December 26, 2005

The equalizer

I have long maintained that the greatest instrument of equality between men and women has been the car. Even in macho societies, like Mexico, male drivers are forced to stop at a stop sign for a vehicle that has the right of way, whether it is driven by a man or a woman. Before, they would have expected a woman to defer to them. In a car, they can't. I think it is almost impossible to overestimate the impact of this. If a woman thinks quickly enough and beats a man out to a parking spot, there's nothing he can do about it. Being occasionally bested by a woman, or being tooted at by the female driver behind them when they're sitting dreaming at a traffic light forced a major shift in attitudes between the sexes.

I make this less than startling observation because we have it on authority from that when Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah came to the throne last August, he stated, with the gravity of a visionary, "I believe the day will come when women will drive." Well! You could have knocked Saudi men down with a feather!

And now the deputy premier and minister of defence and aviation has announced that the government is putting plans in place to allow women to drive, if they have the permission of their husbands and brothers.

Well, it's not quite as madcap as it sounds. What Crown Prince Sultan has said is, "When fathers, husbands and brothers ask us for women to drive, we will look into it. But if they ask us for the opposite, we can't force them [to let women drive]".

Be still my beating heart.

Posted by Verity at December 26, 2005 11:37 AM

As someone over at commented, it could lead to dancing.

Posted by: Verity at December 26, 2005 02:42 PM

The great equalizer between men and women in history is not the car, a relatively new development, but the gun which replaced the bow and the sword.

The gun, by dint of its ability to take live, automatically grants women a position of power which others have no choice but to respect.

Posted by: The Wobbly Guy at December 26, 2005 10:37 PM

Yes, Wobbly. That was my point of reference in the title. I think it was Colt that advertised itself as The Equalizer between men and women in either the last century or the 1800s.

Posted by: Verity at December 27, 2005 06:58 AM

Interesting but I'd disagree with you until the 19th century. Muskets (and later rifles) were very heavy and women wouldn't be able to use them. The recoil would break their shoulder. As for pistols, a similar problem- they were made for men's hands not women. Something that surprised me when I noted that some women couldn't fit their hands on a Browning high power. My fiancée certainly couldn't and would need the mini versions like the Springfield XD or the Glock 29(?)
Personally I think the greatest equalizer is literacy. Once womem learn tro read, write and count, a country's potential is unleashed

Posted by: xavier at December 29, 2005 07:03 PM

What has given women power, although it wasn't the intention, is driving. Literacy hasn't done a hell of a lot for women in Saudi Arabia. You are thinking, Xavier, of the enlightened West.

Once women can drive, and have equal rights at the traffic lights and stop signs, and equal ability to courteously wave another driver forward and equal ability to wave 'thanks' to another driver who accorded them a courtesy, the dead hand of the conrolling Muslim male will bite the sand. This will be an improvement. Raising people's skills strengthens, not weakens.

Would they refuse a life-saving trip in an ambulance because it was driven by a woman? The Queen of Jordan does duty as an ambulance driver, by the way.

Posted by: Verity at December 29, 2005 08:16 PM
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