The above painting was painted in September of 2015. It represents the male-dominant society in Saudi Arabia. It’s upside down for the symbolism. (that I would love for you to share with me)
Before you read, put in mind that this is a personal blog! It is not meant to be treated as a consensus opinion or representing anyone but myself.
Back in September of 2015, I was going through a reverse cultural shock. I went back – for what I thought would be – forever, after I graduated from the University of San Francisco. What also confirmed the eternity was when I landed an awesome job in Jeddah at the University of Business and Technology as an English Language Lecturer.
I started going through depression comparing the life I used to have in San Francisco with the one I had in Jeddah. The slightest freedom I had as a woman in SF compared to the limitations I faced in Saudi Arabia. Buying a cup of coffee in the morning, for instance vs. having to ask for permission to go out! Go figure!
Though I never learned how to drive in SF, but going around the city was so easy. I either walked or used a very efficient public transportation system. I swear it made me feel like I am valued as a human being who wanted to move from point A to point B! It was never about being a woman, it was always about being a human being who their time and lives mattered. Because even the men of my country in SF rarely drove. They also used public transportations or bikes! They’re so reliable, you can’t begin to imagine it if you haven’t tried it yourself! In Jeddah, the fact that I had to, daily, figure out who would take me to work, who would take my mother and other sisters, the fact that I had to Uber most of the time back home because I only have one father, one brother and one driver. Those facts were depressing to realize! Can you imagine how unfair it is for women who don’t have a man in their families or can’t afford a driver? I can’t even begin stating the horrors they face of missing work days or being significantly late to work, or not work at all!
Driving a car was the least of my worries as a person when I think about other rights that are taken away. I am not saying that some rights are more important than others, or arguing that we, as people, shouldn’t fight that fight! I am only trying to direct your attention to another struggle I faced as a 27 year old woman, an adult, in 2015 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. A woman who is separated from the man she loved, but to fly to him to visit, she had to get a consent of a male guardian. I will not talk about the guardianship system in Saudi Arabia, because that was not a problem to me as much as the social burden that came with it was. The system as it is today allowed me as a woman to travel whenever I wanted because I was given the permission to, with no conditions. The social burden is that I still couldn’t. The system conditioned me as a woman to still consider the male’s word even though I have the consent from my father. As a woman I will never be allowed to speak up about my wish to visit “my boyfriend” of the time! As a society, I would have been condemned as a dishonorable woman. My father, although the sweetest father ever, is still abiding by the rules of society! I can never ask him to do otherwise. It is the only thing he knows how to live by. I guess what I am trying to say is those unjust laws of the guardianship don’t only have implications because they exist! The implications of those laws will not vanish once they vanish. People were conditioned for decades and will still be conditioned because of them. They will still think women are second class citizens. They will still continue believing that they are less competent. It is why we don’t have to only fight the law system but also a whole belief system!
I am sharing my experience, though a lot will think that what I went through is so trivial. Trivial but to me was so huge. I felt helpless. I felt abused. I felt that I am in fault of being a female, let alone to those who have it way worse than I ever did. What about those who are denied careers and education, just because they’re women? What about those who are denied divorce just because they’re women? What about those who are raped because they’re wives! Those women who are physically abused but forced back into their abusive families! What about those who were married just because they have vaginas, regardless of their age? Why do they have to go through all this? What about those who can’t afford drivers? But yet they can’t drive themselves just because they’re women? Saudi Arabia, you didn’t even provide them with an affordable efficient alternative! What about those women who needed abortion? Who needed groceries? Who needed to live through the necessities of everyday life but couldn’t just because they were born females?
I was blessed with a great family. I was blessed with an awesome dad and an awesome brother. I don’t have to mention how they also had to fight their own fights within society, but most women weren’t, most women aren’t.
I love my homeland to the moon and back. I would die for my homeland a thousand times. All I need from my homeland is to be just towards the other half that makes up half of its population! Saudi Arabia, you’re going to the right direction, I believe. Just go there faster Saudis. Go there faster!