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Why The Panic? Gendered Moral Panics And The Saudi Ban On Women Driving Open Access

Driving in Saudi Arabia is solely a male activity. Saudi women are forbidden to drive regardless of the continuing protests against the ban. This study applies Stanley Cohen’s theory of moral panics to the Saudi ban on women driving. In this thesis, I reframe this concept as a gendered moral panic, highlighting the role women’s driving plays on the traditionalists’ expectations of normative gender roles. The study utilizes content analysis of the social media website, Twitter. Three hundred and forty tweets from the 2011 Twitter campaign #Women2Drive, which encouraged women to drive their cars in the streets of Saudi Arabia, were collected. I looked at both tweets in support of and against women’s driving. I categorized the tweets based on four emerging themes: Westernization, Mockery, Defiance of State and Defiance of Gender Discrimination. This work argues that social media offers a unique platform for examining this debate in Saudi Arabia, which has a non-democratic government, but an open media. It also suggests that the debate on Twitter is evidence of the development of a gendered moral panic over women’s driving.

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