What is Oppression?

For the second time in three years, several women from Saudi Arabia are protesting their country’s practice of forbidding driver’s licenses for women.  However, this oppressive law is only one of several restrictions against women.  Saudi women are also fully controlled by a “male guardian” which can be a father, brother, or husband, who has as much power over her as he would have over his own child.

As Jeffreys states in Keeping Women Down and Out, maintaining such “imbalanced power dynamics” in relationships between men and women causes women to be “subjected to men’s control,” therefore extremely oppressed in society.  This terrible system of gender-based law makes it one of the worst countries for women, as they are denied rights based on their gender and need formal permission to travel, work, and even get medical treatment.

Making a woman so dependent on a male figure for everything is not only oppressive, but also inhumane in that it takes away her power over herself as an individual human being.  This example of prolonged control and dehumanizing treatment of women embodies the word oppression.  Being taught from an early age to approach the world outside their male guardian’s home with fear and shame is one of the most oppressive ways to grow up and live a life, regardless of ones gender.  In the words of Jeffreys, though in reference to strippers, this type of behavior towards women “makes them feel disempowered and victimized” since they are not being treated as individuals, instead having their personal lives “consistently violated” by men who repress them.  It’s concerning to think that there are cultures in which such “male guardians” are considered the societal norm, yet in actuality are easily comparable to masculine power-heads of the present day strip club industry.  Are there men who support the oppression of strippers yet chastise the female oppression by “male guardians” in Saudi Arabia?  How do they justify the difference?

Fisher, Max. “Saudi Arabia’s Oppression of Women Goes Way Beyond Its Ban on Driving.” The Washington Post 28 Oct. 2013: n. pag. Print.

Jeffreys, Sheila. “Keeping Women Down and Out: The Strip Club Boom and the Reinforcement of Male Dominance.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 34.1 (2008): 151-73. Print.

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