And does it damn well. Take note, misogynistic Saudi sheikhs...
Like hundreds of thousands of Arab women, I drove to work today. Living in Cairo, there are many downsides to this. I could list the ways a simple commute turns into a living nightmare in this city, but many already have. Instead, I’m going to list the things that did not pose a challenge to me on my drive:
1. My ovaries.
The internet is ablaze with news of Saudi Arabian Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Luhaydan’s outlandish comments that driving can cause physical damage to a woman’s pelvis and ovaries and, basically, that Saudi Arabian woman should give up hope of one day being allowed to drive. "That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees," continued the cleric, who allegedly has a background in medicine but did not cite any scientific sources. Because there are none.
This comes off the back of news that a civil disobedience campaign launched by female Saudi activists was quickly squashed by the authorities, banning the movement’s website which calls for women to defy the driving ban on the 26th of October. This is just one in a series of campaigns that have failed to be executed in a country notorious for gender inequality, but I’ll leave the feminist rant to the feminists. Though it makes me cringe to my very core that some conservative cleric is thinking about my pelvic area, I’ve got a few things to say to al-Luhaydan (unless having an opinion compromises my abilities as a baby-carrying, food-cooking, home-cleaning vessel of subordination, too).
Since you’re so considerate of women’s health, dear Sheikh, how about we go back to basics? Having ovaries means I’m a woman. Being a woman means I’m better at multitasking than my testicle-wielding counterparts. Now, I know your hands have probably rarely touched a steering wheel – chauffeurs are a dime a dozen in a Kingdom that imports its working class – but that’s a pretty important skill to have when manoeuvring a vehicle. It might come as a surprise to someone who clearly knows nothing about driving but it was in fact a woman that was the first person in history to pass a driving test. It was also a woman who was the first to circumnavigate the globe by car all the way back in 1927 and humanity still prospered. Speaking of human prosperity, who else is going to one day pick up my “children with clinical problems of varying degrees,” if I can’t drive?
A country that is so concerned with preserving female life that they bundle women up in bubblewrap burkas and put them on a pedestal so high, they can barely touch the ground and, you know, lead a normal life, Saudi Arabia should probably take equality more seriously and look out for their men for once. Guess what Sheikh? Your kingdom of male-only drivers has one of the highest road accident rates in the world. In 2012, more people were killed on your streets than in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. By 2014, it’s estimated there’ll be one death per hour as a result of road accidents (read: as a result of male drivers) on Saudi’s roads. On the other hand, ovary-bearers across the world have statistically been involved in 50% less accidents than men, while consistently racking up much fewer traffic violations in general.
I know what you’re really worried about, Sheikh. You’re worried that our uncontrollable feminine wiles will cause havoc on your streets. You’re worried that the first place a woman will go when afforded the great privilege of driving a car is straight to a street corner; her damaged pelvis magnetised to the perfect pelvises of your country’s noble men. I think every woman driving in Egypt will agree when I say that female intuition reigns supreme on the road – I can tell if a male driver is going to harass me long before he even notices me. I know to lock my doors before pedestrians catch wind of the often quick and sometimes dangerous change in mood in our turbulent atmosphere. Better yet, my ovaries help me speed through traffic checkpoints and random stop-and-searches, while my male equivalents (of course I use that term loosely) are subjected to intense questioning and pedantic checks. Just saying.
What you really should be worried about is, if and when Saudi Arabia steps out of the stone age and allows women to drive, the serious cases of road rage that will result from decades of oppression. In this day and age, when Saudi Arabian women are robbing banks and making movies, you better believe they’ll have something to say as soon as they’re allowed to say it. But I guess that’s what you get when you spend more time thinking about women’s ovaries than men’s brains.