Women Fight for the Right to Wear Bras

patriotic bikiniThe next time you feel the need to be grateful for something, thank the powers that be for your over-the-shoulder boulder-holder. Many women in Saudi Arabia can’t do the same thing.

Saudi Arabia is one of the most backward nations on the planet regarding equal rights for men and women. Women may not drive, work, talk to men they are not related to, or even make their own decisions concerning marriage, divorce, education, travel, or banking without the permission of their ‘male guardian.’


Oh yeah, and they have to cover themselves from head-to-toe in a black sheet. That must be pleasant in the Middle Eastern desert.

Due to two specific restrictions on Saudi Arabian women, most of them have to go without any underwire support. Since they can’t work, men staff lingerie stores. Since they can’t have contact with men they are not related to, they are unable to be properly fitted for a bra. 

The shops aren’t even permitted to have fitting rooms.

Despite a 2006 law that would permit women to work in shops that sold women’s items, lingerie shops continue to be staffed by men. Shops are allowed to hire women, but a barrage of restrictions makes it incredibly difficult to do so.

Any shop employing females must block the display windows to keep people on the street from looking in. They must hire a male bodyguard (at $930 a month) to keep men out. It’s unclear as to whether the bodyguard would be stationed inside or outside the store, as it seems to go against the rules to have him inside the shop. Because he’s a dude and all.

Activists are trying to get things changed so that women can sell bras to other women:

Last year, in February, activists boycotted lingerie shops that employ men. Twenty-six women attended a 10-day course on selling women’s underwear held by activist Reem Assad, a lecturer in banking and finance at Jeddah’s liberal Dar Al Hekma Women’s College. The campaign, which began on Facebook and was dubbed “Enough Embarrassment,” received wide support from women and Islamic scholars. It aimed to get rid of men who work as sales clerks in these shops.

My heart goes out to the women of Saudi Arabia. A well-fitting bra is an essential accessory for our girls, as an ill-fitting one can lead to bad posture (and back problems), damaged breast tissue (from pokey underwires), and back fat (shudder ... although that’s probably not much of an issue underneath yards and yards of black fabric).

Keep fighting, Saudi Arabian females! I fully support your need for support.


Image via sansreproache/Flickr

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