This week, women in Saudi Arabia were given the right to vote and to run for municipal office.
First off, this is fantastic news. Saudi Arabia is one of the more repressive countries for women, so to see them taking this major step is, well, wonderful! King Abdullah has been making small steps towards reform for years. While I want to see women have full rights everywhere on Earth, I understand the political need to take it slowly in Saudi Arabia. It’s a very conservative religious country, and the backlash if things move too quickly could be extraordinary.
There’s much left to do, of course. Women still have a long way to go there; they are not allowed to drive or to leave the country unaccompanied, for example. But this is the right way to move. I just hope that vector stays pointed true.
I also want to relate my own thinking when I first read this news. My initial thought was snark; Welcome to the 20th century was literally the first thing I thought. My second thought was what I wrote above about this being fantastic news.
My third thought was the most interesting to me. It was contrition: in the United States, a country where we pride ourselves on being modern and forward-thinking (usually), women didn’t get the vote until 1920 — nationally, at least; at the local and state level those rights were slowly being granted for years.
So 90 years ago, women here in the US didn’t have the right to vote, and we weren’t (officially) a religious kingdom. Just to put how big a deal this Saudi Arabia news is into perspective.
We still have lots of progress to make here in the States, too. But it’s nice to know that even in places like Saudi Arabia, progress can be made.
However, just to be clear, keep in mind just how far we have to go: in Pakistan, a girl is making news because her family refuses to have her killed, as is customary, because she was raped. Honor killings, as these are called, are still quite common.
So. I’ll just leave you with this.