A western female leader opting to not wear a head scarf in Saudi Arabia does not mean a hijab or niqab is oppressive. It means that democracy gives women the option to choose how to express themselves.
On April 4, British Prime Minister Theresa May joined the long list of women in power to go against Saudi Arabia's strongly enforced dress code for women. May landed in Saudi Arabia dressed in true democratic fashion. She wore loose trousers, a coat and a scarf, which stayed around her neck the entire visit, Iran Front Page reported.
Like former United States First Lady Michelle Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, May's attire resulted in a multitude of news articles and opinion columns throughout the world.
Western reporters brought up questions like, "Is May truly a feminist?"
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Such questions only validate the reality that a woman's appearance is far too scrutinized, even in democracies that boast equality.
May had defended her outfit choice to journalists and those questioning.
(Sounds a little bit like rape culture, doesn't it?)
“I hope people will see me as a woman leader, and will see what women can achieve and how women can be in significant positions,” she said.
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May, who has been caught wearing a shirt marked, "This is what a feminist looks like," was once Minster for Women and Equality and even co-founded Women2Win, an organization that encouraged more conservative female members of Parliament, Hearst Magazine writes.
This outfit should have come as no surprise to anyone.
Saudi Arabia could easily claim the title of "Worst Place in the World for Women."
The Independent reported that Saudi women are unable to drive, on the grounds that it is “a dangerous matter that exposes women to evil."
Also, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah al-Sheikh defended the ban on account that men with “weak spirits” and who are “obsessed with women” could hurt female drivers.
(Sounds like rape culture again…)
But the driving laws are only some of the infringements of basic human rights for women in Saudi Arabia.
Women there also can't marry, leave the country, enroll in higher education or obtain a passport without the permission of a male guardian.
Throughout different parts of the Saudi Kingdom, women's faces and hair are covered to different degrees -- with the capital, Riyahd, being the most strict and intolerant. But anywhere they go, Saudi women will always be covered.
The issue that May and many other women take on this is that these women aren't given the basic right to choose, but rather are threatened to objectification if they don’t follow the law.
"I believe that what a woman wears is a woman’s choice," May stated on World Hijab day, when being questioned on her stance regarding the Burqa Ban making its way through European countries, The Independent reported.
May made her choice -- something Saudi women aren't granted.
She shouldn't have to defend herself.