The other day I was at the bank and struck up a conversation with a teller in her mid-20s. She had spent much of her life outside Saudi Arabia, living in Europe and later the United States. Her English was fluent and accentless. She expressed doubts, though, about her future. She instinctively felt society’s pressure to get married when she was not only unprepared, but also unwilling to marry a man who might stifle the independent life she led for so many years.
Making a home and becoming a mother did not frighten her, but leading a conventional Saudi mother’s life did. I don’t mean this to diminish motherhood, which is the bedrock of Saudi society. But the worldly view the bank teller has of life does not fit into the traditions and customs that older Saudi women embrace.
As Jawhar correctly notes later in her article, men perception of that changing role of women in society is lagging behind. In a country where male guardianship rules still apply, this is a serious problem. ♦