JEDDAH – A group of Saudi women launched a campaign Tuesday to boycott lingerie stores until they employ saleswomen.
The boycott was launched by about 50 women who gathered here at the Al-Bidaya Breast-feeding Resource and Women’s Awareness Center, which is run by Modie Batterjee, one of the boycott organizers.
The aim is to push for implementation of a law that has been on the books since 2006 which says only female staff can be employed in women’s apparel stores.
“We are raising awareness and calling for the implementation of the law,” said Reem Asaad, a finance lecturer at Dar Al-Hikma Women’s College in Jeddah, who supports the boycott.
The campaign calls on women to shop at the country’s few women-only lingerie stores. Usually stand-alone boutiques are located in malls that have women-only sections. These shops have no windows to ensure passing men cannot look in – and giving women the freedom to actually try things on.
However, it is unclear how much impact the boycott call will have.
Almost 1,700 people signed an online petition posted by Asaad on the social networking web site Facebook.
Before her wedding last year, Huda Batterjee, Modie’s sister, went abroad to buy her bridal lingerie.
She just couldn’t bear the humiliation of discussing her most intimate apparel with a man. She had little choice: there are almost no saleswomen in Saudi Arabia.
“When I buy underwear in Saudi Arabia, some salesmen say: ‘This is not the right size for you’,” said Batterjee.
“You feel almost taken advantage of. Why is he looking at me in this way?”
Heba Al-Akki, a businesswoman who supports the boycott, said when she shops for underwear, “I go to a store, pick this, this and that and leave quickly. It’s as if I’m buying illegal stuff.”
“Even in such open regions as the US and Europe, men do not sell underwear to women,” said store manager Husam Al-Mutayim, a 27-year-old Egyptian. “I don’t let any of my female relatives buy underwear from men. It’s just too embarrassing.” “I have bras with sizes ranging from 32 to 38 because I can’t get to try them on,” said Modie Batterjee. – AP