Saudi women finally allowed to join work force… to sell lingerie

Saudi woman arranging a lingirie rack

Wow, there are so many layers to this story. Saudi women, long denied the ability to work, are finally allowed into the public sector- but only to sell garments, cosmetics, and yes – skimpy women’s lingerie. From the New York Times:

The Ministry of Labor is enforcing a royal decree issued last summer ordering that sales personnel in shops selling garments and other goods, like cosmetics, that are only for women must be female. More than 28,000 women applied for the jobs, the ministry said. [Emphasis mine.]

Anywhere else in the world, it would not be news that sales assistants in shops selling panties and bras were female. In Saudi Arabia, where women have always been excluded from the public work force, it is a critical breakthrough. This is not just about intimate garments; this is a milestone on the arduous path to employment equality for women in a country where they are systematically excluded from retail activity.

The Times does a good job of expressing the profound symbolism of veiled women making their debut into the public work force by selling barely-there undergarments without downplaying the significance of this milestone for Saudi women. Check out the rest of the article for more.

H/t Amy Klein, Permanent Wave

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is a writer and advocate focusing on race, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In addition to her work at Feministing, Lori is an Associate Director at Planned Parenthood Global. Lori has previously worked at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch, and has written for a host of print and digital properties including Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and the New York Times Magazine. She regularly appears on radio and television, and has spoken at college campuses across the U.S. about topics like the politics of black hair, transnational movement building, and the undercover feminism of Nicki Minaj. In 2014, she was named to The Root 100 list of the nation's most influential African Americans, and to the Forbes Magazine list of the "30 Under 30" successful people in media.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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