Saudi women step up drive against lingerie salesmen

Saudi women are intensifying their public campaign to press the government to agree to their demands for replacing salesmen with women at lingerie shops in the Gulf Kingdom, saying the situation has become shameful.

The leader of a new campaign dubbed “enough embarrassment” said women had contacted men and Islamic scholars to seek their support for their drive to appoint women at lingerie and other women clothes shops.

Fatima Qaroob said the campaign had also been launched on Facebook and initial results were very encouraging as many men have also voiced support for the drive on the grounds their wives or female relatives face an embarrassing situation when they shop for clothes.

“We have received massive support from both women and men because it has become unbearable and the situation has become shameful…...we hear shameful and embarrassing stories almost every day about our women when they go shopping for underwear…these stories make you either cry or laugh,” she said in a statement carried by the Arabic language daily Alyoum.

Qaroob sarcastically summed up the situation when women shop for underwear, saying:”the salesman comes forward and says feminishly ‘what is your measurement and what is your colour my lady…I think this colour does not suit your skin so I will choose the right colour for you….I know what you are looking for and I am sure you will later thank me for my choice……

“Salesmen have other expressions for the customers…they become softer and say ‘I think this one is attractive and seductive..…take it and I am sure you will pray for me…this one is very comfortable and cozy especially in bed and it is favoured by most wives…this one is perfect for your body…..”

Qaroob said many Saudi women have started to shop abroad to avert embarrassment, adding that lingerie shops in most other countries are run by women. “Why can’t we just be like them or even ahead of them.”

She said the employment of young Saudi men at lingerie shops poses a threat to them as this “will give rise to the emergence of a state of a third sex gender.”

“These young men become soft at such shops and this is a painful and ugly phenomenon…we demand that all lingerie shops are run by women so we can enjoy freedom in talking and choosing what we want,” she said.

Qaroob said the idea of the new campaign emerged after she and other Saudi women were “shocked at the way the salesmen talk to female customers.”

“They have no reservation or decency in the way they talk or deal with the female customers at lingerie shops…after we passed through this ourselves, we decided to launch this campaign after Ramadan…so far, we have received strong support from many women and men, including Islamic clerics and officials.”

Qaroob said the drive targets mainly the Saudi officials in charge of recruitment and job classification and its aim is to “protect the privacy of Saudi women, end their suffering at lingerie shops and ensure jobs for them.”

Referring to a recent government decision to allow women to work as cashiers, she said giving Saudi women jobs as sales ladies at lingerie shops and other female accessories centres is better than posting them as cashiers.

Qaroob’s remarks came on the heel of comments by a well-known Saudi journalist, who urged the government to replace men with women at lingerie shops in the Kingdom, one of the most conservative Muslim nations.

Asmaa Al Mohammed, a writer in the mass circulation Saudi Arabic language daily Okaz, said she often had to travel abroad to buy her underwear from saleswomen because all underwear dealers in Saudi Arabia are men.

 “We had enough because we feel embarrassed and humiliated when we buy our underwear from men…it is time that the government put an end to the embarrassment caused to Saudi women when they buy their underwear from salesmen,” she said in an article published by Okaz newspaper.

 “I have become so embarrassed to buy my underwear from salesmen that I started to travel abroad to get my needs…I fully support the ‘enough embarrassment’ campaign against allowing men to sell ladies’ underwear.”

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