Is this Odd to You? Saudi Women Buy their Underwear from Strange Men

From my limited experience with the middle east, I thought that women and men, especially male strangers, were not allowed to interact.  So I find it odd that when women shop for bras and underwear, they have to go to a lingerie store and buy from salesmen, men who aparently like to argue with their customers.

“He told me, ‘No, you’re not a C,’” Saudi student Sarah Abdul-Mohsen told other women at a recent Ramadan meal for women.  Bloomberg writer Donna Abu-Nasr even pointed out that Sarah (does this sound like her real name) was wearing “the mandatory black cloak and veil that disguise her shape, in a kingdom where custom forbids men from looking intimately at women.”

But now, this odd arrangement is about to change.  Saudi’s Labor Minister, Adel Faqih, has ordered that by the end of this year, only women will be serving women in lingerie stores.  Something that one salesman says will fail.  Writer Abu-Nasr tracked down a man who had been selling make-up to women for 10 years, since he was 16!  According to Nawwaf al-Harbi, “When I was selling makeup, women would always tell me they hate buying from female staff because they felt they were being judged.”  An odd comment considering, until recently, women did not sell to other women, because they can’t work outside the home.

The oddest part of the whole story comes during Abu-Nasr and al-Harbi’s exchange, when she points out that he is “standing in front of a display of lacy thongs, some decorated with sparkling hearts…”  Sounds like an odd thing to carry in a conservative country.  I guess the men are the ones who buy and, well… I notice there doesn’t seem to be sports’ bras.  Not surprising in a country, one of only three, that refuses to let women compete in the Olympics.

Now if only they could drive themselves there.