1. Manal grew up in relative poverty. What facets of her upbringing
surprised you most: that her family was not rich? That her parents had
both been divorced? That her father could not read or write? Why?
2. The Saudi Rule of Guardianship: The
Saudi rule of guardianship exists because the Saudi system does not
recognize women as adults for their entire lives. “Even a woman in labor
will not be admitted into a hospital without her guardian or at least a
mahram. Police cannot enter a home during a robbery, and firefighters
are forbidden from entering a home during a fire or medical emergency if
a woman is inside but does not have her mahram present.” (7) To your
mind, which would be more difficult to live with: Saudi rules requiring
male guardians for everything from emergencies to travel, schooling, and
employment or forbidding women from driving? Could one policy
change without the other changing as well? As a result of the
guardianship rule, what advantages and disadvantages might women
encounter in their everyday lives?
3. Virginity: At eight years old, Manal
gets circumcised against her will, after which her mother warns her
repeatedly not to participate in any physical activity that might damage
her hymen and call her purity into question. Were you surprised by the
emphasis on virginity and sexual purity in book? What would you say to a
person who was defending these practices in Saudi society?
4. “As soon as a girl reaches puberty .
. . she is obliged to enter a state known in Arabic as khidr (‘numbness’).
She must be outwardly devoid of emotions and feelings. In public, she
must veil herself from prying eyes and avoid speaking.” (90) What do you
think is the primary objective or purpose of the veiling of women in
Saudi Arabia? What do you think explains Manal’s ever-changing feelings
about the coverings she wears? What does the onset of veiling for girls
in Saudi Arabia suggest about society’s views of girlhood, womanhood,
and female sexuality?
5. How does Manal’s embrace of religious
fanaticism as an adolescent affect her relationships? When Manal betrays
her siblings and exposes their haram (forbidden) activities—her
brother’s clandestine listening to Western music, and her sister’s
secret conversations on the phone with a man—to their parents, to what
extent does she believe their punishments are justified? How did you
respond to these punishments and conflicts? Are they similar to basic
family issues around the world, or are they fundamentally different?
6. As a young student, Manal al-Sharif
receives instruction in the Doctrine of Loyalty and Disavowal, a tenet
of radical Islam that compels Muslims to hate anyone deemed infidel, or
faithful to a religion or creed other than Islam. Manal later rejects
these ideas. Do you think that Manal’s views might have changed anyway
if the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, had not happened?
7. “It can be difficult for people
living outside of Saudi to understand why so many in our culture, women
in particular, submit, stay, and suffer . . . physical violence. But the
price of resisting can be even higher.” (183) In light of the physical
violence that she endures over the course of her life, to what extent
does Manal al-Sharif embody a stereotypical Saudi woman? By serving as
the face of a grassroots campaign aimed at changing Saudi attitudes
about female drivers, how does she expose herself to the possibility of
violence? To what extent do you think this makes her a hero?
8. When Manal al-Sharif gets arrested
and jailed for driving outside the Aramco compound, Saudi authorities
claim that she disobeyed orf, or tradition—not the law. Given
that official Saudi code does not prohibit women drivers, why do you
think the police chose to incarcerate Manal? What do the distinctions
between tradition and the law reveal about the Saudi Arabian criminal
justice system and the power of its religious police?
9. “In Saudi Arabia, your patriotism is
measured by how much you love the king. The king is revered like a
father, and we are considered his daughters and sons.” (13) Consider the
Saudi concept of patriotism and discuss how political dissent is viewed
in Saudi society. To what extent does the Women2Drive campaign seem
10. Discuss the impact of developing
technology (satellite dishes, the Internet, cell phones with cameras,
and social media) on the daily life in Saudi Arabia. To what extent is
this kind of disruption inevitable for all societies? How is it uniquely
threatening to insular societies like Saudi Arabia?
11. Of the many rich details of Saudi
Arabian life detailed by Manal al-Sharif in Daring to Drive, which
did you find most memorable or eye-opening and why? Discuss and compare
your reactions and reflections with members of your book club.