Women aren't allowed to work in Saudi stores. So shoppers are leaving the country to buy lingerie. And they're getting sick of it.
Since strict segregation laws prohibit Saudi women from working in most public spaces- where they can deal with male strangers - women now, counterintuitively, have to buy intimates from male clerks. Says Breitbart, "The result is mortifying for everyone involved-shoppers, salesmen, even the male relatives who accompany the women." As a result, women say they feel furtuve and ashamed when lingerie shopping, and take measures like traveling to other, less restrictive countries where they can deal with female clerks. Part of the issue is that, in a country where women are required to veil themselves completely, racier lingerie is a popular mode of self-expression. Then too, fitting rooms are banned in Saudi Arabia - the undressing would be too close to men - so any purchase of said intimate apparel requires prolonged and in-depth discussion of fit with a salesperson.
As a result, there's a campaign afoot to boycott lingerie stores in an effort to force the government to employ female staffers, and to encourage patronage of the nation's few (windowless) female-run boutiques - a campaign male lingerie salesman apparently back unilaterally. So far, 1,700 people have signed a Facebook petition in support of the movement, and the official boycott was launched Tuesday. The organizers are pushing for the implementation of a never-imposed 2006 law that states that only female staff can be employed in women's apparel stores.
While we wholeheartedly endorse the campaign - lingerie shopping can be quite embarrassing enough with female clerks, thank you very much - it seems a shame that the only alternative is an equally restrictive policy that actually bans men legally from such work. In any event, such measures hardly seem necessary, given the evident embarrassment of the men who work in these stores. And if the boycott fails, we can't help thinking that there's a major internet market out there for someone who has a working knowledge of Arabic, lingerie, and the politics of brown-paper wrapping.