Life for Saudi women is a constant state of contradiction
What's it like being a Saudi woman? A common question I've come to expect from outsiders – even fellow Arabs. The restrictiveness of the guardianship system, gender segregation and a persistently sexist culture add up to create an exotic and mysterious lifestyle that is difficult to not only explain but also to comprehend.
How do you explain the ingrained paradox of the driving ban on women? The point of the ban is that women avoid situations that lead to them mixing with and meeting men. However, the ban then leads to the necessity of hiring a strange man and getting into the car with him on a daily basis.
How do you explain the huge amounts of money the government spends on educating and training women, so much so that 60% of college graduates in Saudi are women – educating and training all these women, despite the fact that gender segregation laws makes employing them virtually impossible.
How do you explain that this is the way of life that the average Saudi wants for his or her country, when anyone getting on a plane leaving Saudi cannot help but notice how quickly the Saudi passengers abandon their abayas and conservative mannerisms?
A country of contradictions; Saudis have coined an Arabic phrase to explain the unexplainable that translates into "Saudi exceptionality". This past week Saudi exceptionality did not disappoint. (...)