Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - but NOT in Saudi Arabia!

Many times I have felt that just having good clean fun is forbidden here in Saudi Arabia.  And once again, my feelings have been justified.

This photo of the religious police warning women has gone viral. These two members of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV for short) told these fully covered women to stop swinging on the swings in a public park in broad daylight because it might prove too tempting for men passing by and that the women might open themselves up to harassment or attacks by men.  

Twitter is ablaze with the photo and funny taglines, like "Screw driving.  In Saudi Arabia women can't even swing!" or "Watch out! Swinging makes you slutty in KSA." or "...because it affects the ovaries?"

Sadly, this action on the part of the religious police doesn't really surprise me anymore.  But what does surprise me is the feedback from some people in response to this incident - supporting, commending, even applauding the actions of the religious police that certainly the warnings were given in the best interest of the women.

Don't these people realize that there is something seriously wrong with a country when a woman cannot feel safe from men bothering her when she is doing something as innocent as swinging in a public park in broad daylight?   

If one woman were alone by herself at night, okay - then maybe I might understand - a word to the wise.  But when they are with a group of five or six women, they should be afraid of being attacked?  In broad daylight?  In a place like Saudi Arabia?

This is, after all, the Land of Islam, where men are supposedly taught from a young age to respect and protect women, not to harass or hurt women.  Why can't the men of this country be held to this standard, be held responsible for their actions, and simply be expected to behave themselves and leave women alone? 

These women who are in a group, fully covered in black from head to toe, are outside, merely trying to enjoy the cooler weather and get some fresh air.  Heaven knows, most of the year is too darn hot for women dressed up like nuns to enjoy being outdoors because of the oppressive heat!  These women are not out looking to tempt men or trying to attract unwanted attention.  These girls just wanna have a little fun!  What is wrong with that?

Women cannot drive vehicles in Saudi Arabia.  Women cannot ride bikes in public here.  Women are discouraged from participating in sports here.  Women cannot travel without the permission of her legal male guardian, who can control her every move all of her life – or go to school, or seek medical attention, or – shall I go on?  

And NOW, women are not supposed to use swings because men cannot be expected to control themselves at the sight of a woman on a swing?  Puh-lease!!!

I personally refuse to live my life in fear here.  And I hope these women refuse to live their lives in fear here.   Hold Saudi men accountable!!!

I’m going out to find me some swings!  Ladies - join me?

49 comments:

  1. Oh Susie, how I do not miss it. Great post and well said!

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    1. Hi Sprinkle - Thank you. It's so frustrating that this discrimination and punishing of women for the behavior of men continues to happen here. I don't know if they will ever get it ... (sigh)

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  2. When will Saudi men learn that males will find females attractive regardless of how they are dressed. In a conservative society where women are hidden away under black cloth I am sure eyes make young men drool. There is simply no point in blaming women. If you believe in a god, blame him. Learn to control your lusts boys, it can be done without taking it out on the girls.

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    1. Hi Jerry - Yes, you are right. A recent study conducted here in KSA said that the vast majority of Saudi men blame women wearing eye makeup for why more women are being harassed and attacked. Never mind that nothing else is visible!

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  3. Susie, you said the right word : "Hold Saudi men ACCOUNTABLE!"
    No female behaviour (and certainly none as benign as using a swing for a bit of honest fun) should exonerate men from the need to behave themselves. Putting so much pressure on women while not asking men for any self-control is intolerable.

    Thank you for pointing to us, once again, how distressingly discriminating KSA is at the moment. Let's hope (and press) for some progress.

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    1. Hi Nathalie - I just wish that somehow the Saudis would realize how ridiculous all of this is and take action to alleviate it. This is 2014, not the Dark Ages.

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  4. It's ridiculous. No it's worst that ridiculous. It's unacceptable.

    Wasn't that there are more women on the earth than men? So why we have to tolerate it???

    bonjourchiara.blogspot.com
    Facebook Page Bonjourchiara
    Bloglovin Bonjourchiara

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    1. Hi Chiara - Actually the ratio of men to women in the world is roughly 50/50. I look forward to the day when we are treated just as equally.

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  5. Best solution pack ur bags and leave for usa
    I need to report u to higher authorities.

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    1. Dear Anonymous - Ewwww I'm scared. Didn't you read my post? I said I refuse to live in fear here in KSA. You're going to report me? For what? Saying that men need to be held accountable for their actions instead of shifting the blame continually to the women here? You think Saudi Arabia is special because it clings to the archaic ways of the past and tries to control women every way it can? Behave yourself and we wouldn't have these problems.

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    2. I never understand your regular whining .. If you find that place so fearfull why are you here in first place ? go back to your country where women can roam around naked and get raped ! and enjoy one night stands !
      its always a trade off
      Saudi Arabia is far more secure than usa! you enjoy all the blessings over here and still u whine..
      Women can enjoy I am not saying that but indoor !! ask govt to build female complexes for female enjoyment or clubs u can give suggestions rather then igniting people for rebellion !!
      And the bottom line is this is the way we are leave us with it !

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    3. If you don't like my "whining" so much, then why do you bother reading what I write? Or why don't you try to correctly read what I write? I did NOT say - nor have I EVER said - that this place is "fearful." I have said many times that I feel very safe here. I do believe that fear is used to control people here (and many places, for that matter) and that I refuse to live my life in fear.
      If I am guilty of inciting women to enjoy themselves on swings here, then I can live with that. And bad news for you - until my husband is ready to live elsewhere, I am here, like it or not.

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    4. I gues u have all your answers in your own reply
      If you don't like my "whining" so much, then why do you bother reading what I write?
      Since no 1 is perfect so are you I visit ur page because of ur beautiful pictures of Jeddah and places but I don't like you attitude of potraying that female are treated as Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp Prisoners in KSA
      Tell me how have world stoped people talking about holocaust ? obviously of fear isn't it that way? or showing Nazi salute ends u up in prison don't u find that harsh treatment of people? they should also have liberty of speech back to Saudi Arabia this place is heaven on earth but still no one is complete and they keep doing efforts to make it better you can also make a effort in doing good for women

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    5. I'm not sure I am following you with where you are going with this comment. I have always been a law abiding citizen, but that doesn't mean that I won't speak up if I think there are injustices that should be changed.
      That is why I have spoken up for women's rights in KSA - because I feel that we are discriminated against here in many ways and not treated fairly. Many times I have said that I know many Saudi women who love their lives. I have not ever compared Saudi women's lives to Guantanamo. I have also said many times that I myself am not miserable here. But I can tell you that every single day in Saudi Arabia my life is affected adversely by the fact that even though I have safely driven cars elsewhere for decades, but I am not allowed to here.
      At any rate, I am glad that you enjoy my photo blog. I don't write so much on that blog, so maybe it would be better for both of us if you just stuck with that one instead of this more controversial one.

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    6. And you totally lost me on the Holocaust thing...

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    7. anonymous was making no sense to me at all,im

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  6. So ridiculous! In the US I think men find women 'sexier' when they are dressed and covered than undressed. This is a set up for disaster. I don't know how you handle it Susie. Keep sharing it.

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    1. Hi Gaelyn - Yes, I was always told that it's sexier to leave something to the imagination!

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  7. I will try to phrase this as delicately as possible, BUT does KSA have any clue how ignorant they appear to the rest of the world. Police was messing with women on SWINGS, like there is nothing else that might be a better use of their time. Actually, ALMOST ANYTHING would be a better use of their time and energy. This is my opinion. Crazzzzyyy Town, really.

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    1. Hi L Diffie - I believe that KSA is totally aware of how ignorant the country appears to the rest of the world - but they don't really care about their image. This type of harassment of their own women continues day after day, and each time is seems like it just can't get any more absurd - yet it always does.

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  8. What a journey you are taking, Susie!

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  9. Well here in Q8 there are a lot of more recent immigrants from KSA. They keep having weddings with those rifle salutes: not a Kuwait custom and quite dangerous. My neighbor just married off his son and my housekeeper and I turned off the lights and ducked down as we were afraid. Possession of firearms is totally outlawed here in Q8 but never mind. It was right before Xmas so I wanted to go out and sing Christmas carols to do my thing too!
    Am fed up with those low level Saudis who have never done anything to help the plight of women. MEN ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO INTERFER AND COMMENT ON THE BODIES or activities OF WOMEN WHO THEY ARE NOT RELATED TO! This is the real Islam and Arab culture. And if men do not have self control, perhaps they should stay in the mosque all day and pray.

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    1. Hi Anonymous - The loaded firearms tradition at weddings is unbelievably stupid. Ok, if they want their firearms, fine - but security at the door make sure the guns are not loaded, frisk them, and take away the ammo. Just last month I saw a video of a wedding in Yemen where several men were killed by a party-goer with an automatic weapon. One minute they were dancing and having a good time - and the next minute people were dead on the floor or running for their lives. Tragedy on what was supposed to be a joyous occasion. Sheer stupidity.

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  10. Susie most women in KSA agree with you but it is difficult to get any positive action. I have met lovely Saudi women and if they are lucky, their husbands treat them well and protect them rather than oppress them. We all know that women are NOT to blame for the bad behavior of men. A good Muslim man averts his eyes from temptation. Anyway, they are allowed four wives to satisfy their needs. Doesn't anyone work over there in KSA??? I think the men are just oversexed and if they kept real busy and were not so lazy and really thought a lot about their religious duties, they would not be worried about what women were doing.

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    1. Hi Anonymous (@5:27:00 AM) - It's true that many Saudi men treat their wives and families very well. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I do believe that most men everywhere are preoccupied with thoughts of sex. The problem here is that the suppression in this society is so unnatural that everything seems to trigger thoughts of sex in men. And as a result, the women are punished and restricted even further because men just can't get sex off their minds. It's a vicious cycle.

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  11. I'm wondering if Anonymous was really being ironic or facetious, rather than serious in the comment about "report u to higher authorities."

    That aside, I'm in the middle of watching the delightful Saudi movie Wajdja and that brings to mind the comment in your post that women cannot ride bikes in public.

    Is that law or custom? Or a matter of practicality having to do with the difficulty of riding wearing an abaya and hijab?

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    1. Hi Veeds - I don't think that guy was trying to be funny...

      Last year in April there were actual news reports that one of the religious clerics stated that, contrary to popular belief, Saudi women can indeed ride bikes in public - however there are conditions. "The Saudi newspaper the Al-Yawm cited an unnamed official from the kingdom’s religious police saying that women are allowed to ride bikes in parks and recreational areas, but they have to be accompanied by a male relative and dressed in the full Islamic head-to-toe abaya."

      Read more: Saudi Women Can Now Ride Bicycles in Public (Kind of) | TIME.com http://world.time.com/2013/04/03/saudi-women-can-now-ride-bicycles-in-public-kind-of/#ixzz2qSjXtmaV

      I think it was just done for show, like, hey, we are not that unreasonable. The fact that they specified wearing an abaya was required, instead of long pants and long tunic, will discourage any women wanting to try it. It's impossible to ride a bike wearing a long cloak. I don't believe there is a law about it, per se.

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    2. why will they need to ride a bike ? when they have best cars in the world around

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    3. Where I come from, lots of people like to ride bikes for exercise.

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    4. so cant you afford one buy 1 indoor exercise bicycle? when ur in rome do as the romans do I guess that law was made by your own roman ancestors lol .. or you want to do bicycling in public and show people your self

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    5. I am not descended from Romans. And I prefer riding a real bike out in public than a stationary one indoors. "Show people" myself? Grow up.

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  12. Hmmm I don't know what should I say but I really really feel sorry about all saudii's girls nobody know how we are live in this country Its really bad if you dont have rights or even to say what do you want .. actually I don't like to say bad word but really most people here they are fucked up they just think about sex and women

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I grew up the only girl in a family with 4 brothers. When I was young, I used to wish I had been born a male because I felt that my brothers got to do a lot more things than I did. As the only girl, I was always outvoted on family vacations and other activities we would do as a family. I was always expected to do the kitchen chores and other womanly duties, while not much was expected from my brothers.
      I can only imagine how much worse I would have felt had I been born female in Saudi Arabia.

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  13. Looks like I was too generous about the supposed facetiousness of Mr/Ms Anonymous.

    In the meantime, have you had a chance to see [i]Wadjda[/i]?

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    1. No I haven't, Veeds, but I hope to see it soon.

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  14. Im glad to read you again. Thanks for this post. Best for you Buddy!

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  15. A well written article and some interesting comments. Yes Susie, it is true that women are denied so much in KSA. they cant drive, they have to be covered all the time when outside. I don't think the same applies to every one in KSA. There are states there that are a but more lenient to the completely covered part. You have to realize of the traditions of the country and also the fact that this is a Holy country with respect to the Islamic religion. Yes, control for men is an issue here and they want to keep it but also they cannot allow anything which would cause the kind of environment you would see in more open countries as UAE or Bahrain. Allowing one thing would mean to allow another and another and another. Yes driving for women at least should be allowed along with good education. As far as complete freedom is concerned, the religious status of the country in the Islamic world does not allow it to play around even a little with what happens openly. Your heart is in the right place girl, but you live in the wrong one... :)

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  16. Hi Amir - Thanks for your comment. I still don't understand the harm in a few women out in a public park using the swings. We have noticed an upsurge lately of the activities of religious police in several local malls, parks and other public places. They are out in bands telling women to cover their hair or even their faces. I feel that they certainly have more important things to do, like how about focusing on men who harass women and behave badly? It just gets so frustrating that women are harangued for letting some hair show while men continue to get away with bad behavior and nothing is done about it.

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  17. Hello Susie! your blog is very interesting! I am working in Jeddah now, I am from Mexico and I have been here for 1 year, and everyday I am surprised for things like this. I am saving a lot of news that I find interesting and I have already saved your blog, but I have a request: could you please tell me where can I find the news report you are talking about?
    and I feel the same way, why do women have to be responsible for men's bad behaivor? I find it like a double moral, it seems to me that men are considered like savages animals in a jungle and that is why they have no control over themselves.


    Thank you!

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    1. Hi KarlaMelia - Welcome to Jeddah! This is definitely an interesting place. I have a link to the news report in my blog post. If you just click on "the feedback from some people in response to this incident" in the paragraph starting with "Sadly" it will take you to the link. But here is the link for you to make it easier: "http://www.emirates247.com/news/region/saudi-religious-cops-tell-women-not-to-use-swings-2014-01-14-1.534594

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    2. Thank you very much for your reply! :O) now i can save it.

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  18. Suzi, I agree with you about just wanting to enjoy life without always having men spoil things for women. Sadly, these men will probably never come into the 21st century with their thinking. Take it easy and I hope you got to swing. :)

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    1. Hi Misty - I keep hoping that this mentality will change, but as they say in Saudi Arabia, for every one step forward, it's two steps back!

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  19. Fun is haram haram haram...didn't you know Susie. I forgot...it's just wrong for women. Men can have loads of fun :(

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    1. Hi Party of 5 - I keep hoping that things will lighten up here and people will be able to just enjoy themselves without being made to feel guilty about it... especially women.

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  20. Well all we can say is " keep smiling, you are in saudi arabia!!!!!

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  21. Wow! I just read this post and can't believe it, actually I can! I recently moved over from the UK with my husband and kids. We have a park right in front of our block and funnily enough I have had a go on the swings before! And its usually my religious bearded husband who is pushing me! I am a muslim and wear the abaya etc and don't see anything wrong with it. Yes I don't swing high sky, as I'm very cautious not to show anything that shouldn't be showing. But this takes the biscuit as we say in London!

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