The decree issued September 26, 2017 by the Saudi King, which lifted the ban on women driving in the kingdom, sparked a storm of reactions in the government media and on Saudi social media accounts. The government media reported extensively on responses welcoming the decision, while stressing its historic character and its economic benefits. Some articles even criticized the position taken by Saudi clerics on women's driving prior to the decree, and expressed hope for further reforms in the kingdom. Social media likewise exploded with positive reactions immediately after the issuance of the decree, and hashtags like "King Salman Stands with Women" and "Saudi Women Can Drive" quickly went viral.
The King's decision was also the topic of many cartoons published in the Saudi government press following the publication of the decree. Some of these welcomed the decision as a measure that will advance the status of Saudi women and benefit the kingdom at large, while other cartoons took a humorous look at men, women and gender roles in Saudi Arabia.
Conversely, other cartoons, especially those published on social media and in the press of other Gulf states, criticized the hypocrisy of Saudi men – in particular of clerics and intellectuals – who changed their position on women's driving, shifting overnight from rigid objection to enthusiastic applause of the King's decree. Some cartoons addressed the status of women in Saudi Arabia, conveying that it remains inferior even after the lifting of the driving ban.
The following is a sampling of the cartoons published in the press and social media of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
Appreciation For The King's Historic Decree, Which Advances Saudi Women And The Entire Saudi Nation
"Saudi vision" lifts the barrier that prevented women from driving (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, September 28, 2017)
The flower of women's driving emerges from the previous ban (alarab.co.uk, October 3, 2017)
The King's pen "endorses" women's driving, shattering those who say "we oppose it" (twitter.com/SerajAlghamdi, September 26, 2017)
After the lifting of the driving ban, time can now move forward (Makkah, Saudi Arabia, September 28, 2017)
Saudi Arabia lifts the ban that kept Saudi women from marching towards "the future" (Al-Hayat, London, September 27, 2017)
Women receive the gift of "driving" (Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, October 2, 2017)
"Women's driving triumphs" (Al-Watan, Saudi Arabia, September 29, 2017)
"Public awareness" unlocks the man's mind, changing his opinion from "women's driving is strife, harm and evil!" to "women's driving is benefit, happiness and the best thing there is!!" (Sabq.org, October 2, 2017)
The Economic Benefits Of Women's Driving
The right to drive a car showers women with job opportunities (Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, October 3, 2017)
Thanks to "the royal decree," the "driver's wages" now pour into the woman's own pocket (Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, October 1, 2017)
"One small step for a woman, one giant leap for the national economy!" (Al-Watan, Saudi Arabia, September 28, 2017)
"Women's driving" – a lightning strike for "chauffeurs" (Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, October 1, 2017)
A Saudi woman drives her foreign chauffer to the airport (Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, September 28, 2017)
"Soon..." women will be able to delete the "chauffer," "limo," "taxi," etc. from the contact list on their phones (Al-Madina, Saudi Arabia, September 29, 2017)
Cartoons Mocking Saudi Conservatives And Their Hypocritical Reaction To The Royal Decree
Cartoon in Qatari paper mocks the hypocrisy of Saudi clerics, intellectuals and media: when "women demand to drive" they oppose this, after "the King permits women to drive" they unanimously approve (twitter.com/al_watanQatar, September 28, 2017)
Before the decree, a Saudi calls the proponents of women's driving "traitors" manipulated by "foreign hands"; following the decree, he calls it a "wise decision" (twitter.com/FAHAD1752, September 27, 2017)
Before the decree, a Saudi says "There's only one opinion, [women's driving] is forbidden"; following the decree, he says "opinions vary!!" (twitter.com/tawfi2, September 27, 2017)
"Before the decision," Saudi man says "No, noooo, she will never drive"; "after the decision" he dances with joy and applauds (Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, September 28, 2017)
Woman driver knocks away the gang of conservatives who blocked her progress (alarab.co.uk, October 1, 2017)
Following the woman's lead, all the previous objectors rush from the camp that says "no" to women's driving over to the camp that says "yes" (Al-Watan, Saudi Arabia, September 29, 2017)
Even After The Lifting Of The Ban, Women's Rights In Saudi Arabia Still Have A Long Way To Go
The husband tells his wife: "So you want the car keys?" (Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, October 3, 2017)
"One woman [Angela Merkel] steers Germany for the fourth time, while another drives a car for the first time" (alaraby.co.uk, September 30, 2017)
"Hand over your credit card and car keys, right now" (Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, September 30, 2017)
On the occasion of women [gaining permission] to drive: we have colorful tires" (Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, October 3, 2017)
The camel says "we're done here, it's all women practicing [driving]" (Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, October 6, 2017)
Car "for sale" (Al-Hayat, London, September 30, 2017)
Man with "history of car accidents" teaches woman to drive: "Look, the first thing is to step on the gas and stop only when [you hit] the wall" (Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, September 30, 2017)
Husband: "No market for you today. I have a game [on TV]"; wife: "those days are over, dear" (Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, October 2, 2017)
* B. Shanee is a research fellow at MEMRI.