How we have come to be the society we are today is one thing and why change is slow in coming is another. Outsiders looking in think to themselves why do Saudi women put up with all this oppression. The guardianship system, the ban on driving and all our other societal peculiarities draw looks of pity, shock and for some a fixation. Why don’t we all just go out into the streets without abayas? Why don’t we just get behind a wheel and drive? Why don’t we run away? The short answer is we don’t want to. But that isn’t helpful. To bring it closer to non-Muslims and especially Christians, I would ask them to look into their own backyard at the polygamous offshoots of the Latter Day Saints, whether it’s a compound or a small town on the borders of Utah. Why don’t the women there run away, stand up for their rights or at the very least speak up? The vast majority of them believe in their lifestyle even though the country’s legal system does not support it and would back a woman who wants to get away. It isn’t much of a stretch from those dresses and bonnets to abayas, especially when considering that Saudi women don’t do much manual work and only wear the abaya in the presence of unrelated men. I personally think that being a “sister wife” in a plural marriage is a lot worse than how polygamy is practiced in Saudi because here wives are separate and no pretensions of love or saintliness are expected.
Mormon women in the USA do not stand up to their oppressors because they belong. They are part of a community that loves and cherishes them. If they were to leave they would have to face the harsh responsibilities and realities of life alone and detached. It is not cowardice. It’s about finding your place in the world and contributing by fixing it from within.
So before you judge us, relate to us. This is what we are born into and we would feel lost without our community’s approval and backing. And just like every individual in this world, Saudi women are just trying to find their way.