The December 26 posting on this site, “Saudi Apartheid,” which argued that women in Saudi Arabia are not really the victims of apartheid in the same sense as South African blacks, appeared also, in slightly amended version, in the letter columns of the National Post.
This prompted a response in the December 29 edition of that paper. The correspondent argued that no less august a body than Amnesty International had declared that Saudi women are oppressed.
An appeal to authority never a legitimate argument. But for my opinion of that particular authority, the reader might like to review the entry on this site titled “The Life Cycle of an Idealistic Organization,” and posted August 28, 2007.
The respondent also, inevitably, cited the recent case of a Shi’ite woman sentenced to 100 lashes as proof that women in Saudi Arabia are indeed discriminated against. (She does not note that the sentence was ultimately overturned; and does not realize that the men who raped her were not the man she was illicitly visiting.)
But this was not in fact a case of sexual discrimination at all, as I pointed out in the entry on this site titled “Saudi Lashings,” posted November 19, 2007.
The subtext here, I think, is a pervasive, almost unconscious assumption that women should not be held accountable for their own actions—the same attitude, indeed, that deems it proper to declare Saudi women “oppressed” for choosing to wear a hijab. If anything a woman does is somehow offensive to anyone, it must be the fault of the nearest man.