Thomas Wictor

The stinging pebbles of virtue

The stinging pebbles of virtue

I just read an article about how the Saudi Mutawaa (religious police from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) have banned women from using swing sets.

The rationale is that the police are protecting the women from any men who might see them and get excited. Thus, Saudi culture not only posits that all men are rapists, it accepts that all men are rapists. Instead of teaching men how to control themselves, the Saudis put their women in black bags and prevent them from going anywhere without a male relative as escort.

In Saudi Arabia it’s illegal for men and women who are not related to have any contact. A woman can be arrested, lashed, and sentenced to long jail terms for being caught alone with a male who isn’t her relative. Mobs of Saudi men routinely harass women who aren’t completely covered or who don’t have a male guardian.

One of the comments.

My sister, you have left your home without a proper hijab (veil) that doesn’t cover you fully and have gone to a mall without a male chaperon and without the need [to go to the mall] because you are not carrying any shopping bags with you. Protect yourself from the weak. If you were properly dressed and went to the mall to finish buying necessities, no one would have stopped you.
Thank God for chastity.

Well, it’s absolutely clear to me that none of the men in that video were thinking of the women’s welfare. They just wanted to victimize them. It was a turn-on.

The Saudi Mutawaa are notorious for vacationing in the fleshpots of Dubai, where they drink and hook up with prostitutes. During the Gulf War, I read an account of someone being invited to a pious Saudi prince’s home. The prince excused himself and came back in a few minutes. He’d changed out of his robe into western clothes, but he’d also removed his false beard and mustache.

He pressed a button, and a wall slid back to reveal a disco with a mirrored ceiling ball, a bar, and several scantily clad Turkish whores.

Party time!” he shouted.

I’ve never been able to stomach hypocrisy, especially when it comes from people exerting control over others. The more a person tells you how to live your life, the less likely that person is to practice what he preaches. It’s a kind of natural law, like gravity.

One of the saddest things I ever heard was when the Sunni tribal militias in Iraq agreed in 2007 to fight with the Coalition instead of against it.

“We misunderstood,” a tribal leader told a marine commander. “We thought you came here to steal our women.”

American women dance on tabletops, have careers, go to the gym, wrestle with us, slap our faces, smile, and play the bass.

But we went to Iraq to steal grim, depressed, silent, genitally mutilated, passive, illiterate women in black body bags?

The stinging pebbles of virtue

Mom told me about a friend of hers whose oil-executive husband was transferred to Saudi Arabia. Before they went, the woman was warned about all the rules she’d have to follow. She was terrified.

The first day she went out shopping by herself, she put on a floor-length dress, a long-sleeved jacket, and a hijab. No more than a minute after she stepped outside, something whacked into her ankle like a pellet shot from an air gun. She screamed and ran back inside.

Examining her ankle, she found a welt. What had caused it? She had no idea. Gathering her courage, she went outside again. This time she made it to the market before the same thing happened: Something hard hit her ankle. It hurt like hell.

She decided to keep on shopping, but it happened twice more. Finally, she saw a woman pick up a pebble, put it into a little slingshot, and fire it. Bip! It hit the American woman on the ankle.

Why are you doing this?” she shouted.

The Saudi woman came over and pointed to the dress, pantomiming that it was too short. It exposed an inch of ankle. The American woman went home and let out the hem of her dress so that it would drag on the ground.

Imagine not only keeping a constant eye on strangers to make sure they behave the way you want, but also arming yourself so that you can force them to conform.

“Okay: Got my keys, my purse, my cellphone, and my slingshot in case someone’s dress is too short. Let’s go.”

There’s a great British movie called Love + Hate, about a racist white boy who finds himself reluctantly falling for his coworker, a young woman of Pakistani descent. When the girl’s older brother finds out that she’s dating a white kid, he tells her to break it off.

“Why should I?” the girl asks. “You pick up white girls all the time!”

In answer to her question, he throws her against the wall and shouts in her face, “You do what I tell you, understand?”

That’s pretty much the reason why women in Saudi Arabia can’t drive, play on swing sets, or go anywhere unaccompanied. “You do what I tell you, understand?”

A long time ago I saw an interview with a Shi’ite cleric in Iraq. He was asked if he wanted alcohol and nightclubs outlawed.

“No,” he said. “If all temptations have been taken away, you can’t resist them. Virtue means turning down opportunities to sin. If there are no opportunities to sin, you can’t be a good person.”

The women I dated were all rambunctious tomboys whose closest friends were male. Sometimes these pals went out together. I never felt jealous or insecure. The women had been friends with these men before I met them, so how could I now object to the relationships? I had to trust, and if there are no opportunities to make poor choices, there’s no opportunity to become a wholly realized person.

Before I went to Japan, I met the stepfather of the guy who was supposed to go with me but chickened out. As my friend was off somewhere in the house getting whatever it was he came for, the stepfather decided out of the blue to give me some advice.

“Well, a train can’t have two engines pulling it in opposite directions,” he said. “To make the train go, one engine has to take the lead. It’s the same in a marriage. One person has to make the decisions. That doesn’t mean the decisions are made harshly. No, they’re made firmly but with…love. And with…compassion.”

He looked and sounded exactly like Lyndon Johnson. As he sat there on the sofa, leaning forward, forearms resting on his thighs and hands clasped between his knees, gazing at the floor, ponderously delivering his wisdom, trying to indoctrinate me because I seemed vulnerable, the hair on the back of my neck stood up.

Everybody’s got their own taste, but if I have to choose between an obedient, docile, cosseted, child-woman and an equal partner, I’m going to pick someone on my level. Or if she’ll have me, someone above my level.

Then I’ll have a role model.


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