Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Sorry, Can't Help Ya

I have to admit, there are days that I feel bad rousing DD out of bed when I know he hadn't slept, in order to take the girls to school in the morning. Most of the time, it's only because he doesn't have enough self-discipline to go to bed the night before instead, hanging out with his friends and family who've stayed up the entire night. However, there are days when he'd legitimately been working hard long into the night and it's entirely up to him to take the girls to school in the morning, such as today.
(poking an unconscious DD) Yella, goom! (get up), it's time to take the girls to school.

Aagh, I haven't slept at all for days.

I know, but the girls are all dressed and waiting for you.
Let them stay home today, I'll take them tomorrow.
Just make yourself get up and take them, maybe you can come home and sleep again.
Their not even having lessons now, don't bug me, let them stay home today.
Believe me, I wish I didn't have to bug you like this but I don't have any choice, I can't help you out here. It's up to you.
In England, my husband had me as a backup, and vice-versa. As most busy couples, we had an intricate schedule to follow every day based on who was free during the school drop-off/pick-up times. If I was working or had a lecture, it was up to him and if I was on my way home from being out, I'd pick them up. Being a typical Saudi man, he was never at his peak in the morning so many days it was up to me to drop the girls off on my way out.

My ability to drive in England also meant that DD's schedule was undisturbed by other necessities of life like food shopping and general errand running. Being the manager of the house, I could get all the stuff done as I needed, when I needed, and exactly how I needed without having to recruit my reluctant husband unnecessarily for things I could, and wanted to do, myself. As far as he was concerned, food magically appeared in the refrigerator and new clothes appeared in the closets despite him never stepping foot in a shop, something he dreads with every fiber of his being.
Since returning from England, many arguments, too much stress, and a lot of hurt feelings have resulted from this one, core issue which sinks its razor-sharp, rank teeth into almost every aspect of our family life:

I can't drive here.
We're not from one of those families that can easily afford to bring a live-in driver from S.E. Asia to do all those errands I usually did for myself, nor do we want one. Also, we can't easily afford to pay a Saudi driver just for the school runs nor, do we want to. There's no public transportation and a lone woman takes a chance with her safety and moral standing any time she takes a taxi alone. Many teachers here sometimes spend close to half their salaries just to pay some putz to drive them to their jobs and back.

Financial implications aside, does anyone else here agree with me that they aren't comfortable trusting their children with men they don't know anything about?! I fear anything with a penis coming within the general vicinity of my children let alone saying;
"please, take my children with you, alone, every day as long as they eventually make it to and from school. I don't know anything about you or your real history and you could be the world's biggest, most perverted, undiscovered pedophile but I will allow you free access to my children".
There are those who have an old man in the family, who's long been retired, to act as a type of chaperon. Well, that's great if you have one in your family but my FIL is in poor health, deaf, and blind so he can't help out. Some send their maids as chaperons for their kids which is bad as well. You may be putting your maid in a compromising situation, leaving your maid vulnerable to a possible assault or even, her hitting on the driver! There's a reason that in Islam, a man and a woman shouldn't ever be alone together, because Satan is always the third in such a situation.
One of my friends brought her maid's husband from Indonesia as the family's driver. Because it isn't proper for her to be alone with the driver, she had to bring her maid with her every day to be dropped off and picked up from her job. If this isn't ridiculous enough in itself, her youngest two children, who stayed with the maid while she was working, had to be hauled along with the maid every day just so my friend could go to work! Needless to say, my friend didn't work for too long with this complicated mode of transport. Because of her not being able to drive herself to her job in educational research to improve this country's deplorable education system, Saudi Arabia lost a well-educated woman's contribution to the betterment of the country.
There are those within the country who, when confronted with women complaining that they aren't able to get out and about say, "Stay at home! A woman's place is in the home". Hey, I'm at home sometimes an entire week without even stepping foot out of my house even once. However, necessity dictates that I need to go outside to pick out food (which my husband can never do correctly on his own), to purchase myself and my children clothes, or to visit family members or sick friends. Even the strictest hard-liners can't dispute those requests as legitimate reasons to go out. So every time one of these situations pops up in my home, a dialogue such as this follows:

(to an obviously tired DD) We're out of vegetables, when can you take me to get some?
I can't today, I'm too tired and tomorrow I have meetings before and after it's time to pick up the girls. Even I don't know how I'm going to manage to pick them up, After I drop off EttaMae (who's school's an hour's drive round-trip) I only have two hours to sit and do any work until I have to pack up and set out again to pick them up. Since school's started I've hardly been able to get any work done.
I wish I could help, but you know we have to depend on you to do this and we don't have any other options. This is food we're talking about my dear, not something that can be put off.

DD: Ok, tomorrow inshallah.

(tomorrow comes and goes and despite my understanding and sympathizing with DD, I'm irritated at the situation...)
(as DD walks in the door from work, trying to still sound nice despite a rage building inside) you didn't get any fruit and vegetables, we've already been out for a few days.
DD: I was too busy and I forgot. I'm too tired now to go out again.
Then don't take me, just try to stop on your way to or from someplace and grab a few things. And while your at it, we're out of bottled water and chicken too...

DD: My God, it's always requests, requests, requests from you.

Daisy: (citing the driver-less, Saudi woman's credo)
I don't have any other choice, what else am I supposed to do?
This same dialogue has been repeated time and time again, in houses across the country for many different situations. It's the material for Ramadan tv series depicting a young woman dressing like a man out of necessity to drive, and another women facing honor-killing by her brother for accidently being alone in a car with a strange man.Whether it's waiting anxiously at home praying for our kids to be dropped off unharmed by a total stranger or turning into shrewish nags in the eyes of our husbands in order to procure basic necessities of life, not being able to drive doesn't just affect the women in this country.
I'll leave you with a glimpse into the past, at marketplaces in Al-Hassa in the years 1938 and 1947 and the last one from around the same time in Riyadh. This was back when no one in the country drove, unless it was by donkey-cart or camel and towns were so small, most things were within walking distance. Take special notice of all the women, shrouded in black draping from their heads, going about their shopping. They enjoyed a freedom of movement and an ability to do things for themselves that has been stolen from us in modern times. If you'd like to sign the petition via email by sending your name, profession, nationality, and city of residence, for women to be given back this basic freedom, enjoyed by Saudi women in the past, by allowing women in Saudi Arabia to drive, it will be open for some time to come.
This first photo from 1938 is entitled "Vegetable and Fruit Vendors" from outintheblue.com. Hey, you there in the photo, can you buy me some while your at it?

This is from Riyadh


Sprite said...

But doesn't the Koran specifically women to drive cars?!!

It's incredible that people can use religion to justify arbitrary new laws. It's also sad that women have to justify the wish to drive by showing that it will make them better servants to their families, rather than because it's a right.

Anyway...none of us will be driving when the oil runs out!

Anonymous said...

i have been reading your blog and find your blog entries fascinating.
Do women who have lived their whole life in Saudi find the no driving rule frustrating or are they used to it and do not know any different? Do you have still have a US driver's license? What if there is an emergency? Could you drive to hospital? I hope my questions are not too simple- they are asked sincerely. I am quite fascinated with this topic.


Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

sprite- there will have always been and will always be people who try and twist religion to suit their needs all over...European popes threatened ex-communication of entire populations to control rulers and politics and southern whites in America tried to twist words from the Bible to justify slavery and racism in the past. Is it any surprise there are men who twist Islam in order to feel like little Caliphs amongst their womenfolk. It's all about power.

Lisa- Thanks for reading:) I suppose it's a "bird in a gilded cage" theory that your proposing. There are women, who's menfolk pay close attention to their needs, that may not have ever felt the same frustration because things are done for them so promptly. And indeed, there are women who, if given the choice, would not choose to drive (this will be a later post). There is also a type of brainwashing that's gone on for the entire country that says if you want things like women driving or advocate change of any kind...you are liberal and liberal=irreligious and BAD. This is why many women (and men) still accept inconveniences posed by issues like this. That's why topics like this languish on the back-burner for so long, it takes a brave few to stand up and point out that change (of any kind) isn't necessarily a bad thing or unIslamic. Then these same brave few must commit themselves to years of being denounced and badgered despite there being a large, but silent, support for their cause. The same debate raged about television, telephones, internet, education for women and even learning the English language! All of these were implemented at a snails pace after being hotly debated to death for years.
As far as myself, I make it a point to renew my drivers licence every time I go to the States, even if it hasn't expired yet. I use it in Bahrain and the Emirates when we go. My hubby know as soon as we cross the border I'll tell him to scoot over..."I'm driving" just to flex my atrophied spirit a bit. There have been emergency situations where police have been understanding and even helped out women going to the hospital. This was an issue for me a few months ago when my husband was quite ill and I wanted to drive him using all back-roads at night. Fortunately, his brother was able to come to save me from being an "immoral" woman by driving my ailing hubby to the hospital:P.

أبو سنان said...


Interesting post. I can understand where your Hubby is coming from. I work like 9 hours a day and my commute is anywhere from 2-3 hours a day.

I still end up going out almost every day for something, and this in a country where my wife can drive. It is just much easier for her to stay at home with the boys then to get them gathered and take a trip to the store.

Insha'Allah, soon women will be driving in Saudi. It wont be a day too soon.

Anonymous said...

I hope I see the rule changed for women in Saudia in our lifetime inshallah. It is hard for women to be just *caged* and I do understand that men would find it difficult after having spent 8hrs+ at work. I just find some of these *rules* strange. It's just that it's a man's world out there and they want it to be like that forever. sf

Lalla Mona said...

oh and you know what, me and you live in the "Kingdom of Humanity" now how ironic is that?
wallahi I'm writing this not knowing if I'll be able to go to uni tomorrow or not :S I already have 4 absences.

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

بو سنان -That's why I usually try to target my requests to times he's already out rather than sending him out again like a Diva. There is a supermarket (but without a produce section) within a reasonable walking distance which I do go to on foot at times to save DD some respite from a harping wife. But just like your wife, I have to haul the kids and it's usually just too much.

sf- That phrase, "it's a man's world" is the most accurate description by far.

Lalla- unless you guys were already pre-warned not to miss the lecture, you can use the "its the last 10 days of Ramadan, I didn't think there were any lectures" excuse while batting your innocent doe-like eyes. My kids were absent Tue. and now Wed. and their teachers basically hinted STRONGLY..."go ahead and stay home, no ones coming anyway (including me) so there won't be any lessons".

Lianne said...

Wa'lahee this issue was being discussed on Muttaqiyyah yahoo group last month! I'm sure women there already know this but I'll post in anyway. Maybe the sisters should protest by renting donkeys and camels and riding them. But seriously not to make light I love Saudi and want to move there but I think I'd be one of those women getting arrested for driving. Inshallah it will change before I get there. Oh can I sign if I don't live there? Sorry if I took up too much space. Asalamualikum wa rahmatulillahi wa barakathu.

Women Driving Question:

Questioner: Is it permissible for a woman to drive a car?

If it is permissible for her to ride upon a (female) donkey then
it is permissible for her to drive a car.

But there is a difference between a donkey and a car.

Sh. Al-Albaanee:
Which is more concealing – riding upon a donkey or in a car?
I would suggest (riding in) a car.

Shaykh Naasir ud-Deen al-Albaanee http://www.alalbany.org

Lamya said...

To put a further twist on the tale,Im a doctor.I work 36-72 hours sometimes,and get called out at two or 3 pm.Imagine what my poor husband would look like if he had to haul me around!I work longer hours than him,yet I still stop off for the daily perishableS,as he forgets,or remembers some things and forgets others.I wonder if you guys can make a lift club,using the same driver.So he picks all of your co-workers up for work,and before you all go home he stops at the market so u can pick up some goodies.Then you all contribute to his salary..Would make it cheaper for all..Just a suggestion.Would ease some stress off DD,and you get all your chicken and eggs and water:)

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

lianne- exactly! The religious argument of "mixing" and "revealing" is instantly debunked as soon as someone applies even an ounce of logic to it. Like the argument that says women driving will encourage "mixing" of the genders. Uh...hello? If I'm carting my own butt around town I don't need to "mix" with a driver telling him where to take me, right? It's ironic you mentioned women using donkey's as this was an episode on Tash ma Tash a few years ago. And definitely, you can sign the petition from outside Saudia. And I'll see you in the hoosegow when you get here cuz I'll be in the next cell:-P

Lamya- It is a good idea to work within the constraints by sharing a driver but ultimately, you have to find someone to house him and sponsor a visa because Saudi drivers are just too expensive. Not to mention it's 10x's worse to be "alone" with a Saudi driver than a perceived eunuch foreign driver. I do know some friends who do it but many times there's schedule clashes that end up causing bad feelings amongst friends.

Lianne said...

Glad to know I'll have a potential cell mate. To me it makes no sense at all, and I respect the scholars but if someone wanted to start fitnah they could do it by walking or driving. Are you not even allowed to ride scooters (where you will be exposed if thats the main concern)? May Allah grant you ease

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

lianne- we went bike shopping for the girls a few weeks ago because the weather will be cooling a bit in a few weeks and they badly need a form of physical activity. We barely found a bike large enough for EttaMaE, who's 7, and there wasn't a bike to be found for MaryJo who's not yet 10. Reason being is it's ok for small girls to ride bikes but any bigger than that is a shame. Scooters would be in that category too:p
I remember seeing a news clip on Muslims in Thailand and there was a little nikabi sister in the background riding around town on her moped, completely decent and going about her business. Why the hell not?!

sunil krishnan, Al Hasa said...

This live pictures from day to day experience is more powerful than an essay on freedom of women. You expressed the message clearly without shouting, crying and arguing..., respectable way.
BTW I believe that the satan is not living outside or between us, but inside me/us..
"AAud Billahi mia saitanu rajeem"

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

Sunil- thanks for the compliment. I agree with you completely, those who intend to do evil will do so no matter how many precautions our government and clergy have taken. One only need look at how despite strict measures, one can still procure pornography, alcohol, prostitutes, etc in Saudia.

UmmAtiyya said...

As Salaamu Alaikum; I came here thru ummadam's post. I asked her a whole bunch of questions about "Driving Miss Daisy" (ever see the movie?) in Saudi. It is too deep and so totally illogical! To my way of "feminine" thinking, being in an ENCLOSED car with a MAN who is NOT your mahram who can lock the doors on you and drive you out to the boonies and "have his way" with you IS THE FITNAH!!! How is this set up protecting me from mixing! I'd be mixing it up with the d--- driver! I like what Lianne said about getting donkeys and riding them around. You'd think people would get the message. I am surprised though that no one has seriously taken up the idea of public transportation, which would mainly be for women. It make so much sense; economically, religiously and environmentally. (1 car for almost every Saudi woman = too much exhaust pollution) I would love to live in Saudi one day, but as a former rider of a Honda motorcycle, I think I'd go into withdrawal. (And I used to ride with hijab and everything!)Save me the top bunk in that cell!

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

UmmAtiyya- wa alaikum salam, your a woman after my own heart...and thanks for turning my attention back to Um Adam's blog. I don't know why I hadn't gone there for a while...good read!
There is a public bus company here but other than in Mecca, Saudis rarely use it and its mainly used by expats. Saudis are way too spoiled to have to wait for a bus, except for my Saudi women friends in England who wanted to "kiss the buses" they were so happy to get around w/o hubbies! I have a feeling that even when women can drive here, several will still have drivers to do the chores they don't want to do. This is the case with many Emirati families I know.
BTW, my mamma had a Honda too! Maybe she'll teach me next trip home if I'm not pregnant:P

MikeeUSA said...

Girls should not be educated in schools. They should be married once they are able to have children (12 to 14 yrs old).


Cairogal said...

So are most men in Saudi nagged by their wives like this dialogue played out? If so, are they not remotely inspired to make some policy changes, or does tradition trump all?

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

mikee- i've got a big bushy stick-on beard and thobe ready for you (that I was going to use if I needed to pass as a man to drive) for whenever you decide to come join your misogynistic counterparts here in Saudia. It sounds like you'll fit in well.Same rhetoric, different language.

Cairogal- Hey- I wasn't nagging! I thought I was being quite understanding!!!
If "change/progress=evil/western" mindsets stay as is, many men will continue to "bear" the inconvenience...mainly this means telling their women they're busy and that's the end of the story! I've heard men proudly boast that even after women are allowed to drive that they won't allow "their" women to. These same men won't allow "their" women to even open email accounts so you get an idea of the mindset. It's their idea of how to keep women wholesome and without reproach...deny them everything.

Suburban said...

Daisy, What a great post. I've been waiting for this one! I don't know where to begin my reply, You covered enough for three seperate posts.

THis is a long reply, that comes to no particular conclusion, except to chip in my personal experience.

What hardly anyone is willing to say aloud, or admit to is that SAUDI DIDN'T ALWAYS USED TO BE LIKE THIS. Perhaps we were never a bastion of freedom for women, but all of the basic fredoms that women enjoyed a hundred years ago have been chipped away so slowly that it seems like noone has noticed. My husband says it's like boiling a frog, if you turn the head up slowly enough, the frog will stay in the pot, and slowly cook.

Even in my short lifetime women's rights and freedom of movement have been restricted further each year in saudi. Many Omani's complain of a trickle-down "petro-dollar islam" that is gradually undermining women's freedoms here, and in other more moderate gulf states.

I can remember as a little girl, driving down to the university in Dammam with my dad and mom. As we approached the airport area, my parents would get all excited because they could tune in to what they called "radio free Manama".

I gather the Bahrainis had boosted the signal on a number of thier radio stations, and to the vast annoyance of the saudi authourities, musically oriented saudi's were listening to rock music. There was apparently, much hand wringing over this matter.

As time wore on, with every new technology that was introduced, and every supposed step forward there would be more and more restrictions put into place. The advent of computers at the University turned onto scheduled power outages during prayer times. You'd better save that file you were working on, because if you didn't before the power cut it was history, buster.

My mother recalls increasing complaints of harassmant from the Muttawa, and eventual restriction on where she could, or could not accompany my dad on research or business trips. THe restrictions expanded to cover where she could go unaccompanied, if she could carry a camera, What colors she should wear (she recalls grey, then black), and the invention of the term "indecent Abayah".

I think they were growing ever more uncomfortable with the direction things continued to go, and the general fear of speaking out against the small, incremental changes that were slowly eroding what few freedoms my grand mother had enjoyed, that I would never have the chance to know. He said the country was slipping backwards.

Fed up with it, Dad shipped us all off, Joined a big multi national company, and never looked back. He calls it his own personal economic sanction. I was back once, four years ago for a job which I untimately declined. There was simply no way, despite the infinate resources made available to me, that I could do my job,in my chosen career feild, effectively.

wow. I have gone on for way too long here. Thanks for a great post and interesting discussion Daisy.

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

Suburban- I'm going to copy and paste most of your comment whenever I get around to a future post I have planned titled "The Najdi Export of Aayb". When my MIL and husband talks about the way things used to be before when Al-Hassa was still unaffected by centralization, it was so much more natural. It may not have been the bastion of pure Islamic principle's, but people weren't any worse than they are now. My MIL had more freedom of movement 40 years ago than I do now, after the Najdi-azation of the nation.

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Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

mikee- consider yourself bitch-slapped...I can delete all day so no more comments from you.

Anonymous said...

I can give the mutaween your IP address (yes I have it now... you should learn how html works) and see if they can connect it to your true address. I don't know if they would like or not like what you write (it's not terrible... you're not a true feminist... but you're not truely a completely good female either).

If you want to play that game this is...

Achtung :)

Anonymous said...

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Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

anon- if I were truly that worried about "getting caught" I would have used a proxy server from the beginning. Your assuming the Mutawwa are some nasty thugs looking to pick a fight and the reality is so different from the perception.

Sameena said...

Mike, you are what we South Asians call a "chakkaa". And yes go ahead and report me to, to FBI, and whatever (I am from the US too). What kind of loser stalks women's blogs like these? I suspect you are just desperate for chicks (probably because you are too damn ugly and too damn ridiculous to be taken seriously by any woman worth having) and this is your twisted way of getting some female attention!
Now scram!