You'd think that such a conference might allow that oppressed sector to stand up, be seen, and speak openly. Well, you'd think wrong. Okay, it's pretty clear that we're talking about Saudi Arabia; no real surprise here.
The women attending this conference were kept in a separate room from the men, and only seen via video-conferencing. Fortunately, at least, they were taken seriously. Some comments:
From the conservative camp, Mohammed al-Arifi, a theologian, ridiculed calls for women to be allowed to drive or appear in public without "covering their heads properly."How, indeed, can they?
At least one man spoke out for women. Writer Yeha al-Amir brandished a copy of a high school textbook that he said included a passage describing women as "weak creatures. If they are left alone without guidance they will be corrupt and corrupt others."
"How can we teach our children that women are a source of corruption?" he demanded.
Listen, you want to be part of a crazy religion that makes you wear tin-foil beanies? Fine. But when you're without a choice as to being a part of that religion (given that if you try to opt out, you'll be banished by your family or perhaps maimed and/or killed), then that's where the argument about "respecting" the traditions of others falls short. But they have the oil, so...
On the other hand, maybe the conservatives have a point. If they start to let things slide, with the genders freely mixing, who knows what might happen. As one conference attendee put it: "What is next? Shall we see them one day sitting in a cafe and drinking tea together?" Shudder to think.