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Sep 25 2011

Headline Muse, 9/25

Though the world thought the odds were remote
It’s a milestone that’s worthy of note
Though they can’t drive a car
So it’s kind of bizarre
Saudi women will now get to vote

Headline: Reforms will allow women to vote but not drive

Of course, this story is everywhere. In the comments of the NPR article, one comment began “[t]he right to vote is not a king’s to give.” Beautiful iambic pentameter; I was sorely tempted to bust out a sonnet. But it is also one of my favorite debate topics, on which I have gone many rounds on many occasions. I’ve never liked the concept of “rights”; they make no sense to me. In this case, it is very clear that the king has the power, in Saudi Arabia, to grant women the right to vote. But the commenter would call this “recognizing their right to vote”. It is as if only god or nature could “give” a right to vote, or that (as a libertarian friend once claimed) “rights are a property of people like inertia is a property of matter.”

Except that, quite clearly, they are not. If I can, with a bomb, a gun, or a blunt or pointy object, take from you your life, then your “right to life” is clearly a different sort of stuff than an object’s inertia. A “right of way” is yours if and only if someone else yields it. Rights are a social construct. A useful one, at times at least, but clearly a social construct, dependent on agreement by the parties involved.

And in that sense, yes, the king granted (or rather, is granting or will grant, given that it is not taking place immediately) women the right to vote. Which, while not perfect, is a step in the right direction.

2 comments

  1. 1
    Pierce R. Butler

    … a step in the right direction.

    At least they’re allowed to wear shoes while taking that step – though not to press on any accelerator pedals.

    Somewhere in one of George MacDonald Fraser’s later novels, Sir Harry Flashman has a brilliant rant against allowing women to vote – the gist of which is that they shouldn’t be bothered with distracting illusions, as The Proper People already have it in hand that men’s votes won’t be allowed to disturb how Serious Matters Are Handled either.

    But I betcha the King figured that out all by himself.

  2. 2
    Die Anyway

    DC said: “Rights are a social construct. A useful one, at times at least, but clearly a social construct, dependent on agreement by the parties involved.”

    Exactly!!! I wish I could memorize that to repeat to silly people who claim various ‘rights’ that don’t really exist.

    As for Saudia Arabia, they are not all that far behind us (or U.S. if you will). My own mother was born just a year or two after women received the right to vote here and even when I was growing up in the late ’40s and early ’50s there were still places where women could not borrow money, purchase cars, etc. without a man co-signing.

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