The US has applauded the recent move by Saudi Arabia to both run and vote in municipal elections. This is apparently a big step forward and something that we should see as possibly transformative of a culture that has historically denied women most basic rights.
I'm sure that my view is thoroughly a product of my western upbringing. My mother worked when I was growing up, and, as a result, I somehow got the idea that her voice was as equally as important as my dad's. (In fact, on most days it seemed doubly important). But to my mind, these reforms are just another swipe of lip stick (except of course, that women in Saudi have to be thoroughly veiled and so the colour of their lips is not a topic for our conversation). Cosmetic in other words.
Women in this regime are not permitted to drive. They need the permission of a man to be able to work, travel, open a bank account, even to have surgery. I find it very difficult to imagine that in such a culture, even if a woman is allowed to vote, that she'll do so freely. Never mind that she'll have to be driven to the polls by a man. Never mind that this won't come into effect until 2015. Never mind that local governments actually do very little when all of actual power of the state resides with the king.
So we applaud. Because this is a big step forward for the little lady. Never mind that Saudi sits on the second largest oil reserves in the world. I'm sure that has nothing to do with our patience for this kind of slavery. And I'm sure it's a great comfort to the gals being driven around by their men-folk.
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