On October 26, more than 60 women in Saudi Arabia got behind the wheels of cars to protest the kingdom’s ban on women driving, despite the threats of arrest. In contrast, I’d just gotten back from performing my one-woman show, How To Draw A Nekkid Man, in Nashville, first at Amy Grant’s “A Tennessee Weekend,” and next at Vanderbilt University. Two women hired me to perform my show — one, a multi-Grammy winning singer/songwriter; the other, a PhD holding associate dean at a major university who teaches in the Gender Studies department. I was hired to tell my story of self-discovery — on a stage, in front of large groups of men and women — that deals with, among other things, women’s issues. In the meantime, Saudi Arabian women are risking jail time so they can finally DRIVE A CAR.
There’s a part of the show where I present a power point presentation listing The Shoulds I grew up with in the South. These include:
- I should be sensible
- I should act like a lady.
- I should keep my place (I’m not sure how my place got determined, but I should keep it).
- I should go to church.
- I should not show signs of aging.
The list goes on and on. There are about 30 Shoulds in all and it’s a very funny (and somewhat disturbing) part of the show. If people aren’t from the South, they take out Southern and put in Irish, or Jewish, or highly intellectual or whatever family or societal constraints they endured. I’ve always known the story has a universal message that crosses gender lines — the struggle to lead an authentic life — and that became even more clear when a male academic from Egypt strongly resonated with the show. I am always surprised.
But I live in a country where I can overcome my Shoulds without the threat of violence or imprisonment. I can chronicle my journey towards authenticity in a one-woman show and then travel freely around the country — by myself! in a car! — to tell my story. Other women are not so lucky. A dear friend of mine sent me an article about a new United Nations Women’s campaign. According to Salon.com:
A new campaign out from UN Women uses Google autocomplete to expose the sexism and misogyny that continues to characterize how we talk about women.
The search function predicts and displays search terms based on the activity of other web users; the more popular a search term, the higher up it will be on the list of suggested searches.
As the campaign demonstrates, when you type in “women need to,” Google recommends searches for “women need to be put in their place,” “women need to know their place,” “women need to be disciplined” and “women need to be controlled.”
Frankly, this made me sick to my stomach. And made me realize how much I take for granted.
So, join me in praying for the women who have not yet found their freedom. Support the causes that work for their safety. And — man or woman — use your voice to tell your story. Our personal stories are what build bridges, make changes, and remind us that we are one.
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