What I found interesting about this well-presented article was the acceptance of women’s’ existence in Saudi Arabia as completely separate from that of the male society, which essentially runs the show. It is also striking that women, if one reads between the lines, are talked about as a group or categories (612), not as individuals. And while female “spaces” are growing wider in term of activities, the wider they get the more dominated they are by the male sector. (612) Women, it is clear, exist there at the pleasure and consent of the men who make and dominate the rules.
The notion of reform to me is almost laughable. Either the people there are delusional or, on the part of the women, trying desperately to convince themselves that the bully will allow them to live in peace if only they stay within accepted government and social boundaries. It is “spatial segregation” at its worst and “as public policy.” (611) I suppose it is somewhat laudable women are expanding their roles within their special groups, but the fact remains that men in charge restrict and control those activities. (623)
That women have lately worked their way into jobs sometimes held by men cannot be construed as positive advancement, since their views are considered only relevant to the female population and are generally seen, by many, as an opportunity for women to “complain” without access to “effective prerogatives.” (619) As long as women in Saudi Arabia are relegated to the metaphor of living behind a car’s “tinted windows” (627), their progress in the limited space of female activity will always deny them full participation in their environment. Though female protected spaces [may] work as a lever to develop all kinds of activities in different fields 618), the fact remains that the groups are hardly “autonomous” and are “subject to decisions from above”—the state and men’s institutions run by and for the latter according to laws religiously and by custom restrictive to women. (623)
- LeRenard, Amelie “Only for Women:” Women, the State, and Reform in Saudi Arabia” Middle East Journal Vol. 62(4) (2008): pp. 610-629