These last few days have been astonishing. Literally astonishing. Astonishing in the oldest sense of the term. You know — stunned, made senseless by the crash of thunder. From the French estoner and the Latin tonare — to thunder. Astonish.
Last week we learned the newly elected President of These United States, who is under investigation for colluding with the government of Russia to disrupt and interfere with the presidential election, held a private meeting with the Russian ambassador and the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office. In any other administration, that alone would be astonishing. But that’s not the most astonishing thing. In that meeting, Comrade Trump told the Russians that he’d just fired the Director of the FBI, who was heading the investigation into the campaign collusion. And no, even that isn’t the most astonishing thing. The most astonishing thing is he told them he’d fired the FBI chief because of the investigation.
Think about that for a moment. The target of what is essentially a conspiracy investigation tells the people with whom he’s accused of conspiring that he fired the investigator because he was investigating the conspiracy. And the target is the President of These United States.
That is just fucking astonishing. You’d be justified in thinking Clan Trump had fulfilled its monthly quota of astonishing things. But no. Trump went to Saudi Arabia. And he took his daughter. The tall, smart one with the long neck. And she spoke about women’s economic empowerment to a group of fifteen Saudi women described as “leaders in society, businesswomen and elected government officials”. Prepare to be astonished. This is part of what she told them:
“In every country around the world women and girls continue to face unique systematic, institutional, cultural barriers, which hinder us from fully engaging in and achieving true parity of opportunity within our communities. Each of you know this to be true. And yet the stories of Saudi women, such as yourselves, catalysing change, inspire me to believe in the possibility of global women’s empowerment.”
Yeah. Those 15 Saudi women leaders? The ones who inspire Ivanka as catalysts of change? They can now vote in local elections. Local elections. Of course, they need their husband’s permission to vote. No, wait — that’s not fair. They don’t need their husband’s permission to vote; they only need their husband’s permission to travel to the voting site. Women in Saudi Arabia aren’t allowed to drive. As you almost certainly know, they can’t go anywhere outside the home unless they have the permission of a male family member — husband, father, brother, uncle, son (yes, that’s right — if no other male family member is available, a woman would have to get permission from her son). Oh, and they need to be accompanied by a male family member too. They also need a male family member’s permission to go to school. Or get a job. Or open a bank account.
And if they go out in public, those 15 women leaders have to abide by a strict dress code. At the very least, they have to wear a head scarf and a long cloak. But hey, they’re no longer required to cover their faces. Progress! Of course, most of the places these Saudi women can visit are gender segregated — public buildings, universities, parks, even amusement parks. If they go shopping, they’re generally not allowed to try on the clothes, because that would require getting undressed. In a private dressing room. In a gender-segregated shop. You can’t be too careful.
But hey, if they want to buy the clothes they can’t try on? They can use their own credit card! The one they received from the bank when they opened their account. Which they were allowed to open with the permission of their husband or father.
“Saudi Arabia’s progress, especially in recent years, is very encouraging but there’s still a lot of work to be done and freedoms and opportunities to continue to fight for.”
Oh, Ivanka. She’s so right. There’s a lot of work to be done, but it’s so very encouraging. And yes, there are so many opportunities to fight for. Ivanka knows an opportunity when she sees one.
Speaking of opportunities, did I mention that after Ivanka spoke about the encouraging progress made by Saudi women, she announced that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had contributed US$100 million to a women’s empowerment fund? Oh, and did I mention that the fund was spearheaded by Ivanka Trump?
After Ivanka’s speech on empowerment and the announcement of the $100,000,000 donation, the fifteen Saudi women leaders left through the separate women’s entrance and, with the permission of their husbands or fathers, were driven home, where they’re allowed to remove their cloaks and head scarves.
Astonishing, isn’t it.