Strangely enough, just as Islamophobia seems to be reaching new heights here in the States, my boss is in Saudi Arabia. She was invited some months ago, to give workshops at two different women’s campuses on topics such as student motivation, active learning, planning for teaching, and so forth.
It’s a great opportunity, of course. But as she prepared for this trip, I was surprised by some of the things I learned about Saudi Arabia. I knew it’s a strictly regimented society, and that gender roles are somewhat constrained. I knew, for example, that women have to be covered head to toe when they go out in public. (And my boss had an interesting time purchasing the necessary garments here.) I was not familiar, however, with the system of male guardianship. I gather that women cannot travel freely or do many things without approval of a male guardian.
More to the point, my boss is not able to go outside without a male escort. That’s got to be tough for an American woman to accept. I’ve been trying to imagine how I would feel in that scenario.
As I scanned recent news headlines coming out of the Kingdom, I couldn’t help but goggle at these bizarre headlines.
- SAUDI ARABIA: Cleric in hot seat after calling for women to give men breast milk to avoid illicit mixing
- SAUDI ARABIA: Women threaten to breastfeed drivers if they aren’t allowed to drive
Meanwhile France has banned veils for women in public. It’s a very strange world we live in.
Anyway, my thoughts, and those of my co-workers, are with my boss at this time. (She reports that they have made her feel “right at home,” and she is finding a striking similarity between the concerns there and on our campus.) It’s truly an honor and a privilege for her to have been invited to this faraway place. I hope she reaps a maximum amount of cultural enrichment and personal development from the experience.
Photo: Desert wind at night by Cary Bazalgette, licensed under Creative Commons