Saudi Arabia Will Finally Allow Women To Drive, But Not In The Name Of Equality

The reversal of the long-standing ban appears to serve economic interests more than those of gender equality.

Following years of attention and external pressure, Saudi Arabia has announced it will reverse the country’s ban on women drivers. The change will go into effect in June 2018 following a study and policy changes that will be required to accommodate the new drivers.

While the news marks a practical step forward in gender equality in the Arab nation, it’s not necessarily a reflection on a more progressive outlook by the country nor a new willingness to take cues from foreign social policies. In fact, the decision may largely come down to a matter of money.

In an examination of the new policy by The New York Times, a weakening economy may have been the catalyst for the decision. Amid weakening oil prices, the country is looking to put more citizens to work, and the inability to drive has sidelined many women from the workforce. Hiring drivers has proven too costly for many who would otherwise engage in lower paying jobs, leading them to forego employment.

Many reasons have been given by Saudi officials for the continued prohibition, ranging from ideological concerns stemming from the rights of women according to Shariah law and extending to concerns over a domino effect that would lead to increased promiscuity by women. More practical concerns, highlighted recently in the face of global opposition to the ban, include an inability of male drivers to focus on the road while sharing with female drivers.

The issue has long remained a talking point when citing the gender inequality issues plaguing Saudi Arabia, a trade partner of the United States, and many other Islamic nations that have adopted the same practice.

Opposition has remained steadfast since early protests, and campaigns mounted against the ban have included women taking up driving illegally, leading to the jailing of women who drive against the law.

The reversal of the ban will allow women to seek driver’s licenses without the permission of their husbands or fathers, a step away from the prevalent “guardianship” policies that give men control over the women in their families. Responses on a global level and among Saudi women have been overwhelmingly positive, at least on western social media channels.

However, many are quick to point out the prolonged battle and presumed reluctance to make such a change.

The policy is set to be carried out on June 24, 2018, following an oversight committee’s recommendations on logistical implementations in the next 30 days.

via Barry Schapiro / Twitter

The phrase "stay in your lane" is usually lobbed at celebrities who talk about politics on Twitter by people who disagree with them. People in the sports world will often get a "stick to sports" when they try to have an opinion that lies outside of the field of play.

Keep Reading

The Free the Nipple movement is trying to remove the stigma on women's breasts by making it culturally acceptable and legal for women to go topless in public. But it turns out, Free the Nipple might be fighting on the wrong front and should be focusing on freeing the nipple in a place you'd never expect. Your own home.

A woman in Utah is facing criminal charges for not wearing a shirt in her house, with prosecutors arguing that women's chests are culturally considered lewd.

Keep Reading

In August, the Recording Academy hired their first female CEO, Deborah Dugan. Ten days before the Grammys, Dugan was placed on administrative leave for misconduct allegations after a female employee said Dugan was "abusive" and created a "toxic and intolerable" work environment. However, Dugan says she was actually removed from her position for complaining to human resources about sexual harassment, pay disparities, and conflicts of interest in the award show's nomination process.

Just five days before the Grammys, Dugan filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and her claims are many. Dugan says she was paid less than former CEO Neil Portnow. In 2018, Portnow received criticism for saying women need to "step up" when only two female acts won Grammys. Portnow decided to not renew his contract shortly after. Dugan says she was also asked to hire Portnow as a consultant for $750,000 a year, which she refused to do.

Keep Reading