Wednesday, June 29, 2011

For Whose Own Good?

[TW: Discussion of rape culture, sexual assault]

I've been watching the debate about Saudi Arabia's ban on women drivers.

In response to one Saudi woman's online project called "We the Women," which she started in order to start a "real, public conversation" about the ban, some fellas gave their patronizing input:

"Mac Moo says:

'lol….my dear….u are goood [sic] at writing,,,[sic] but its [sic] for your own safety… women must not left alone…in islam…and thats [sic] for good of both man and women…. you know how exactly west world is…..i think the government is doing it rite [sic].'"

There we see that sense of illusory superiority that gets instilled in many men when pursuits in the public sphere serve as ginormous affirmative action program for the class of real human beings- men.

Moving on to another brilliant insight:

"Mr. Nice 2009 says:

'....not driving does not mean u r denied right, but means u r well cared of. Thank ur creator for that.'"

There we see the notion that sex apartheid is actually a benefit for women. Just like Catholicism, Saudi women are put on a pedestal that's supposed to serve as a substitute for equal rights and active, adult-sized participation in society.

In a nation where women also cannot leave their homes without male permission, are banned from voting, and must be covered in public, this is what being the sex class looks like. The men in charge cannot fathom men fathomoing women as being something other than, first and foremost, penis receptacles.

From Al Jazeera:

"There is no written Saudi law barring women from driving - only fatwas, or religious edicts, by senior clerics following a strict brand of Islam known as Wahhabism. They claim the driving ban protects against the spread of vice and temptation because women drivers would be free to leave home alone and interact with male strangers.The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers or rely on male relatives to drive. "

I guess male relatives or drivers never ever rape women.

For those who don't understand why feminists get so pissed when people engage in victim blaming and slut-shaming of women who are sexually assaulted, let me lay it out here.

The situation in Saudi Arabia is a gross exaggeration of the notion that women must restrict their lives and choices in order for them to not be raped. In the US, some people say that women shouldn't wear slutty clothes in public because doing so is like Dangling Meat In Front Of A Lion's Cage. In Saudi Arabia, the idea is the same. The onus is still on women, rather than men, with the primary difference being that the men in charge in Saudi Arabia just take away a woman's choice to dangle the meat in the first place.

The bans in Saudi Arabia are only a difference of degree, not of substance, with respect to gender essentialism at play. But make no mistake, in both societies, if a woman doesn't follow the Rules On How Not To Get Raped, she is deemed to have been acting stupidly and is at least partly to blame for her assault.

Like, how this Saudi woman was lashed and sentenced to prison after 7 men ganged raped her. Her fault? Well, she was in public with a man who was not her male relative. What else did she expect to happen?

According to these alleged truths about the inherent natures of women and men, women can't fulfill their human potential because of men and their alleged inability to control their violent sexual impulses. Yet, rather than putting restrictions on male movement in the public sphere since they are the ones who disproportionately commit violent acts, it is women whose lives, freedoms, clothing choices, and careers must be controlled, scrutinized, and limited.

All men don't have to unfairly limit their lives because of the actions of a Few Bad Apples. Instead, society gives that burden to all women.

After all, men have Important Things To Accomplish In Public Life and, well, what else is a woman for anyway, if not for a man's use?

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