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Automotive Traveler Magazine: Vol 3 Iss 3 Page 10

and female employees, for example--that force is then removed. If they provide needed jobs, those jobs would go away. If you were a Saudi woman and your job--or that of your husband or daughter or son--was to disappear thanks to activists abroad, how pleased would you be with the folks out there who say they are "helping" you?

Even more serious though is the possibility, however slight, that anti-reform clerics decide the women-driving movement is the final straw in a country becoming too Westernized. A religious backlash could leave Saudi women worrying about much more than cars.

Unintentional consequences can be swift and unexpected, shockingly so when motivated by the best of intentions. Consider the case of the Southern employer being castigated in the early Sixties for the disparity between the number of blacks he employed and the percentage of blacks in the local population. Turns out he was employing more blacks than their ratio among city residents--so the "extras" were fired.

The risk of religious backlash is one the Saudi protesters themselves are clearly willing to accept. Is it one the rest of us should force on them? Where is the line between officious interference and welcome expressions of sisterhood and solidarity? It is certainly much more difficult to discern that line when one group of women is free to drive, ski, bike, work, vote, and dress as they wish--and the other is not.

As one Saudi posted, after writing in passionate and polite terms that we Western women should, in essence, butt out, "This is between us and our men."

Then again, even the most momentous changes in a society can be started with the simple act of sitting down--whether behind the wheel of a car or in the front seat of a bus.