No unaccompanied women allowed

Petty tyranny in Saudi Arabia. I could also label it everyday misogyny in Saudi Arabia, or minor oppression in Saudi Arabia.

Restaurants in Saudi Arabia have been asked to remove signs which forbid entry to single women, it appears.

The request comes from the kingdom’s National Society For Human Rights, which says the signs on the doors of eateries are “illegal”, the Arabic-language Al-Hayat newspaper reports. A restaurant owner says he put up the signs because of “numerous incidents” of flirting. “We’ll only remove these signs when we make sure such incidents never happen again on our premises,” he told the paper.

One wonders (ok I wonder) what the owner considers “flirting.” I suspect it’s anything beyond eyes down ignoring – on the part of women, that is. Clearly men are allowed to ogle. Why clearly? Because the owner wants to exclude women, not men.

And how much “flirting” is it possible to do when one party is enveloped in an abaya?

It’s interesting what seems to be assumed in all this kind of thing – which is that the only real people are men, and that real people (men) go about their business as they should when things are properly arranged, but that’s disrupted when the contaminant of women intrudes on the normal space of Men. Men are protagonists and subjects, while women are like a virus.

NSHR spokesman Khalid Al-Fakhri tells the Saudi Gazette that restaurants have no legal right to exclude single women from their premises, or insist that they [be] in the company of a guardian. “These signs are against the law and reflect the personal opinions of the restaurant owners,” he says, urging establishments to devise alternative arrangements if they think that customers are behaving inappropriately. The paper quotes one woman as saying, “If they’re going to ban us from entering restaurants, where are we supposed to go?” – pointing out that restaurants are some of the few establishments where Saudi women can go unaccompanied.

Well that’s a silly question. Women aren’t supposed to go anywhere. Good women stay inside.

Still. The right to go into restaurants is a trivial thing. Stoning is a worse thing, so we shouldn’t be talking about not being allowed to go into restaurants.


  1. says

    Stoning is a worse thing, so we shouldn’t be talking about not being allowed to go into restaurants.

    Yes, and how dare you post pictures of flowers on your blog, the world being what it is? Before you know it, we’ll be back to talking about comets again.

  2. johnthedrunkard says

    ‘…from the kingdom’s National Society For Human Rights, ‘

    From WHAT? [insert gales of bitter laughter here]

  3. Malachite says

    Not being allowed to go to a restaurant reminds me of Dawkins’ implication that women shouldn’t drink (if they don’t want to be raped by a rapist that gets away with it).

  4. says

    Clearly men are allowed to ogle.

    Not really. It’s more like complete separation. When I was in Saudi, in one restaurant, I got up to go to the bathroom and started to walk the wrong way – apparently heading towards the women’s section. I was quickly blocked and herded the right way; apparently it’s a pretty serious offense if you’re a single male and go into the women’s section.

    I am not in any way attempting to downplay the general misogyny on display in Saudi. The net effect is totalitarian across all genders; everyone must bend in accordance with the rules cooked up by the parasitic wankers who get to make everyone jump through hoops to acclimate them to the monarchy, and to vindicate the monarchy’s existence. Undoubtedly, women have it worse, though everyone has it bad unless they are part of the royal family, or a wealthy citizen (most of the people in Saudi are not citizens, they are merely servants allowed to exist there as arbeiters for the citizens)

    I was treated with rare levels of access, including dining in a Saudi’s home and meeting his children. His wife stayed in the kitchen, behind a screen, and listened to the conversation but did not participate, though I heard a brief smatter of applause when I correctly read off the spices that were in the main course she had made (apparently this shocked some of the guys, that a man would know how to cook) One of the lines of casual questioning I followed was dating and marriage customs. It sucks for both parties; marriages are arranged by a prospective couple’s parents on both sides of the equation and neither party has much choice if there is a significant difference in financial status, etc. My overall impression is a totalitarian society that is misogynistic, yes, but also extremely classist. The main axis of oppression is class, first, then gender – which means women get the worst of it both ways since they have no class mobility at all whereas for men there are slim opportunities to get a rung up now and then, though the key path to class is hereditary in all cases. One of the comments that really rocked me back was “It’s a pretty good thing to be born a Saudi princess” followed by a description that could just as easily have fit a Kobe beef cow: a pampered life with nearly no self-determination.

    I have never spent time in India, but it matches the descriptions I’ve heard of the way class hierarchy and gender hierarchy intertwine to form a complex trap that makes sure that the rich stay rich and the poor shovel the rich’s poop, forever, always. It’s not bad being a Saudi man, compared to being a Saudi woman, but pretty much the only Saudi anyone would want to be is a Saudi prince — assuming that they wanted to live a luxurious life as a complete asshole. But that’s the birthright equivalent of being born in the top tier of America’s 1% – the 1% of the 1%, and it’s more or less the same.

    One thing that also horrified me about Saudi society is that women, basically, cannot work. The fellow I was working with was considered to be extremely progressive and was trying to arrange a way of having a floor in his office building that was women-only, so he could actually hire some women to work for the company, at all. In Saudi, citizens can attend university for free, so the women there are some of the world’s best educated (if they are upper class) many of them holding multiple doctorates that they cannot actually do anything with. It’s a gigantic waste in terms of human capital; the whole kingdom is.

  5. says

    I realize I got completely off my point while wandering down memory lane.

    The men aren’t allowed to ogle. There’s really not much you could ogle anyway (I did see a nicely-turned ankle in a pair of Jimmy Choos, once, but that was as close to seeing a Saudi woman as I got) If you were thinking of male fantasy-land, with men lounging back in piles of pillows, ogling the women being forced to display – that’s Qatar, not Saudi. Or, that’s Las Vegas, which is a popular vacation stopover in the US.

    Saudi is not a male paradise, but it’s certainly hell for women. The only thing paradisical about it is, if you’re one of the rich guys, you can go to Las Vegas and drink, gamble, and drop thousands of dollars on American strippers. Because that sort of thing simply doesn’t exist in the kingdom. Guy hangouts in Saudi are outdoor clubs by the sea where parties of guys can sit and talk, eat (wonderful) food, and watch soccer on TV. Yawn.

    Oppressive religious societies suck for everyone who’s not powerful and wealthy enough to break the rules bigtime at home, or go out of the country to have unrestrained fun somewhere else.


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