Columns, Opinion

Miss Leading: In another win for Saudi Arabia, women can now watch sports in the stadium

Growing up, some of my best memories have been of watching football games on Sundays with my family. Being a girl, though, I’ve always gotten strange looks for my love of sports. I guess people still think it’s weird that girls can like activities that are typically characterized as things boys would like. To me, however, sports are a great way for people to get together as a community, regardless of what team they support.

In Saudi Arabia, this community of people watching sports has been one that excluded women, at least in stadiums. But this week, women won the freedom to watch sports games in person. I applaud these women for the energy and enthusiasm it has taken to win their rights.

This is the second historic movement in the last two months bettering the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia. Not only is this is huge step forward for the women living there, but it is also a huge step forward for Saudi Arabia as a whole.

The country is infamous for its strict rules restricting women, particularly its guardianship rules. However, back in September when the Saudi government passed a decree saying that women will be allowed to drive and receive licenses in the new year, it was a moment of rejoice and rejuvenation for women everywhere. However, both driving and watching sports are freedoms that we take for granted here in America.

Although this new law is only going to apply to women living in large cities — and women and men will have to be separated while in the stadium for religious reasons, specifically the rule stating that men and women cannot interact in public — it’s important to recognize how monumental this is for women both in Saudi Arabia and worldwide.

In a country where women basically don’t have the ability to do anything, this new law will give women a sense of empowerment. Sports allow young girls to be active members of society. If more women and girls were allowed to go out to watch sports games, it would improve health overall. According to Medical Daily, watching sports is actually good for the brain, causing us to feel a connection to the players as if we were actually playing the game ourselves.
For so long, women in Saudi Arabia have been outsiders, but this new law makes it much easier for women to feel like a part of society. Saudi Arabia is well on its way to standing out in the Middle East as a country that is really looking out for all of its citizens.

Before he was coronated, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman talked about how his country is conservative because it follows Sunni beliefs, but that he is devoted to changing the way Saudi Arabia has been perceived in the last few decades.

If he can move a step in the right direction for women, then we here in the United States should consider how women in America are being treated too. Though women here are of course allowed to watch and play sports, our female teams don’t get nearly as much support as our men’s teams do, and this goes from childhood to the professionals. The more time we spend belittling girls’ athletic abilities, the more disempowered the women of the world will be.

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