A new decree from Saudi Arabia’s Labor Ministry is putting an end to decades of embarrassing transactions at lingerie stores. As soon as it’s implemented, men won’t be allowed to handle sizing and sales at the country’s various answers to Victoria’s Secret.
Saudi Arabia’s strict segregationist laws means women can’t work as salespeople — which for decades has meant that men had to guess a woman’s personal furnishings needs just by looking at her. A student recently told Bloomberg News that when she requested at 32C from her local purveyor of brasieres, she was told quite matter-of-factly, “No, you’re not a C.”
Understandably, things like this would end if women were allowed to sell bras to women, since they already know what women are looking for when they seek out undergarments. The new law says that only women will be allowed to work in “shops selling women’s accessories.”
So what’s happening to the men? Mostly, they’re being moved around to other positions to make room for the ladies. Our friends at Jezebel note that a scant 12 percent of working-age women in Saudi Arabia have jobs. This law will definitely bring more women into the workforce, and it will take a small step toward making women more equal members of the country’s society.
And while most people agree that the law is a good move, at least one salesman isn’t so sure it’s the right thing to do. For the sake of the women-folk.
Nawwaf al-Harbi, 26, has yet to be told whether he will need to change careers. He was hired in July by a new store after selling makeup for 10 years. Standing in front of a display of lacy thongs, some decorated with sparkling hearts, al-Harbi said he doesn’t think the government’s effort will succeed.
“When I was selling makeup, women would always tell me they hate buying from female staff because they felt they were being judged,” said al-Harbi.
Yeah. But would you rather be judged by someone who doesn’t know what it’s like to wear the garment you’re trying to purchase, or by someone who could actually help you make an informed decision?