Riyadh: long relegated to the back seat, Saudi women celebrated the first time they took the wheel this week in a long-awaited rite of passage, but there remains a crucial obstacle: the attitude of men.
Social networks are full of videos of women behind the wheel and men in the passenger seat, a reversal of roles that was unimaginable in the conservative petrostat until a royal decree last September ended a ban on women driving several decades
A female driver is so novel throughout the Muslim kingdom segregated by gender that when the decree came into effect on Sunday, it generated jubilation, disbelief and similar reactions perhaps to those evoked by the first doctor in the nineteenth century.
“Look, a woman driver!” It seemed to be a common refrain among the male spectators in Riyadh, as the women embraced a freedom long denied to them.
Now many prepare quietly for a battle of sexes in the streets of Saudi Arabia.
The reform has been widely acclaimed by young Saudis and no incident of harassment was publicly reported in the first two days since the ban was lifted, but many distrust the widespread sexism and male driver aggression despite warnings from The authorities.
“I advise men to stay at home to avoid being killed by women drivers!” Said a Saudi Twitter user, echoing a torrent of similar comments predicting a wave of accidents due to motorists.
Often, these comments include images of car accidents and traffic accidents.
And then there are the condescending mansplainers.
Some social media users have advised women to “avoid makeup” while driving.
Others have predicted pink cars and parking lots for women.