No Woman, No Drive

Picture 10It’s not news to most that Saudi Arabia is notorious for taking basic human rights away from its female population. It currently forbids them from traveling abroad, opening a bank account and even from working without permission from a male relative.

Another way the Saudi government attempts to keep women locked in the Stone Age is by not allowing women to drive. It is the only country to ban women from driving by refusing to issue drivers licenses to them. Saudi Arabian YouTube comedy star Hisham Fageeh recently released a musical video satirizing the ban, and set it to Bob Marley’s famous song, “No Woman, No Cry.”

The video pokes fun at the patriarchal structure of Saudi Arabia, even pointing at the ridiculous claims made by a Saudi cleric that a ban on driving will protect women’s reproductive organs. Fageeh sings, “Ova-Ovaries all safe and well, so you can make lots and lots of babies.” Written with both Arabic and English subtitles, the video is impressively a cappella (with one person even using his ruffling beard as a musical instrument), and although it seems at times to be more about the clever song parody than the issue, it makes a point. As Euronews reports, Saudi Arabia has one of the highest per-capita usages of YouTube in the world, meaning that viral videos could be an effective tool for social change. Fageeh’s YouTube channel gets around 1 million hits a day. Many Saudi women have already made use of the medium, uploading videos and pictures of themselves driving in protest of the ban.

Fageeh told Euronews,

I’d like it to get to people’s pages, newspaper pages and onto their television sets … and for people to think that Arabs and Saudis can joke and they can laugh. I think that’s what is really important to us – that people abroad understand that.

Fageeh may think that showing the world that Arabs and Saudis can joke is important, but even more important is this video’s inherent message that not all Saudi men spend their time thinking up new ways to repress women. In fact, some of them even find unique and entertaining ways to defend women and satirize the institutions that seek to repress them.

Photo is a screen shot from “No Woman, No Drive” video on Youtube

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Melissa McGlensey recently graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.A. in English and Spanish with a minor in creative writing; she is currently interning at Ms.

Comments

  1. I didn’t think it was funny. It was still repressive.

  2. This may seem ridiculous but the consequenses and punishment are anything but that. The recent drive in drew no attention, seemingly. In another 100 years, maybe Saudi women will actually be able to not only drive, but vote.

    • Actually, they have been given the right to vote starting in the next municipal elections, which are in 2015. The King issued a decree last year (or the year before, whenever the last elections were) giving them the right to vote in the next elections. Driving is a lot more complicated than voting. That needs at the very least another decade or two. That issue has fierce resistance from the religious backbone of the country, and they are not going to relent on their own, EVER. The issue needs a Royal Decree giving women the right to drive. But the King can’t issue a decree too early to avoid it backfiring. But, the King probably won’t last another 10 to 20 years (he is 85+), which would be a ripe time to issue such a decree because some of the people opposed to it now would have softened up. So, who knows what the next King will do, and when!

      • It is insulting to say that women have been given the right to vote. Why? Because a woman’s right to vote is inherent, endowed by nature and her creator. It is not something that men “give” to women. Feminists around the world have almost always had to fight for that basic human right to be affirmed. In Britain and the United States, suffragists endured violence on the streets, in the courts and in prison so that we could exercise our right to vote.

    • It’s interesting that the United States government is bosom buddies with the Saudi’s, especially both past presidents, Bush # 1 & # 2. Both overlooked whatever they did , have done, are, and will do, just like Israel. Obama seems to follow the Bush regimes, and only Muslims are attacked. Of course the ties with the Saudi Royals and the Carlyle Group make a difference. The Axis of Evil are now, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.

  3. Victoria Lehman says:

    Brilliant. The Middle East system oppresses men as well as women. And some men are aware of this. Misogyny is fear in its most raw state. It must be almost as hard on them as the women, bleeding the creativity and confidence of every mature person, punching them back to the 7th century, before “science”, when everything was impenetrable and terrifying magic, with gods who had to be appeased and obeyed. Actually, this is also a description of those who ascribe to the Tea Party and fundamentalist sects in the US, hmm?

  4. “In its most recent attempt to keep women locked in the Stone Age, it became the only country to ban women from driving.”

    It is not recent, and it didn’t become like that; Saudi Arabia has NEVER allowed women to drive. That’s a known fact all over the world.

  5. Are they allowed to have guns…that might be a compensation….

  6. Evelyn McMullen says:

    This is not new. The didn’t allow women to drive in 1963 when my husband spent a year’s military tour there.

  7. Evelyn McMullen says:

    My huband told me that only members of the Saudi Royal family wore the head-scarf that Fageeh is wearing. Makes me wonder if he is of the Royal Family or if things have changed in Saudi Arabia since 1963-64.

  8. You can always tell the countries that have the greatest amount of cowardly men who are afraid of women just by how badly they treat them. Of course, every country is still full of them. They’re like fleas, no matter how much powder (laws) you throw on them they still continue to multiply. Laws won’t change dna, only science/transhumanism can rid the world of this low vibration being.

  9. One thing to consider is that while a video like this may be considered highly inappropriate in the ‘western world, “Fageeh is still taking a personal risk. Religious zealots can easily retaliate against him.

    Every little act of liberation (Victoria is right, men are oppressed by patriarchy too), moves the world to a bbetter place. Nice going,Fageeh.

  10. I love the video, and not only consider it a much needed breath of fresh air and humor, but also a really reassuring voice for sympathetic younger Saudi men, many of whom have come out in favor of women being allowed to drive. Change is *always* too slow, but it *is* coming, whether the elderly clerics like it or not. Thank goodness for that.

  11. I don’t know why women don’t just up & leave the country en masse

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