By: Samantha Mintz-Agnello
On Sunday, June 24, 2018, the ban was officially lifted in Saudi Arabia that prevented women from driving, which meant that now women can drive in every nation. A main reason that this ban was lifted is due to economic implications. Currently, there is a plan of social and economic reform in Saudi Arabia, the “Vision 2030” that has been put into place over the last two years. The fact that women did not drive was hurting the workforce, as these women had to employ male drivers. While this is a monumental day for Saudi women, and this is a hopeful road to women empowerment and equality in Saudi Arabia, I cannot seem to ignore the psychological damage and the lack of power and respect that these women still endure.
Don’t get me wrong, the fact that women can now drive in Saudi Arabia is historic, important, and necessary. It seems that women are on their way to being treated humanely and equally, but there is still a lot of work to be done. First, there needs to be some way to repair the psychological gender roles put in place in Saudi Arabia. While some women have stated that they feel “free” and “relieved,” many women choose not to celebrate this historic day and drive. This is because of the conception of women in society and the boundaries and restrictions previously placed on them. They are not used to this treatment of women and school of thought; they are terrified to endure the roads by themselves. Some women truly believe they cannot and should not drive because they are a woman. To mend this way of thinking, there needs to be a change in misconceptions about women and their role. This needs to start at the government level and will hopefully trickle down into these women who do not believe in themselves. While driving is a good start, more must be done.
Furthermore, there are still many things women cannot legally do in Saudi Arabia. Women cannot “mix freely” with Saudi men, with some exceptions in places like hospitals and banks. It is laws like these that urge women to believe that they are lesser than men and that their role in society is not respected. Additionally, Saudi women must wear a full-length black abaya in public, which is done to “protect women’s modesty.” Customs like this, while there are some religious factors, are damaging to women. The lack of choice a woman has in what she wears speaks volumes to the little freedom they have in their daily lives. Lastly, men are still in charge of practically all decisions. Women are required to have an official male “guardian,” whether this be a husband, father, or even a son. The fact that children have more power than their own mothers is demonstrative of the oppression women face.
Women driving in Saudi Arabia is monumental, but this is only one small change. It should not only be celebrated, but should be a wake-up call for more reform. The stigmas and legislation need to be changed for the sake of these women and future generations. Hopefully, the ban being lifted is the first step in the road of much needed change in a truly outdated way of living.