Women forbidden from entering Starbucks in Saudi Arabia

I love the idea that it should be a women’s only Starbucks. I wonder if that would be a problem? Seriously.


that wasn’t the idea.

Separate, but equal. Seriously? Who hired this joker to work PR?


someone walking a very thin line between not pissing off either the Saudis or the rest of the world…


That was just the first step of the long-term plan.


There used to be (haven’t been there in a while) a Kurdish restaurant in Stoke Newington that was under a supermarket that was under a mosque, which was certainly making good practical use of expensive real estate.
It had a special separate entrance and a walled off seating area for strict Muslims, with a zig-zag entrance for the staff so that outsiders couldn’t, God forbid, catch a glimpse of a veiled woman inside.
In the main restaurant were Kurdish familes - no headscarves or veils - drinking beer.
This is just a reminder that Saudi is crazy Wahabi Saudi, and not really typical of Muslims.


It would make a good point though. Unless of course, the Saudi’s have no problem with women’s only businesses. If they truly are equal but separate, then it might not make a point.


Indeed. How would those single dudes feel about having their entrance closed, instead? We will not ever know.


That is just your white western civilization centered biases. Arabia and Islam has a rich, varied culture and a long, long history. At one point they were the pinnacle of scientific discovery, medicine, art, and philosophy.

While this sort of thing wouldn’t fly here, I’d caution trying to apply “western norms” to foreign lands.

Our “allies”, ladies and gentlemen.


Well, at least that will shut up the forced-Christmas-cheerleaders who claim an all-red cup is anti-Christian: a green circle on a red background must symbolize Christmas, right?


Pfft. Starbuck’s been a woman since around 2004 or so.


At that point, they weren’t run by crazed Salafists and Wahabis, who are basically an 18th century aberration. (The 18th century also saw Hassidic Judaism started, which is somewhat similar.) The whole veiled women/male domination thing is a system of tribal beliefs centering around the parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan which are now called “tribal areas”, and are of the sort which were opposed by Mohammed (who don’t forget was first married to a successful businesswoman.)

The Moorish Kingdom of Granada was possibly the high point of that civilisation. The one that tolerated Jews and Christians, the one where a Jewish prayer book was found which had feminine pronouns. In those days it was the Habsburgs who were the barbarians.

I am no expert on the history of the Middle East, but it is important to recognise the historical discontinuities, and that the Islamic world was as much a collection of warring states and quasi-states as was the nominally Christian world. Generalisations about Islam are unhelpful.


Oh for sure, there is a lot of waxing and waning of cultures. Europe certainly managed to turn itself around from it’s shit eating Dark Ages.

My point is - this is their CULTURE. If you want to live, work, and sell things in Saudi Arabia, you have to adhere to certain cultural norms. In this case it looks like they usually have separate lines for single men, and women and families. Starbucks is sensitive to this, but it appears they didn’t properly model the place before opening it and are now rectifying it.

So while maybe one prefers their business to just have one area/line for everyone - that isn’t how they do things there. I don’t agree with it, but at the same time, who am I to tell them how to do things. Generally when the West does that, we fuck things up. Change has to come from within.

But really, I think the bigger thing is my frustration that anyone gives about shit about this stupid, petty thing with ONE Starbucks in the whole country, when WHOLE AREA OF CIVIL RIGHTS FOR WOMEN THERE IS SHIT.

It would be akin to complaining that slave collars are too tight, vs the the point that someone still has slaves!

Per the article:

Why is the word “driver” in quotes - like they don’t mean a literal “driver” - person who drives someone around. Skimming through the comments, I don’t even see it mentioned. Are none of you like, “Damn, the Saudis are so rich they just have people driving you around everywhere.” Well - actually - that is true for a lot of them. But the reason for the sign and women needing a driver is - WOMEN CAN’T GET A DRIVERS LICENSE in Saudi Arabia.

But yes - let’s all get out the pitch forks about them refusing to serve women until they get another line/entrance for women. I guess you could demonize Starbucks or any US company who does business there, but that would make you a huge fucking hypocrite considering your car, bus, or plastic gadget all owe their life/use to Saudi oil.


From the Department of Brilliant Ideas Torpedoed by Reality:

A visit by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to Saudi Arabia in November 2012 .... The visit came just after reports in several newspapers of _plans to build ‘women only’ cities in Saudi Arabia to overcome gender segregation and bring more women into the workforce._ [emphasis mine] Saudi Arabia is very sensitive to criticism of its human rights record and this case study focuses on gender inequality in the country – but also on what a ‘women only’ city actually means.

Oh hey this one has a dateline of 2012:

But–oh noes!–looks like the Good Ol’ Boys just can’t seem to even leave one free zone for women to chillax in:

I don’t like what Starbucks does to their coffee, and I’ve gone out of my way to get coffee from an independent coffee purveyor. I realize if you’re out in the sticks somewhere it may be your only alternative to McD’s coffee, and I know this is beside the point wrt the larger issue of wimmin’s rights in SA, but… dang… Starbucks coffee tastes unwonderful.

Which entrance do single women use?

Yes! I came here to post exactly this!
It’s not a euphemism or anything, so why is it in quotes?

I think a lot of it is people can’t conceptualise how different Saudi is unless they’ve been there.

My family lived in Riyadh ~thirty years ago and we had to have a driver because my mother couldn’t take us to school. Her general pastime was bowling with the other women in the American commune, except they could only go out of opening hours, and they had to run the alleyway themselves because the male employees couldn’t be in there, and if a man turned up for whatever reason they had to drop everything and leave immediately.
Not being able to walk into a building to get your coffee is but a mild symptom of the huge segregation of sexes.

Real talk: they use the family zone. With their family. They are not allowed out on their own.


As FirstLast said, single women use the family entrance. When I dined in Saudi with female colleagues, we used the family entrance, too. Comparing the family side and (male) singles side of several restaurants, I can say that the family side typically has better service, better menu options, better decor, more screaming children, and no windows. You wouldn’t want passersby to see your sister dropping her niqab to sip a latte!

At the shopping malls, I would see women shopping or dining on their own or in groups. As others point out, women aren’t allowed to drive, so to GET to the mall they would need to be dropped off by their driver or a male relative. But it seemed that whether or not women were allowed out by themselves was dictated by individual families and not by law. My point is that oppressive government policies are but one piece of the cultural puzzle. The patriarchal social mores uphold and reinforce the government’s edicts.


I get what you’re saying. And you’re right, it’s not our place to tell other countries how to live. BUT, seventy years of stubbornly disastrous U.S. foreign policy by our government is not the same as we as individuals standing up and voting with our wallets for the rights of fellow human beings anywhere. There’s a difference between telling people how to live through government fiat (like the Burqa bans in Europe), and insisting on the individual rights and liberties of all people.

Now you’re absolutely right that change has to come from within. If we use government to twist the arm of oppressors whether through military or other intercessory means, that’s invasion, not liberation. Freedom requires deeds, and those must come from within. But words, and where we spend our money, have power. If human solidarity can give comfort to those who’s deeds must bring about freedom, it’s not hegemony to tell people in other countries that it’s wrong to deny anyone the liberties all individuals ought justly to have.

And yes, this is getting traction because it’s an American company from which many Westerners frequently buy. And granted, it’s frustrating that that’s what it takes to get many people to give a shit about human rights. But at the same time, this is where we can make a difference with our wallets and not our military. Knowing how American companies conduct themselves abroad helps us to make more informed buying decisions. And yes, they must obey the laws and respect the customs where they do business, even the unjust ones. But they choose to do business there and that means they bear responsibility for aiding in any injustice they help facilitate. They don’t have to sell tracking software to the Egyptian government to hunt down dissidents, and they don’t have to sell coffee franchises to flagrantly sexist baristas in Saudi Arabia.


My family is all Levantine (Palestine, Jordan, Syria, etc.) Muslims on my dad’s side, and they’re pretty devout. The level of segregation in social gatherings is fairly minimal, however women who don the headscarf cannot take it off in the presence of unrelated men, so there does tend to be an area that is off limits to the men if for no other reason than comfort. You can contrast this to the social segregation in the Gulf where women and men would not be expected to share the same room. So, there is a strong cultural element that comes into play here that doesn’t quite correlate with devoutness.

The odd thing is that Muhammad and his companions talked to women to whom he wasn’t married or related. This is well established in the Muslim tradition. Granted the circumstances were supposed to be very chaste, but the liturgy in no way supports the kind of wholesale apartheid seen in the KSA. Hell, women praying at the Kaabah in Mecca share closer proximity to men than they do at a Starbucks in Jeddah.