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In Saudi Arabia, Manal al-Sharif (born 1979) is an example of media changing her worldview. She was so fundamentalist in her religious views, she burned her paintings of people and her brother’s music tapes for violating Islam. She covered herself because fundamentalists viewed women as seductive and sinful—including name, voice, and face. Women are thus called mother of or wife of, because men can’t control their instincts. A revolution in her thinking was sparked by the introduction of the Internet in 2000. She said on a video, “It was the first door to the outside world for youth. I realized how small a box I was in and my phobia about getting my purity polluted. I was 21 when for the first time I allowed myself to listen to a song, as music was Satin’s Flute and the path to adultery.” [i]The song by the Backstreet Boys and seemed sweet and innocent to her. TV photographs of the attack on the World Trade Towers made her realize “No religion on earth can accept such cruelty. My heroes were nothing but bloody terrorists.”

She was inspired by news coverage of the Arab Spring to start Drive Your Own Life on June 17, 2011. She recorded a video with her name and face to explain the campaign and show herself driving. In contrast, before “I used to be ashamed of who I am, a woman.” The Facebook video got 700,000 views the first day she posted it and she was jailed the next day, although 100 other women drivers weren’t arrested. Two camps sprang up, between men and women on Facebook, etc. A photo showed men throwing their headgear at women drivers and women responded with a photo of high heels to throw. A rally led to her release nine days later. The harsher the attacks the greater the impact, she concluded, motivating her to campaign for full citizenship for women “to be in the driver’s seat of our destiny” as “society is nothing if women are nothing.” Manal’s activism wouldn’t have existed without the Internet and TV. In 2012, she filed suit agains the Ministry of Interior for not being issued a driver’s license. She lost her job with Aramco and  cleric Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al Tarifi issued a fatwa declaring Manal a “hypocrite” which questions her status as a Muslim.



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