A quick scroll through CNN’s homepage or a flip through the morning’s New York Times is almost guaranteed to communicate some type of headline on the issue of equality—whether it be of the minority, women, or LGBT. The fact is, conversation in America, ever since its breakaway from Great Britain, has been constantly involving the issue of equality. Even the sheer mention of this country is able to evoke images of fairness and freedom for all.
Yet, in this highly modern and growing society of today, meanings have changed and views have shifted. What equality and the push for this concept once were no longer hold constant. The oversensitivity and impulse to grab onto any type of advancement, and to be satisfied with a superficial legislation has taken over our reason.
For the first time ever, Saudi Arabian women were granted the right to vote. Headlines on multiple major news sources donned prosperous and feel-good stories of this progress. However, they fail to account for the entire picture and the restraints the nature of Saudi Arabian government place on this achievement. In this notoriously misogynist country, this reform appears as an obvious milestone. Still, this milestone falls short.
The catch is that Saudi Arabia is not a democracy. Unlike America, Saudi Arabia provides no meaningful medium of expression: no free press, no personal authority, and no legal authority. Politics revolve around the King, rather than the voices of the population. If any change is to be made, it is more likely to be accomplished through connections with the prince than running for office with an egalitarian driven candidacy. Amid this patronage network for the royals, the ability and value of voting are crowded out and have little to no influence at all.
Despite being able to vote, the women of Saudi Arabia are still discriminated against, and laws that exclude women are still in relevance. Women, without the accompaniment of their male relative or spouse, can neither drive nor travel. Even with the power to vote, what can Saudi Arabian women do? In respect to Saudi Arabia’s highly oppressive political system, we can only see this as an advance on paper only.
All in all, we should still commend the women of Saudi Arabia, and other minorities alike who are discriminated against, for making it so far, and accomplishing such feats. Although we cannot respond to this event with celebration and applause, a slow clap will do.