Breaking News: Saudi Arabia is a Thing

No really. It’s a thing. I had no idea.

Never mind that I’ve been to Saudi Arabia. That, even though I should have been way too young to understand, I picked up on the fact that my mother was being treated like a piece of meat by Saudi men for daring to expose her face while accompanied only by my younger sister and me (i.e. not a man). That, recently, I refused a free trip to that particular Gulf nation because I knew that going there would essentially make me legal property of my father, not to mention would put into harm’s way as an apostate. That I not only know what Wahhabism is, but that it touched and warped my upbringing.

It's actually just for men. Women aren't allowed to be out alone.
It’s actually just for men. Women aren’t allowed to be out alone.

Nope. I, like all the other privileged Western feminists, used to walk around wholly unaware that there is mistreatment of women in Saudi Arabia. Thanks to a truly brave hero at CONvergence this past weekend, this grand oversight has been fully rectified. I now am fully cognizant of the fact that bad things happen to women in Saudi Arabia (though I’m still not sure what a defeated Mormon presidential candidate has to do with it).

Now that I know that women in Saudi Arabia have it bad, what am I supposed to do about it? Again, I look to only the bravest of the brave heroes to tell me exactly what I am supposed to do about the fact that women are mistreated in Saudi Arabia. I thought that I would hear more about what I could do for those poor Saudi women if I kept up my disguise as an ignorant, whiny, Westernized feminist. I mean, they wouldn’t just mention Saudi Arabia to feminists for no reason, right? There must be some purpose.


As it turns out, they mention Saudi Arabia as a counterpoint to the criticisms of sexism in the United States. I was mistaken — it isn’t about helping out women worldwide, it’s about making us uppity Western feminists realize that our concerns are trivial and meaningless compared to those of women in Saudi Arabia.

Consider this my official thank you to Western men for not behaving as badly as they tend to in Saudi Arabia. I am incredibly grateful that you choose to so mercifully allow me to do things like drive and walk around showing my face. I should really count my blessings and not expect any more or better out of you. My mistake for assuming that you were capable of more above and beyond simply not treating me the way women are treated in Saudi Arabia.

Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy [hee-na dad-uh-boy] spent her childhood as a practicing Muslim who never in her right mind would have believed that she would grow up to be an atheist feminist secular humanist, or, in other words, a Skepchick. She has been an active participant in atheist organizations and events in and around Orange County, CA since 2007. She is currently writing A Skeptic's Guide to Islam. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

Related Articles


  1. Heina,

    I’m certainly not Jealous of you for having to go through that. Saudi Arabia, is hardly a country I would want to visit.

    I have also found that in addition to some people using Saudi Arabia as a means to shut up western feminists, I’ve also found a lot of people who use it as a means to demonize Muslims and Arabs. Its a common practice for people look to other societies and say see we’re better than them, rather than try to solve their own problems and make their society better.

    1. It is a standard move in agenda denial.

      The agenda denier knows that their case is weak and so rather than engage in debate they set out to ensure that there is no debate at all. Common moves are ‘this is not the time to discuss the matter’, ‘the matter was not raised properly’, ‘the behavior of the people raising the issue means that they have forfeited the right to discuss it’, ‘they are not qualified to rais the issue’ and ‘this other matter must be considered instead’.

      The apologists for Israel frequently rely on agenda denial. Attempt to complain about the situation in the West Bank and they will reply ‘Iran’.

      There are of course occasions where this type of move is legitimate. When Obama gets up to talk about human rights in Iran it is completely legitimate to ask what he plans to do on the Guantanamo gulag or to prosecute the Bush administration war criminals because those are issues in his direct scope of authority and the conditions in Iran are not. It would also be legitimate to raise the situation in Saudi Arabia if someone was attempting to discuss human rights and was holding up Saudi Arabia as a model or there was some other reason to believe that they were unaware of the situation there.

      But in general when someone is talking about something that they have the ability to affect the outcome of or directly affects them, raising another issue that they have no control over is an agenda denial move and an illegitimate debate tactic.

  2. Doesn’t it make you want to spit? As a socialist I get it all the time, “You want union rights? Do you think the have union rights in China? DO YOU?”
    What is it about trying to make things a little bit better that makes some people want to reel off a list of places they’d heard of?
    ” You want to clean the environment? They have sulphuric acid clouds on Venus, you know? SULPHURIC ACID!!!”
    One day we’ll be able to get our own back, “Oh, you want to live under a regime of unregulated, laissez-faire capitalism? Move to the UK, everthing’s for sale there. EVERYTHING!”

    Oh bugger, that’s where I live.

  3. Heina,

    You know you should talk to David Futrelle’s “MRA” “Friend,”
    Tom “Female Penguins are Whores ” Martin about Saudi Arabia

    He thinks “Saudi Arabia is A Whorish Matriarchy”

          1. Phillip Hallam-Baker,

            Unfortunately, I think Tom Martin is really enough of a sexist pig to say that a country like Saudi Arabia is a “Whorish Matriarchy” and he may well be disconnected enough from reality to actually believe it. I was being sarcastic when I told Heina she might want to talk to him. Tom Martin probably wouldn’t listen to her anyway. I just thought she might get a kick out of how incredibly disconnected from reality he was, that and I was reminded of his hilarious sexist stupidity when she brought up Saudi Arabia.

            As for the website, Manboobz was set up by David Futrelle with the purpose of exposing the “manosphere” misogynists for what they really are. He may have fun doing it, but unfortunately most of the time the people he talks about on his website are not joking.

    1. Great links, criticaldragon! I love manboobz!
      I can’t believe, my clueless work IT mob has BLOCKED manboobz – “tasteless”, it says. Surely that’s the whole point? I mean, those assholes claim they don’t have time to enable interfaces for some of our most important instruments, but they have time to indulge in this petty frogshit censorship? Unbefuckinglievable.

      1. Jack99,

        Thanks. I’m glad you enjoy laughing at bigoted idiots like Tom Martin.

      2. Huh. I’m “friends” with Tom Martin too. I became “friends” with him when he sued LSE for gender discrimination and I posted about it. He made quite a few comments at my place, complete with liberal use of the word “whore” and its cognates.

        1. Ophelia Benson,

          Not surprised he was unreasonable. After all he thought Saudi Arabia was a “Whorish Matriarchy” and women there had it easy.

  4. I’ve heard this argument before. It’s the “Well, these people have it worse. Why are you complaining?” argument. This always seems to come up when taking about civil rights. Is there a nice fancy Latin term for this fallacy?

    1. I don’t know about Latin, but it’s definitely a red herring, i.e. changing the subject instead of dealing with your opponent’s actual points. The argument can also be interpreted as a kind of false dichotomy according to which something must either be the only/worst problem in the world or no problem at all. There’s probably an element of poisoning the well in there as well: “How petty of those uppity feminists to not just shut up and be grateful for whatever level of ‘respect’ western men are willing to grant them. when they see what ‘dear Muslima’ has to put up with,”

  5. This is what I know about S.A.
    A person I know used to be an audiologist who worked in SA. He told me that in order to visit a nearby village, he first had to seek permission from the local ‘council’, or whatever it was called. So I (naively) asked him, “But what about tourists? Do they have to get permission too?”

    He laughed at me – a real belly-laugh – then sputtered, “TOURISTS??? They don’t have TOURISTS in Saudi Arabia!!!”

    So yeah, I get it. They live in ANOTHER WORLD. And we can’t even go there because we can’t even get a visa. I mention this because it looks like globalization is in for a bumpier ride than so far.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button