issue ever since I first learned about it.  Let’s get one thing out of the way, the debate no matter what people say, is not a religious one.  It is completely cultural, if we can call it that. There is no verse in the Qur’an and no hadeeth from the sunnah that says that women are not permitted to drive.  If I am wrong, I invite anyone to show me otherwise.

When I first came to Saudi Arabia six years ago, I didn’t care much about not being able to drive even though I’ve been driving since I was 16 years old.  I didn’t know anyone and there weren’t that many places to go here in Yanbu, so I wasn’t in a hurry to drive.  Then there was the arcade game people refer to as “driving.”  A video game is the only other place people can drive like that and get away with it.  For example, you rarely see people use signals.  The no U-Turn sign is apparently a challenge because no one adheres to it.  Red light?  I laugh at your feeble attempts to stop me.  And before the light turns green, people start driving and are so impatient they beep their horns because the cars in front of them are still stopped.  And don’t get me started on the lines on the road.  What are these “things” and why can’t I seem to stay in between them?  So I thought, why would I want to share the road with these people?  A road I must also share with kids that need a step stool to get in the car and sit on a pillow so they can see over the dashboard.  So, for a good while I was in no hurry to drive.

But, let’s think about what they say about women driving.  There are those who say that if women drive, it’ll promote and/or facilitate immorality.  That is one of the silliest things I’ve ever heard.  Do they think that women riding in the car with complete strangers promotes morality?  How can men feel comfortable ultimately handing their women over to strange men?  I am not a child and I actually had a driver propose to me.  What the….?  He had to be fired.  Anyway, the potential for immorality is more likely in these situations than if women were driving themselves.  Twice I’ve gotten in a car with a driver who was also driving others and I saw the same girl, if I can call her that, uncovered and obviously smoking.  If her mother could drive her, would she be so quick to uncover and light up a cigarette?  I think not.  At the end of the day, where there’s a will, there’s a way.  If someone wants to do something, no matter how many restrictions and roadblocks you put up, he/she will find a way to do it.

Considering these things, I started leaning toward wanting to drive while I’m here in KSA.  I got sick of waiting, and I’m still waiting.  Husbands, fathers, brothers, drivers, etc., are in complete control.  We are dependent on them for simple things that don’t require a man.  I always think about being home in the US and not having to ask anyone to take me anywhere, not having to wait to go somewhere.  I get in the car and go.  I don’t want to have to beg to go get groceries.  I don’t want to beg to have someone take me to a friend’s.  And I shouldn’t have to.  I want to drive.  Am I scared of the idea?  Absolutely!  With all the car accidents and some sick men out there, it is frightening.  But how long can this last?  At some point, things have to change.  That’s just life.  I hope to see the day when women can safely drive in Saudi Arabia with confidence.

What do you think?

4 Comments

  1. I have a somewhat similar experience here in Japan – or at least a similar deprivation. In the States, driving was a convenience (and often a necessity) that was ever-present for me. But here I’m unable to drive unless I shell out like $3000 for a driver’s-ed class (a concept that strikes me as funny because, guesstimating conservatively, I’ve already driven about 750,000 miles in my short, fabulous life), and, of course, risk having an entirely weird series of confusions were I ever to be pulled over for something…..

    The difference, of course, is that I *can* drive here. I mean, legal hoops having been jumped thru, it would be entirely permissible. Among my rights is the ability, if I so decide, to acquire a license and a vehicle. So the similarities are surface-only. I can sympathize with the inconvenience and its frustrations, but I cannot fathom being legally (or religiously, or culturally) bared because of my sex from an activity that has nothing to do with one’s sex. Here’s where being the pampered child of American privilege fails: the concept is alien to me; it seems absurd to me; I can’t wrap my head around it. Why should any group (aside from pubescent boys, and the very old, both for reasons of safety, maybe) be disallowed to drive?

    I’m genuinely curious what the mindset is. If, as you said, there’s no religious stricture against dames in lanes (I was looking for a better rhyme…), then what’s the reason? Is it, as it appears from outside, just the result of sexism? How do women in KSA feel about it? 

    You went and made me curious, is what you did….

    1. Dames in lanes, lol. I like that. To be honest, I don’t know what it is exactly. I can’t speak for the people but I suspect it has a lot to do with male chauvinism. Not a whole lot makes sense other than that. Some men, perhaps fathers and husbands may be genuinely afraid for their wives and daughters. As for women, I know some on both sides of the fence. Some don’t want to drive but hope that someday they can have a female driver while others definitely want to see the law overturned. I hope that someone else will comment and give you more insight.

  2. Wow! These lines speak me.. Though i’m saudi lol. Really, we need to drive. I spent 5 horrible years suffering with drivers. The problem is when some women say:” thank Allah that u r like a queen” .. ExCuse me: queen? Wth.. i go to college 2 hours before my lecture and stay for 2 hours after the lecture because i can’t drive .. Well, do i look like a queen at that time.. I don’t think so. I hope sick minds will be Vanished one day :/.

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