Driving the Saudi ?Powder Puff’ Revolution

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Despite the Kingdom?s advances in oil & gas, telecom, education and healthcare, one aspect of its modern society remains trapped in a time-warp:? Saudi women are still prohibited from driving a car.? A pair of precedents comes to mind.

The first involves a famous woman acquainted with progress-minded and chivalrous artist-poet Kahlil Gibran.? The intrepid Amelia Earhart charmed her own male-dominated society and (incredibly, without anguish and conflict) obtained her pilot?s license well before her driver?s license.? Way back then, many American men thought women should not drive.

However, during the closing chapter of?America?s frontier era nine decades ago, Ms Earhart proved women could safely operate complex vehicles to advance their and their families? economic interests. ?The following narrow timeline speaks volumes about her drive to succeed:

  • 1919 — Graduates from an all-girl car mechanics class
  • 1921 — Completes flying lessons and buys first aircraft
  • 1923 — Obtains pilot?s license from the FAI (in?Lausanne)
  • 1924 — Buys first car and drives across?USA?(3,000+ miles)
  • 1930 — Acquires transport pilot?s license (to fly passengers)
  • 1935 — Awarded a?California?drivers license

The second precedent concerns a Saudi woman?s recent decision to drive a car in Khobar.? It was a simple but profound act of civil disobedience.? And comparable to when Rosa Parks (back in 1955, nine long decades after the Civil War that freed her ancestors from slavery), a black American woman riding a segregated bus in?Montgomery,?Alabama, refused the driver?s order to leave her paid-for seat so a white person could sit down.? She was promptly arrested.

In light of these two historic contexts, the Saudi government?s subsequent arrest (and re-arrest) last month of Manal Al Sherif could ensure that she, her car and the city of?Khobar?will become iconic international symbols for gender segregation.

Alternatively, the otherwise progressive Kingdom could perceive the wisdom of quickly facilitating the inevitable.? History proves it is a winning formula. ?After all, according to the Holy Qur?an (in Sura 9:71)??The believing men and women are allies of one another.?





Photo: Amelia leaning on her Cord roadster in front of her Electra aircraft.

In 1919 Amelia Earhart attended a Smith-sponsored auto mechanics course taught by local mechanic John Charlebois





Photo: In 1919 Amelia Earhart graduated from a Smith College-sponsored auto mechanics course.





Photo: Amelia?s aviator license granted in 1923 by the F?d?ration A?ronautique Internationale.

Jim Egan, an aerospace enthusiast, is active?in digital futures initiatives that can influence the emotions, brand loyalties and discretionary spending patterns of 100m-sized online audiences.?He is also involved in an?emerging cleantech company which is inventing devices for household water reuse and carbon?capture.?[email protected]

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