Freedom Drivers


In the U.S. we have preconceived notions about girls growing up with Barbie and makeup while boys are raised with Tonka trucks and tools.

These stereotypes continue to follow us as we grow up. However, in this modern age, gender roles are being challenged and blurred. Women have just as much freedom to take a high power job position, run a business, and own their own homes and cars. There is a multi-shaded gray area when we think of what women and men do. In our society we don’t even really consider this a privilege, it’s just the way things are.

Having grown up in a country with such freedoms and without knowing anything different, I was shocked when I read a news story about the arrest of a Saudi woman and her brother. Her offense: she filmed herself driving her family’s car with her brother in the passenger seat and put the video on YouTube as a protest for women’s driving rights.

Across the world in countries with largely Muslim and Arab cultures, gender roles are almost entirely black and white.
Women are forced by their husbands, fathers, and brothers to conceal nearly all of their skin in the comfort of their own home, which they are rarely allowed to leave.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that does not permit women, to drive a motor vehicle.

In a country that holds such a large percentage of the world’s oil preserves, less than 50 percent of its own population is allowed to get behind the wheel.

This January the Hip Hop artist M.I.A released a music video of her single “Bad Girls.” The video depicts Middle Easternwomen driving recklessly and wearing what would be considered provocative clothing. No doubt the video is full of crass stereotypes with Hollywood tainted exaggerations.

However, I think the apparent ridiculousness of the scenes in the video are meant to mirror the insanity of the legitimate political and social restrictions women in that country are forced to live under.

It is easy for us as American’s to look at this situation and say, “Why is this not being stopped?”

An important thing to remember is that this is a culture that has been shaped by centuries of strict religious laws.

Though these women are being exposed to new technologies just as we are here in the U.S., they are still stuck years in the past because it is so difficult to deviate from the social standards that have existed as long as their religion’s history.

When these women stand up and fight for their freedom, they risk everything. They are told they will bring shame upon their whole family just for getting behind the wheel of a car. What they are doing is extraordinarily brave.

As young women in the U.S. we aren’t legally segregated from any rights because of our sex. We are able to express ourselves through our clothing and makeup, drive ourselves with only the occasional criticism of our male counterparts, and succeed in any political or occupational environment to heights of equal footing.