Essay: What About Saudi Women?

Even on public radio, the news today is all about the murder of a Saudi reporter. Sure, it’s a grim, outrageous story. While the country continues to galvanize around the stories of men—Saudi princes…US and Russian presidents…and friends—once again I have to take time out of my busy schedule [sic] to set people straight [sic].

Why hasn’t the US media covered with such intensity the story of any and all Saudi women? Why hasn’t a US president protested the fate of one single Saudi Arabian woman?

Saudi family on vacation, Persian Gulf, Dubai, by Elizabeth G Fagan, lakemichigansleftcoast.com, Lake Michigan's Left Coast
Saudi family on vacation, Persian Gulf, Dubai

Saudi Arabian law requires that, while in public, all women cover their bodies entirely, obscuring everything but their eyeballs. Why? Men might see something to entice them, thereby forcing them to lose control. I don’t even know how to start picking apart that logic, but how about this: it must mean that it is a woman’s fault if she is raped.

Saudi Arabians are apparently photo-adverse. I had to sneak one shot of a Saudi family vacationing at the Persian Gulf in Dubai. The wife was wearing the full hijab, which she had slightly pulled up to aid holding an offspring while walking on sand. The long jeans she wore underneath revealed nary an ankle. Note the husband’s attire. I wanted to ask the wife how she intended to work on her tan, but the husband shooed me away.

In Saudi Arabia, women’s “lack of capacity” necessitates an official male guardian. Every female has to have one. Official guardianship may change during a woman’s lifetime—from a father to a husband, for example. Saudi women must obtain permission from their male guardian to do virtually everything outside their homes. In Saudi Arabia, a woman’s life is controlled in every way by some man or another, from her birth to her death.

The pool at Qasr Al Sarab in Abu Dhabi, by Elizabeth G Fagan, lakemichigansleftcoast.com, Lake Michigan's Left Coast
The pool at Qasr Al Sarab in Abu Dhabi

Unlike the Saudi woman in my photo, I was able to work on my tan while vacationing—in the Arabian desert of all places. While planning that trip, I discovered a youtube of an otherworldly resort in the middle of nowhere called Qasr Al Sarab. I simply had to go there. It turned out to be many times more fabulous than I had imagined. While we grabbed the fierce desert rays, everyone at the pool had their own Pool Butler.

That pool became my Favorite Spot on Earth. On the last day, my traveling companions dragged me away from it to shop and visit touristy places. I had time only to throw a cover up over my bathing suit.

We went to a huge and beautifully rendered mosque. Women of style like myself [sic] know that black clothing is normally flattering [sic]. But a group of patronizing females at that mosque forced me into black polyester drapery that could have covered a Jeep Grand Cherokee. They clucked at my bare legs and flip flops and pulled a hood over my blond, sun-kissed locks [sic].

I would rather shove a spire through my head than be a woman in Saudi Arabia. No sic [sic].


Elizabeth Fagan, Abu Dhabi
Elizabeth Fagan, Abu Dhabi

Elizabeth G Fagan is a writer and artist who resides in southeastern Wisconsin—a place she calls Lake Michigan’s Left Coast. She’s endured the curse of being a writer since attending a private arts high school in Connecticut, where the bad habit was encouraged. She also became a photographer at that high school. She spent all the time she could in the school’s darkroom, creating black and white images from film. Alas, a second bad habit acquired. Fagan is passionate about the natural world and its creatures.

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