A Saudi Arabian historian went on television to defend the kingdom's ban on women drivers by stating that Western drivers "don't care if they are raped on the roadside" — and was called out by the female host of the program.
Under questioning about the rationale for the de facto ban on women driving in the kingdom, historian Saleh al-Saadoon claimed that women risk sexual assault when a car breaks down on the roadside, but that it's not such a big deal in countries where women can drive: "They don't care if they are raped on the roadside, but we do," he told the incredulous host.
"Hold on," the host asks, clearly taken aback. "Who told you they don't care about getting raped on the roadside?"
"It's no big deal for them beyond the damage to their morale," al-Saadoon responded. "In our case, however, the problem is of a social and religious nature."
The entire exchange has to be seen to be believed:
According to the translation, provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute, the host doesn't take al-Saadoon's misogynist assertions sitting down. "What, society and the family are more important that the woman's morale?" she said in response.
Al-Saadoon didn't give up, even as the two other panelists and the hosts made it clear that even on on conservative airwaves, he'd gone too far. "Saudi women are driven around by their husbands, sons and brothers," he said. "Everybody is at their service. They are like queens. A queen without a chauffeur has the honor of being driven around by her husband, brother, son and nephews. They are at the ready when she gestures with her hands."
"You are afraid that a woman might be raped by the roadside by soldiers, but you are not afraid that she might be raped by her chauffeur?" the host countered. "Of course I am," he responded. "There is a solution, but the government officials and clerics refuse to hear of it. The solution is to bring female foreign chauffeurs to drive our wives."
The host couldn't keep it together and started laughing hysterically. "Female foreign chauffeurs? Seriously?"
At least someone is taking al-Saadoon to task. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world to ban women from driving, and those who do defy the law face severe punishments, including public lashings, if they're caught — not that that's stopped people like Queen Elizabeth II from trolling Saudi men with their stick-shift skills.
Activists have become cautiously optimistic that the ban might be repealed soon, as social media has allowed organizers to spread the pro-driving message to larger audiences. In the meantime, when al-Saadoon's arguments are the kind being publicly used to justify the rule, it's only a matter of time before more modern thinking Saudi women leave him in the dust.