Thursday, March 26, 2009

Unfree To Buy Undewear

A group of women in Saudi Arabia launched a campaign this week to boycott lingerie stores until they employ women, according to the Associated Press.

But this isn't just about hiring women. In a country in which the genders are very strictly segregated in public, it's also about how uncomfortable it is for women to buy underwear in an all male-staffed shops.

I still get bashful perusing the lingerie sections of departments stores. I can't imagine if Victoria's Secret was staffed by all dudes. And, more than that, the salesmen who are sizing these women up can't see much more than their eyes.

Under Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation of Islamic law, women are required to cover themselves head-to-toe in black robes in public. But in the privacy of their own homes — and bedrooms — they can wear whatever they want, and sexy undergarments are popular.

But buying them is another story. Fitting rooms are banned in the kingdom — the idea of a woman undressing in a public place with men just outside is unthinkable. So a woman is never sure she has chosen the right size until she gets it home.

Sounds like an uncomfortable crap shoot.

With the way things are, the salesmen are embarrassed, the female customers are embarrassed, their (non-mandatory but common) male chaperons are embarrassed. Could
you take your brother thong shopping??

Women supporting the boycott campaign want enforcement of a 2006 law which says that all female staff can be employed in women's apparel stores.
The law has never been put into effect, partly due to hard-liners in the religious establishment who oppose employing women in mixed environments like malls, where religious police are always on the lookout to keep men and women from interacting.

Hiring women would also deprive men of jobs in a country where more than 10 percent of men are unemployed.

The campaign [also] calls on women to shop at the country's few women-only lingerie stores. Usually stand-alone boutiques or located in malls that have women-only sections, these shops have no windows to ensure passing men cannot look in — and giving women the freedom to actually try things on.

I'm not surprised that attractive lingerie is popular in a place where women have to hide in public, though -- it seems to me like there'd be a lot of people itching for a little bit of independence, to make themselves feel beautiful and feminine even if it must be hidden. And it certainly makes me think a bit differently about my ability to go into any number of malls and stores and buy whatever underwear I want, largely unnoticed.

1 comment:

Marjo on makeup frenzy said...

Just wow! I knew about their radical Islamic laws but I didn't know they can't even try something in a store. I'm lucky to live in Turkey, compared to them :/