Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Queen and the Mistresses

Upon return from a training trip to Cairo, I found myself accompanied by a young Saudi (23) in the waiting lounge. Our conversation started when he asked me if departure times were set according to Saudi or Egyptian time.

The boy was from Jeddah, pursuing his Bachelor in Alexandria. Jeddah folks are known to be frequent travelers to Egypt, while people from Riyadh tend to either LOVE Egypt or HATE it. Our conversation fell into that category: how do you like the country, where to go and how to have fun.

He told me that Egypt is the type of place you want to visit with friends, but not family. When I asked him to elaborate, he mentioned that though he didn’t drink alcohol, he enjoyed going to bars and observing people. It is hard to do that with family. Family travel is restrictive and by travelling with friends to countries like Egypt one had the choice to go where he pleases.

As the conversation lost stamina, the boy surprised me by stating, “You must be one of those who want women to drive?” The question caught me off guard, because until then I was an avid listener to him—and quite impressed by his brightness and high spirits. On the other hand, his question –stated in the form of an accusation- struck me as shallow.

“Why?” I asked him, but he didn’t answer. Instead, he said told me how demoralizing it would be to allow women to drive.
“Why?” I asked again.
“It will only lead our sisters and daughters to ruin,” he said.
“Allowing women to drive is not the same as forcing them to drive, right?” I responded but he gave me no time.
“Don’t kid me, you will all want to drive and hit the streets as you please and there will be no way to control anything anymore.”

At this point I stopped taking the conversation seriously. I realized that I was talking to a boy who is recently learning to demand personal choice and has yet to learn that with personal choice comes the responsibility of accepting the choices of other people.

Unfortunately, however, if there’s a boy who is yet to learn—remains people who have grown and progressed on so many professional levels yet when it came to defining the world there was:
- Their controlled utopia – the tamed virtuous queen which they visit on intervals.
- Their wild ride – the mistresses.

33 comments:

saudiaustralia said...

unfortunately, he is one of the majority... outwardly, u might think they are cool, but then they open their mouths and low and behold, stupidity comes pouring out. But what do u expect, that is what the religious have been preaching for years... and as he gives himself the liberty to go to bars to mix and mingle, he as you said wants to play virtuous with the queen and ****** with the mistress.

Zeyad said...

Saudi Arabian minds are so complex. Although a lot of people is getting matured and having a bit of incentive critical society,it is still in the transnational period where most of people feel lost.
And education still as silly as producing generation with no sense of respect in debating.
About this kid, i don't see this as a Saudi type action only, even western kids intend to have road trips and travel to Vegas with friends to have a bit of OUTRAGE time more than what he/she will have with family usually.
I am Speechless in the way you talk this issue through.
Thank you,

frogman said...

to be honest.. i don't know who to blame.. society? the parents? the holier-than-thou groups?

and that fact that they are so narrow-sighted to not be able to see the damage that is already there with all their "controls".

substituting teaching, tutoring and guiding your kids with brain washing, "controlling" and leaving them on a leash never helped anyone..

American Bedu said...

Your post illustrates more of the contrasts, contradictions and paradoxes of growing up in Saudi Arabia.

Ishraq said...

I really admire your patience. His kind of people make my blood boil as I try to have a normal conversation with them. They're all obsessed with one thing, and that's CONTROLLING women.. It's like the only thing that makes them feel powerful and defines their "manhood". His ass should be sent right back to where it came from!

-Peace out-

Anonymous said...

I found it interesting when the young man stated :
"how demoralizing it would be to allow women to drive.
“It will only lead our sisters and daughters to ruin,”
Each summer I'm a driver and one of the nanny's for two little girls of a very prominent Saudi family when they visit here in the US. While they're here, the female family members, single and married, dress like we do, and most of them drive themselves. Most of the time they meet with other women at malls to shop/chat, or see a movie. Exactly how is women driving demoralizing ? How will women driving lead to their ruin ? Bottom line, what it would really mean is the men would no longer be able to "control" and keep the women dependent on the men.

By keeping the men and women apart, (not natural) , requiring a male friend or male family member to be with the women outside the house, and requiring women to cover themselves from head to foot, tells me it's the men who have the problem, and can't control their urges. It's rather one standard, the men
have the freedom to move about as they please, their faces can be seen and it's ok. Yet if a women shows her face, it's a disgrace ? Women can only have one husband, but men are permitted to have more than one wife at a time if they choose. You can certainly see who wrote the rules, and who benefits, and who doesn't.
What amazes me is the women attend school, including the wealthy, knowing their destiny is marriage, kids, and go shopping. They're not allowed to contribute to society in any meaningful capacity, or hold government positions, etc. It's not like you have to be educated to be married, have children and or shop.

Bottom line, apparently the young man leads a sheltered life, as it's men who pursue the women, and who can't control their urges, thus end up ruining the women, not the other way around.

By segregating the men and women like they do, I would tend to think they would have a very high rate of gays, of course not out of the closet so to speak.

Abu Dhabi/UAE Daily Photo said...

You should have responded with this:

"You must be one of those young men that likes to go out and witness and/or experience the 'haram' aspect of life but then force your mother, sisters, and daughters to adhere to a standard that even you can't aspire to."

Coolred38 said...

I agree with Abudhabi

A nice short retort is always the best comeback....they are usually so busy trying come up with an adequate response or excuse that you can easily ignore them and get on with your life unencumbered with such narrow mindedness.

Broke Saudi said...

Following his logic, my mom has been lead to ruin, and my sister is soon to follow. I guess all that scripture my mother studied has gone to waste, because we all know how immoral it is to drive a car. Maybe it's not the thought of a woman physically driving a car that bothers them, it could be the not so hidden symbol behind that act. It's a woman driving, she's in the driver's seat, she decides when to turn, when to stop, when to go. For that moment, the driver is in complete control, and that might scare them.

I was going to blog about this, but since you kind of mentioned the issue of women and driving. I saw the most absurd thing while driving to work. It was a bumper sticker on a small pick-up truck of a woman's covered face (in black cloth of course) with a steering wheel next to it, marked by a big red X on top it. I normally would've laughed, but it hit me how sad the situation really is. Why is this even debatable? It's disturbing that we have to debate things that are considered the norm everywhere else. It's such a tired issue, that lost its controversial appeal.

Dubai Photo Story said...

Hey... just came across your blog. I love your style of writing.

i can clearly understand the situation. i have been travelling to KSA regularly and so have a first hand experience. Sooner or later sense will prevail.

beejay™ said...

typical, stereotyped, shallow, narrow-minded idiot.. its sad to say that he speaks for thousands of others out there, even men from my own distended family. n honestly, the only reason a guy like that thinks we will "ruin" or whatever is bec HE is familiar with the way it is in HIS social circle or personal behavior & so he is quick to judge that every other girl out there is going to ABUSE her freedom the way he is abusing his.
u were brave and impressive in the way u handled and talked through this situation as i find it exceeeeeeeeeedingly difficult to control my temper & have a normal conversation with such ppl. i know i should learn to control my anger but one more shallow controlling stereotyped freak and i'll....

gal esh gal DEMORALIZING.. !!

if i wanted to "ruin" i wouldnt need no damn car to do so. i just would..
they freakin frustrate me! its just like the internet, the mobiles, the bluetooth..technology is supposed to make our lives EASIER and fun..but no. they just use and ABUSE things then have the nerve to say we will "RUIN"..

Susanne said...

Abu Dhabi's reply was great! So true!

Interesting post.

Lawrence of Arabia said...

i am just repeating Abu Dhabi's comment...

But I think I saw this young man's photo in the dictionary right beside "irony"...

...or maybe it was "hypocrisy".

LoA.

p.s. hope you enjoyed Cairo

L.I.Riyadh© said...

I have had the same conversation with my cousins... My cousin later admitted that he did not want his mom or sister (or myself= I have been driving since he was a little child!!!) driving around and seeing what he does while out... he felt better knowing his 'women' were at home and not keeping an eye on him...

In a nutshell, this is what they were taught from their childhood.... they have grown up to be immature adolescents, that truly believe they are 'educated'... I think not... I just think they need to grow up (mentally)... we will be driving alongside them soon enough! *enshallah*

Great topic!

Nani_37 said...

Well, the undeniable fact of not having any brain cells working to control some people's tongues is what you had experienced while conversing with that young man. I believe that, not once, has he thought about what he's been told by different people through out his life, since you can see the obvious contradiction in his principles.
The main problem is, quite contrary to what a number of people think, the fact that people like him actually need laws to restrain members of their families from doing "immoral" things, which only shows how weak are they're reasons, since they know for a fact that they can't even convince them with, not what they believe is right, but what they want things to be like.
Another thing that is weird, is them wanting not only to control their own houses, but to expand their influences on other people. And just like you said, they don't understand that being able to do it doesn't mean everybody has to. It's just sickening how some minds function.

American Muslima Writer said...

Sad....just sad... i agree with Photo: quick tart answert taht will leave him thinking.....

Anonymous said...

little prick...
a libertine AND a social-hypocrat ?
regrettably, these are no rare breed...

as usual, my homeland never ceases to display numerous examples of bourgeois-rabble with notions of education and sophistication, while being excessively noxious...

betty said...

Since KSA is so close to the UAE with its western ways and women drivers, do those of you in the kingdom think that these kind of people there notice how vastly different life is for women just the next country over? If so, what do they think of it being so close to them? And, how do they feel about the fact that they are in the only place in the world that places such controlling restrictive laws on women? Do they ever consider how other people view the issues? just curious.

betty said...

also, do these people ever consider that these laws might make their daughters and sisters unhappy but that maybe they are too scared to let anyone know?

Aafke said...

I must admit though... as a driving woman... Sometimes, when driving to my family-meeting or whatever, I get the impulse to just drive on.. to Paris or someplace exciting!
My car, my tank full of diesel, my music, an empty highway at night... It does give me a wonderful feeling of excitement and freedom!
Which misogynist male wouldn't want to destroy that?

[Sheikah] said...

I stumbled across this blog after a BBCnews.com article featured it. I'm pretty impressed and rather like your style of writing ^^

Having lived in Saudi Arabia during my high school years, I was unable to get my driver's permit, or even lessons from my parents, because of that....so I feel a little behind with my fellow students at university.

I've heard arguments such as this little boy's many many times when I was living there. All this nonsense about how it's haram for women to drive around (because apparently we're all sex-crazed freaks who'll pounce on any man that we first come upon!) and we'll associate ourselves with males who're not related to us.
I always retort to this argument with by saying "I'm sorry, but since we're not allowed to drive, we're forced to depend on hired drivers to take us around. Hired male drivers. Men. Men who are not related to us. Men with whom we're stuck in a car with. So....that's better how?"

I've yet to receive a reply, the conversation would always "conveniently" switch to another topic *slaps forehead*

Anonymous said...

The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.

Albert Camus

Enjoy Cheers!

amenah said...

saying this is a little bit upset me , but I have to, many women not only men, believe in "ruin of driving " which effect only on saudi women .
in the same time they admit that the prohibition not make us an angel or the Drive things make women over the world more, [hmmm how I can say "khala3ah" in English?] indecent? .

paradox

ZvJw4Npiz9CWG_Wt.em2owvhKIgo8Xb75jfcOqk- said...

Hello,

What is the word in Arabic that you translated as "children (dependents)" ? If you mean "I3yaal", I think that comes from 3aa2illa, which means family, and that I3yaal means family members (slang).

In that case it would be appropriate to ask someone "How's your family?" (literally, "How are your family members?") ..

And also it is safer, because, right or wrong, some persons might take it the wrong way if you ask them "How is your wife/Aysha?"(or if you use a nickname, like "How is Lulu/Susu?" :-D ) and think that you know their wife or like their wife or are being intrusive or something...

I agree with your post in general, I just am not sure that saying "keef al-i3yaal ?" is usually intended to say anything about the status of a woman

ZvJw4Npiz9CWG_Wt.em2owvhKIgo8Xb75jfcOqk- said...

sorry, my last comment was intended for the "Religiousness as an Empowerment to Saudi Women" Post.

By the way, I found you from the article with profiles about saudi bloggers. Congrats!

Rana said...

Amazing how dirty do men think of women!! as if women are mistresses who are waiting for driving to get out of the house and start rocking and rolling..

nice article with great easy english.

Susie of Arabia said...

That this nincompoop doesn't realize the hypocrisy of his words is so frustrating. This male dominated society seems so ignorant with its "eagertesticle" control issues on women. Saudi women need to raise their sons from an early age to be more in tune with the freedoms men take for granted yet women are denied.

Susie of Arabia said...

That this nincompoop doesn't realize the hypocrisy of his words is so frustrating. This male dominated society seems so ignorant with its "eagertesticle" control issues on women. Saudi women need to raise their sons from an early age to be more in tune with the freedoms men take for granted yet women are denied.

Jewaira said...

He is not alone in his way of thinking. It is not unusual to have double standards.

I think in such encounters, it is best to use the situation to enlighten the person and to provoke them into thought by leaving a lasting impression.

You were meant to meet him. You had a chance to influence someone upfront.

Change is never easy.

Talal said...

Actually the situation is much worse.
I leave you with this Video Clip, that i received praising Saudi youths.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Banic3JVGgs

carol said...

This Boy sounds like, a 50 years old man who is set in his own ways. But what does his maleness deem a family vacation it is a double standard but i can't even put word to it he sounds like an old man he sounds exactly like an old fart

Anonymous said...

Your comments instantly bring to mind the brilliant work of Naguib Mahfouz. For those who have not read his work, I cannot highly enough recommend them, especially his novel trilogy.

Since these novels are set in Egypt, I would offer the suggestion that these mindsets are not unique to the Kingdom, but are also found elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

The most important idea in the coversation does not involve driving or sex. Instead, the man's words, “Don’t kid me, you [women] will all want to drive and hit the streets as you please and there will be no way to control anything anymore,” clearly explains the real issue. The real issue is control. Restrictions based on race or gender are designed to control that part of society.