The Saudi Arabian government doesn’t need to put ankle bracelets on Saudi women to track them because apparently, they already track them electronically.
Manal al-Sharif, the Saudi woman who advocated last year for Saudi women to drive, began tweeting about the tracking of Saudi women when she received text messages from a couple of friends recently about how one was contacted about the other leaving the country when they were both leaving together. He hadn’t registered with the Interior Ministry to receive these notifications, which previously guardians had to request.
This past week, Saudi women’s “guardians” began to receive messages from the government notifying them if the woman under their guard has left the country. First of all, why a woman needs a “guardian” is beyond me, other than to keep her from being hurt from a dangerous woman hating world. Second, I’d say this electronic tracking is even more powerful than an ankle bracelet. A woman can believe she has certain freedoms or that she left the country without a hitch, but little does she know, her “guardian” is being alerted.
What if she is trying to get away from her guardian? What if she doesn’t want him to know? What if she doesn’t want a guardian? What if she doesn’t want to live under a society where she can only do anything with a guardian?
Strict rules that don’t allow men and women to have contact, don’t allow women to take public transportation so they must be driven by guardians, male relatives, or drivers though not everyone can afford a driver. Guardians seem to be key to Saudi women being able to do much of anything without getting into trouble.
Manal al-Sharif told CNN about the electronic tracking, “It shows how women are still being treated as minors.”
When you boil it all down, her statement is at the heart of gender equality and women’s rights. When it is believed that women are not equal, we are treated like property and as if we cannot function on our own. Saudi Arabia has many strong women, like Manal al-Sharif, fighting for the rights of women in Saudi Arabia, in the Arab world, and worldwide, but they are being treated like they are children, like they are property, and like they are incapable.
In the United States women are also treated like minors in many ways, perhaps not to the extreme that the women in Saudi Arabia face, but we are still infantilized (made to be childlike or seen as children).
6 Ways we infantilize women in the United States:
1. We argue about whether women can make decisions for their bodies or not- around birth control, abortion, and healthcare
2. We call women sluts and put women down when women speak up
3. When women are raped we blame them.
4. When women are beaten and caught in a cycle of violence, we ask why they didn’t leave.
5. We dress women in baby-doll dresses and push childish clothing on women in pornography and in fashion.
6. We have government offices where we make decisions about women and laws that affect women, without having any women involved.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we are in a situation at all like Saudi Arabia, I am saying, we must all continue to fight to assure women have rights and are not treated like minors, like creatures less than human, or like someone’s property.
Women need to be able to make decisions for our bodies. Whether that means we can drive. Whether that means we want to breastfeed or not (if we can). Whether we have sex or not. About what we wear…
It is not only dangerous for women’s independence and freedom, to not have full equal rights to men, but also to our autonomy and physical safety.
The Saudi government is incredibly misogynist, but the root of their thinking is that women are not equal. This is the root of all oppression of women everywhere, here in the United States as well. We are not minors. We are not less than. We are not incapable. We must continue to demand to be seen as equal and for our rights and responsibilities to be nothing less.