This is from an article I wrote for the November issue of Relativity Online:
Ultra-conservative Saudi families, and they are a majority, have a general dynamic that few Saudis could deny. Like old-fashioned western family ideologies, the father is the breadwinner, the mother takes care of the home-front, the sons are served and tolerated and the daughters are the bit of fluff that flutters around the house.
But unlike most other cultures, daughters also have to contend with constant supervision of their every move. A job that some brothers feel falls on their shoulders. No matter what age a woman is, many families believe that as long as she is single, she is a liability. This translates into horrific intrusions of privacy and personal freedom. In one extreme case, a family I know has no locks on any of the doors including the bathroom doors, so that to insure the daughters cannot seclude themselves and do anything inappropriate; pre-approval of clothing, whether at home or when leaving the house, is common.
A friend of mine once told me she had to sit for over two hours in an uncomfortable position because she had pajama pants on and was afraid her father, who had come early from work, would see them. And this is not only with teenage girls, but also adult women… even divorced mothers. So what’s a girl to do in this situation? Many go by the Arabic saying that translates into “a woman has only three places in this world: her family’s home, her husband’s home or her grave”. Read more