Too Little, Too Late

Did any of you notice a news story last month? The one about Saudi Arabia finally allowing women to drive? As in cars. Well, in June 2018, Saudi women will be allowed to drive cars. Fawziah al-Bakr, a university professor, participated in the first protest against the driving ban in 1990. She is quoted in the New York Times saying, “We have been waiting for a very long time.”

There could be a variety of reactions to this news. One might be amazement that this is happening, because many people might not even be aware that women are so oppressed in a wealthy, supposedly sophisticated and advanced country. Another is along the lines of the ever popular victim blaming approach. “Why on earth do those women put up with this?!” Yet another option is to wonder how, in 2017, in a world with internet, an awareness of human rights, and general progress, there are that still think it is acceptable to treat half of humanity like this.

As I was thinking about this advancement, not feeling heady with excitement because this is only a baby step towards equality, my reaction was a little bit “meh”.

I realized it was very similar to my response to news that women can now pray in General Conference. Or news that women who work in the Church Office Building can now wear pants. Really. PANTS. In 2017. Really. It is reasonable for people reading that news to react like I did to the end of the Saudi driving ban. Meh. Like Saudi women, LDS women have been waiting for a very long time.

Too little, too late.


  1. As the oldest sibling in my family I spent a lot of time teasing my younger siblings. I was older, physically stronger and used my power to be a jerk. Playing keep-away with my little sister’s beloved Cindy Bear would reduce her to frustrated sobbing. The tears and wailing usually compelled me to restore her teddy bear to her. After my thievery and teasing she never thanked me for restoring her bear to her. And she didn’t need to say “thank you” to a bully for ceasing to abusively take what belonged to her. One day when LDS wonen are ordained I won’t say “thank you” to bullies for giving back what always belonged to me. Meh indeed.

  2. Good point, Ellen. When changes like this happen, I’m always at least a little happy, because such a progressive change is better than no change, but I agree with you that it’s always sad when the changes are so small and so far behind what would make sense (to me, anyway).

  3. I’m a new primary teacher. Last week in sharing time the lesson was on the priesthood blesses everyone. The leader had a man hold up an open umbrella and then had many children, boys and girls huddle under it with him. “See”, she said, “everyone is under the protection of the priesthood. No need to worry if you don’t get to hold it yourself.” I looked it up, and this was actually the suggested activity for sharing time in the guide.
    Several things about this are bothersome. First off, it’s gas lighting. I picture myself giving one of my children a cell phone for Christmas and the other a pair of socks. Then I tell the child who can clearly see that she got ripped off that there is no problem. If she needs to make a call, her sibling will happily make it for her. If she needs to look something up on the internet, he will google it for her. If he isn’t home, she can go next door, and the man there will have a cell phone and he will be happy to help her. No self-respecting child would buy this. We can clearly see that one gift is of higher value.
    Secondly, what disturbs me is that this lesson was taught by women. Do they buy into it? Are they not the slightest bit uncomfortable teaching this to children?
    Wouldn’t it be more honest to tell the children something like “according to the church, God doesn’t want women to hold the priesthood, only men.”
    At the end of the sharing time, I had to giggle when a little sunbeam girl kept clamoring, “let me hold it, let me hold it” and jumping up to take the umbrella. The man holding it handed it to her.

  4. Jules, I love that the little Sunbeam wanted the to hold the umbrella. Of course she did.

    Why other women perpetuate these justifications of inequality is something that I can understand only by believing that they get something out of the system. They must be getting something they want out of it. Approval, protection, social belonging, these are all appealing things. How can equality be understood to provide the as well?

  5. April- right- we shouldn’t thank bullies for stopping bullying. Ziff- it is good to notice even baby steps but celebrating them feels insincere to me. Jules- Love the primary story. Truth spoken by a sunbeam! Emily- I am also puzzled by women who perpetuate the patriarchy and wonder what they get out of it? I often think women are greater enforcers of the status quo than men. Doesn’t that indicate self loathing, on some level? I appreciate all of your comments and thoughts!

  6. When I was in leadership of Ordain Women, I recieved a rather nasty public scolding from the church’s PR office for “distracting from the conversation” about women in the church by talking about the fact that I, a woman in the church, wanted the priesthood. That same week, they announced that, as the result of years of conversations about women in the church, they had decided to hang some photos of women in the conference center (in addition to the many photos of men already on the walls). So this was the kind of conversation I was distracting them from. It’s hard to get excited about the right to hang pictures on walls when women are not allowed to even talk about what we actually want.

  7. Sometimes, on things like this, I have to wonder if the men have noticed that it is a lot of work being the only one in a family who drives, and rather than doing it out of respect for women, they are really doing it so that the women will take the extra work off of the men. In other words, their motives are purely selfish.

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