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I’m not usually a big Maureen Dowd fan. It’s not that I generally disagree with her–although I do generally disagree with her–it’s that most of the time she’s just not funny, and nothing’s more painful than jokes that fall flat. But this piece in Vanity Fair about Saudi Arabia is just superb. It’s not only the best piece I’ve ever read by Maureen Dowd, it’s the best piece I’ve ever read about Saudi Arabia. I’ve always wondered why she enjoys that cushy sinecure at The New York Times, seeing as I’ve always thought her talentless. I was wrong. She can be brilliant, as this article shows.
The Kingdom Centre mall has a ladies’ floor on top shielded by high, wavy frosted glass, so that men—with all the maturity of Catholic schoolboys in stairwells—can’t peer up from below. Signs on the ladies’ floor tell women, once inside, to take off their head coverings: that way, a Peeping Abdul can’t disguise himself in female garb and wander lustfully among them. On the ladies’ floor, you’re actually allowed to try on clothes. On floors where the sexes mingle, you often have to buy whatever you want in different sizes and take it all home to try on. The mere thought of a disrobed woman behind a dressing-room door is apparently too much for men to handle. There’s something profoundly poignant about seeing little girls running around the malls in normal clothes, playing with little boys in normal ways—you know what’s in store for them in just a few years. When I reached puberty, my mother gave me a book called On Becoming a Woman. When these girls reach puberty, they’ll have a black tarp thrown over their heads.
I know that poignant feeling well, by the way. I see girls destined for the same fate here all the time.