The diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment.
In Memory of the lives of 15 Makkah Schoolgirls, lost when their school burnt down on Monday, 11th March, 2002. The Religious Police would not allow them to leave the building, nor allow the Firemen to enter.
"Every man who is high up loves to think that he has done it all himself; and the wife smiles, and lets it go at that. It's our only joke."
So speaks the knowing wife, in J.M.Barrie's play of that name. Written in England in 1908, it preceded the Women's vote. It tells of a time when women were powerful in the home, but not in society at large.
It took the efforts of thousands and thousands of women like Emily Pankhurst here, and on both sides of the Atlantic, to get the vote. They knew that no-one was going to hand power over to them. The sad lesson of human progress is that nobody gives away power for free, it has to be taken.
I mention this because of a discussion that has been going on in the Comments section, about how Saudi women can achieve real power, to be able to drive, to wear what they like, have equal rights in marriage, the list goes on.
I think the discussion was prompted by this young Saudi woman
, who had been denied her internet rights by her caring male relatives. It's nice to be able to report that she's back online
although her language is still as ripe, but who can blame her....It seems that the dickless dicks have had a change of heart and I've been granted internet access. Nonetheless, they are still dickless dicks as far as I'm concerned, because this filthy country makes damn sure that the ball is always in their f*cking court.
....and not only that, it looks as though one of her own gender is causing her problems
....UV: Who are you talking to, day and night?Me: huh?UV: Your mobile!Me: What about it?UV: Why is it ringing ALL THE TIME? WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO?Me: Who do you think I’m talking to?!UV: I don’t know. You tell me!Me: It’s none of your God damn business!And with that I walked off; ignoring her excruciating screaming.So now my phone’s being threatened. This is the bullcrap that I have to bloody endure. I’m 23 for f*ck sake. It does not concern ANYONE who the hell I’m talking to on the phone.
If every Saudi woman were like her, the streets would be buzzing with women driving to each others' houses, shops, schools and of course the places where they work, wearing bright clothing and sporting bare faces with makeup. But it is not so. And answering the question "How do we change things?" is not easy. The parallels with the suffragettes are very few:
1. They lived in democracies, the issue was their getting the vote for themselves; in Saudi Arabia, no-one gets the vote.
2. They lived in countries where political protest was acceptable and generally legal; in Saudi Arabia, a simple peaceful demonstration can buy you gaol time.
3. They were free to travel round and associate, which meant they could hold plan, organize, hold meetings, get together in large numbers; in Saudi Arabia, with the exception of trips to the shops or elsewhere where they are "allowed", they are generally confined to the house.
Let me illustrate the last point, and provide a sort of an etiquette guide at the same time. It's a bit of a Western misconception that in the home, women rule the roost. Now it is true that they can be very influential within the close family, but in no sense are they the "woman of the house". If as a male you are ever invited to a traditional Saudi house for a meal, with or without your wife ("significant others" don't get visas, sorry), this is more or less what will happen.
Husband will open the door and welcome you. There may well be an incense burner in the doorway, as a mark of greeting. Waft the smoke over your hair and clothes. Remove your shoes (best to come in sandals).
Husband will lead your wife to a back room. That is all you are going to see of her, all evening.
Coffee or tea, and dates, will be ready on a table. You sit down (better on the floor), drink, eat, talk "guy talk". You may hear sounds of movement and rustlings from the next room.
At a certain point, husband will lead you thru to the next room where, miraculously, food will be laid out. The dishes are probably set out on a plastic sheet on the carpet. Nothing, and I am being absolutely serious here, beats eating in a reclining position, perhaps leaning on a decorative camel saddle, with the food at floor level, and using your hand (right, not left, but don't ask why) to eat.
There will be enough to feed a small army. Arab hospitality demands that guests should never leave hungry. When you see all those dishes for just the two of you, including one with several small roast chickens, do not make the foolish assumption that this is the main course. PACE YOURSELF.
When you have assured your host that you have eaten all that you can manage from what is before you, he will remove many dishes. However he will return and replace them with an even larger selection of larger dishes. Carry on eating. Aren't you glad you are lying down? (It allows the stomach to distend more easily).
When you have eventually finished (NB If you are the "BellyBuster" champion at your local restaurant's "All you can eat Prime Rib Night", don't try and eat everything, they will only bring out more, so that you won't leave hungry) , you get up as best you can, and repair to the room you originally started out in, where miraculously fresh coffee will have appeared. Resume the horizontal once more. More "guy talk". There will be more sounds of rustling from next door.
As the evening draws to a close, husband will leave you and return from the back room with your wife. Say your farewells, put your shoes on, waft the incense, and out you go. Your wife will then inform you that your host also has a wife, who did all the cooking, and laid out and removed plates for the menfolk, not to mention coffee, as well as doing the same for herself and your wife. And you thought it was just a miracle.
[There is a slight variation to this routine, if the guests are male relatives of the husband. In that case the wife may emerge to pour coffee, but she will have a cloth draped over her head (rather like the cloth you would cover your parrot cage with, to shut it up) . Not that she's going to say anything, of course, she will just pour the coffee; the cloth is thin enough to allow her to see the spout and the cups, without curious male relatives being able to see her face].
The main point of that etiquette guide was just to show how little the typical Saudi wife is able to get out and about in her own house when the men are around, never mind get out and about in society at large. If you're going to be confined to a backroom or under a parrot-cloth, how the hell are you going to go out and organize a social revolution?
I wish to God I knew the answer, apart from collectively battering the men of Saudi Arabia over the head with a blunt instrument. First, the womenfolk need to get their attention. As every woman knows, there are two ways to get a man's attention:
1. Switch off the TV when his favorite sport is on.
2. Deny him his conjugal "rights".
The advantage of the second one is that it does not involve going out into the street waving banners. It can be done from the comfort of one's own home. Also, it does not break any criminal law. Carried out resolutely, it can be unbelievably effective.
Ask the women of ancient Sparta, Boeotia, and Corinth, other societies where women did not have a voice. In Aristophenes' play "Lysistrata"
, the women, encouraged by the heroine of that name, went on strike in order to end the Peloponnesian War.
Here's some of the dialog. It is a bit fruity, the ancient Greeks didn't go in for nuance or euphemism!LYSISTRATA: We will all swear at once. Put your hands on the cup, everyone, and repeat after me. I shall not go near my husband or my lover.
ALL: I will not go near my husband or my lover.
LYSISTRATA: Speak up—No matter how big a hard-on he has.
ALL: No matter how big a hard-on he has.
LYSISTRATA: I will be completely celibate.
ALL: I will be completely celibate.
LYSISTRATA: And wear nothing but seductive clothing
ALL: And wear nothing but seductive clothing
LYSISTRATA: And get my husband as horny as possible
ALL: And get my husband as horny as possible
LYSISTRATA: But I will never willingly give in to him
ALL: But I will never willingly give in to him
LYSISTRATA: No matter how he pressures me
ALL: No matter how he pressures me
LYSISTRATA: And if he tries to force me
ALL: And if he tries to force me.
LYSTRATA: I will not do the thing where I put my legs up over his head
ALL: I will not do the thing where I put my legs up over his head
LYSISTRATA: Nor will I pretend to be a lioness he has caught in the forest
ALL: Nor will I pretend to be a lioness he has caught in the forest
LYSISTRATA: If I keep my oath, let my cup be filled with nothing but wine
ALL: If I keep my oath, let my cup be filled with nothing but wine
LYSISTRATA: And if I break it, let it be filled with nothing but water.
ALL: And if I break it, let it be filled with nothing but water.
LYSISTRATA: Do you all solemnly swear this oath?
ALL: We do.
There's my suggestion, for what it's worth. Will it be the start of the Great Saudi Sexual Strike of 2006 (1427)?
If anyone has any alternative suggestion, please leave it in the "Comments".(Also any advice on how to do the "pretend to be a lioness he caught in the forest" thing).