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Something in the air: empowering women

When recently, and out of nowhere, I received a text from my daughter with the following message: “Hey Dad, check this out, I signed up for a class to learn Arabic,” I thought this was just another line of newsfeed on my Facebook page. 

What a coincidence that, only a short time ago, an earth-shaking event had taken place in, of all places, Saudi Arabia. For the first time in the history of that country, women will be able to carry a driver’s license and drive freely without the permission of the men or the elders in their family. Saudi women finally,  at least on the roadways, will be able to run their lives with no restrictions.

For us, living in a free society, it is unheard of to prohibit women from driving a car. Any young woman at her proper age who followed and passed the required tests should have no problem of driving a car on her own. But for Saudi women, that was nothing short of humiliation and struggle. And to their credit, these women at times broke the law by driving without a permit, just to shake and unnerve the authorities, and they were able to force the establishment to rethink their views of women and what they represent in the society.

 

But while Saudi women are celebrating their newly found freedom, American women are facing the possible elimination of some of their own rights. Suddenly we are at the crossroads of a whole new phase, where with one or two Supreme Court assignments American women might lose their right to choose their lifestyles and fate. This might’ve been unheard of just a few months ago, but now there is an imminent danger of it becoming a reality. Soon Roe v. Wade might be repealed, Planned Parenthood might be shut down and LGBTQ rights revoked. 

Ironically, in America where we consider ourselves open-minded and free to choose our own lifestyles, it seems that we are not much different from the authoritarian regime in Saudi Arabia. Both countries’ women are or will be subjected to restrictions and forced to pay the heavy price and the burden of society’s dishonesty. 

On the bright side, though, some recent events in the landscape of American political life seem to offer a sliver of a hope. The ongoing protests against the latest Supreme Court decision against abortion rights are becoming commonplace. And there are indications that they will grow and become a solid movement. 

 

Now there seems to be a real possibility that even the so-called progressive leadership is going through a long-awaited facelift. There was a surprising win by a previously unknown newcomer, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, over the establishment candidate Joseph Crowley in their recent New York Democratic primary for the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Even Hollywood seems to be getting into the act. Two recent movies, “Book Club” and “Ocean’s 8,” portray women who are strong, disciplined and resilient. These women know exactly what they want and how to get it. They appear to be the kind of women who will not be threatened and will refuse to be dictated to by manmade laws arbitrarily defining their destiny. The women characters portrayed in both movies come across as tough as nails. 

And to answer my daughter’s text message: Yes. Yes. And, yes. You should learn Arabic and as many other languages you possibly can. It’s crucial to know and understand the culture, tradition and lifestyles of women living in countries on the other side of the globe. After all, it’s all about sharing experiences and inspiring each other. That is the only way that women can stand up against restrictions dictated by lawmakers with a conservative agenda, whose main goal is to take us back to the dark ages of antiquated beliefs and doctrines.

 

Varoujan Froundjian is a graphic designer, Photoshop artist, writer, cartoonist, information technology and wine expert who also drives a limousine for local livery. He can be reached at varoujanfroundjian@gmail.com.