For as long as women have mounted saddles, men have worried about the morality of it.
It started with horseback riding.
Riding astride anything had always been problematic — girls sitting astride while playing with toys such as a hobby horse was frowned upon, and it was partly because of sexual concerns that women rode side-saddle on horses.
Bicycles were no different. Victorian-era physicians warned that
the bicycle inevitably promoted immodesty in women, and could potentially harm their reproductive systems. Other critics argued that women bicyclists favored shorter skirts, thus “inviting” insults and advances. Moreover, by tilting the bicycle seat, they could “beget or foster the habit of masturbation.”
Ah, the good old pre-vibrator days.
You might think you’d have a hard time finding anyone today who still has such concerns, but that just means you’ve never heard of Suaidi Yahya, a Muslim in Aceh, Indonesia. Mr. Yahya was so bothered by the immoral spectacle of women sitting astride scooters and motorbikes, that, as the mayor of Lhokseumawe, he decreed this was against Islam.
In January, it became the law: no woman in Yahya’s city may ride a motorcycle, not even as a passenger, unless she rides side-saddle (both legs on one side) and wears something other than pants, and that garment doesn’t reveal the shape of her legs or buttocks.
No matter that riding side-saddle makes it more difficult to keep your balance; and no matter that loose, flowing clothes may get caught in whirring spokes. What’s a bunch of injured or dead females when you’ve got Allah to please?
Mr. Yahya, never one to let lawlessness fester, asked the Sharia police to enforce the ban (Aceh is currently the only Indonesian problem where Sharia is the law). And so, two days ago,
Thirty-five women in Lhokseumawe have been let off with a warning after the Sharia police caught them straddling a motorcycle and not wearing appropriate Islamic dress.
The Sharia police were conducting a raid on the main roads of Lhokseumawe on Friday, to monitor the administration’s bylaw that prohibits female passengers from straddling motorcycles. … While the women were not arrested, they were warned to not straddle a motorcycle again and to not wear tight outfits.
Lhokseumawe mayor Suaidi Yahya explained that the bylaw was expected to discourage women from wearing pants in public. He said that the bylaw was needed because he had seen people’s behavior and morals straying too far from Aceh’s Islamic cultural values. “We wish to honor women with this ban,” he said, “because they are delicate creatures.”
It could be worse, and in the Gaza Strip, it is. There, Hamas rulers decided in 2009 to ban women from scooters and motorbikes altogether. At the time,
Spokesman Ehab Al-Ghsain said [that] “men carrying women behind them on motorcycles caused accidents and did not match our social traditions. The image looked odd.”
[images via saltyscooterstories]