I read an article yesterday detailing the statements of Saudi cleric, Mufti Sheikh Abulaziz Al-Sheikh who was defending the Saudi Arabian ban on issuing driver’s licences to women. He said,
…men with “weak spirits” who are “obsessed with women” could cause female drivers harm and that family members would not know the whereabouts of women.
He is not alone in his assessment. Last year Saudi historian Dr. Saleh Al-Saadoon had a controversial exchange on Saudi Rotana Khalijiyya TV:
Dr Al-Saadoon: “If a woman drives from one city to another and her car breaks down, what will become of her?”
Host:“Well, women drive in America, in Europe and in the Arab world.”
Dr Al-Saadoon:“They don’t care if they are raped on the roadside but we do.”
Host:“Hold on, who told you that they don’t care about getting raped by the roadside?”
Dr Al-Saadoon:“It’s no big deal for them beyond the damage to their morale. In our case, however, the problem is of a social and religious nature.
Host:“What is rape if not a blow to the morale of the woman? That goes deeper than the social damage.”
Dr Al-Saadoon:“But in our case it affects the family…”
Host:“What, society and the family are more important than the woman’s morale?”
Now, you are probably asking yourself what this has to do with Harvard. And no, they have not banned women from driving.
What is happening is that an effort to reduce on campus sexual assault by integrating women into the last of the so-called final clubs at Harvard is underway. The Crimson explains the administration’s reasoning this way:
…citing qualitative and quantitative data, the University’s sexual assault prevention task force sharply criticized male final clubs for a high prevalence of “nonconsensual sexual contact.” Among undergraduate female seniors “participating in the Final Clubs”—including women who attend male final club events and seniors who are members of female final clubs—47 percent reported having experienced “nonconsensual sexual contact,” according to a University-wide sexual climate survey.
For the first time in recent memory, the Porcellian Club (Harvard’s oldest final club) felt this was a good time to break their silence to defend themselves against being forced to [GASP] go co-ed. While there may be benign reasons for wanting a single gender club and while in his letter to The Harvard Crimson, graduate board president Charles M. Storey (Class of ’82) enumerated some of these points, he also could not help but unwittingly echo the statements of the men mentioned above.
In his letter, Mr Storey opined, “Forcing single gender organizations to accept members of the opposite sex could potentially increase, not decrease the potential for sexual misconduct.” Apparently, Mr. Storey feels that integrating clubs like theirs will INCREASE the possibility that these women will be sexually assaulted. This directly contradicts another of Mr. Storey’s points. Namely, that “Sexual misconduct is absolutely unacceptable in all its forms but it is not an issue at the Porcellian Club.” Interestingly, the club already has a members only policy at its clubhouse which, in Storey’s words, “greatly reduce[s] the potential for sexual assault.”
Well, which is it? They do or do not have an issue with sexual misconduct? It seems to me that if the only way to ensure women are not assaulted is to keep them out of the club and even out of the clubhouse entirely you certainly have an issue. Or maybe he is trying to say that sexual misconduct is only not an issue because there are no women members and no women guests?
Let’s see if I have this right: Not allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia keeps them from being sexually assaulted in the same way that not being admitted as members (or as guests) of the Porcellian Club at Harvard keeps women from being sexually assaulted. It doesn’t guarantee that they won’t be but it definitely “reduce(s) the possibility for sexual assault”.
Thank you so much for thinking of us gentlemen.