Saudi Arabia announced this week that it would allow women to drive. I’ve been following the story with awe and wonder. Saudi women have been asking for the right to drive since 1990. If my sources are correct, they just received the right to vote in 2015.
What I find most fascinating is the explanations that have been given for the female-driving ban. The New York Times reports a handful of the justifications. My personal favorite is that male drivers would not know how to handle having women in cars next to them. (Welcome to my world! Just a little tongue and check for those of you who know how I drive!) Some argued that allowing women to drive would lead to promiscuity and the collapse of the Saudi family. There was even a claim that driving harmed women’s ovaries. Before you laugh too loud, it might be worth looking at how often we justify keeping things the way they’ve always been.
As I read these justifications for the ban, it struck me that what the Saudis are working through is what all of us need -- a fresh look at an old idea. If we don’t get outside of our own small world, we can easily find statements, opinions, ideas that reinforce what we already believe. Rather than looking for the advantages and opportunities that could come from doing something we’ve never done before, we look for ways to maintain the status quo. Perhaps it’s time for us to search for new information.
The current state of things might need to be shaken up a bit. Consider doing something new, different, outside the norm. Here is what one female Saudi driver said about her first spin around the block:
My whole body is tingling right now. To get in my car, to hold this steering wheel, after having lived my entire life, since the moment I entered this world, in the back seat... I feel like a butterfly... No, a bird. I feel free like a bird.”
We benefit from new information — the earth is not flat, ovaries are not damaged by driving, Santa Claus is not . . . (well, you know). Whatever preconceived ideas you come to the table with, colors everything you perceive. If you think they are out to get you, then you will find evidence that they are. If you believe they aren’t going to amount to anything, then you will see exactly that. Doing things that have never been done, pushing against the status quo, exploring new information, expecting more from ourselves then what we are currently settling for can be freeing — leaving us feeling like a bird.