Saudi women boycott Uber as it launches in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi government's investment in Uber is part of Saudi Arabia's ongoing efforts to generate revenue from sources other than oil sales and broaden job opportunities for men and women. But some suggest that the effect of Uber's arrival is minimized if Saudi women are prevented from driving.

Dado Ruvic/Reuters/File
Nokia Maps is seen on a smartphone in front of a displayed logo of Uber in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina (May 8, 2015). Uber may be looking to expand its partnerships with car makers, but it's holding off on building a car of its own for now.

Uber's ongoing attempt at world domination has taken it to Saudi Arabia. Since Saudi women aren't allowed to drive, you might think they'd be happy about Uber's arrival and the prospect of more transportation options, but you'd be wrong

Saudi women have expressed frustration with the country's driving ban for years. With the rise of social media, many women tried to rally other to their cause, but they met with only limited success. In fact, men threatened retaliation against women who drove, and at least one cleric argued that driving damages women's ovaries, though surprisingly he offered no scientific research to support his claim.

So, why are women angry about Uber? Because the Saudi government invested a whopping $3.5 billion in the company. By continuing to deny women the right to drive, the country is protecting that investment, ensuring a client base for Uber and making profits through women's inequality. 

Also, Saudi women see Uber's arrival as its tacit approval of the ban on female drivers. Uber has countered, saying that "Of course we think women should be allowed to drive". Until the laws change, however, Uber thinks that it's providing an important service to help women get around.

On social media, many women have posted screencaps from their phones, showing themselves deleting the Uber app.

Ironically, the government's investment in Uber is part of Saudi Arabia's ongoing efforts to generate revenue from sources other than oil sales. Those efforts are also meant to include broadening the array of job opportunities available to men and women, but of course, if women can't drive, the effect of Uber's arrival is minimized.

Then again, when Uber eventually rids itself of human drivers altogether, it won't help Saudi men much, either.

This article first appeared at The Car Connection.

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