(MENAFN - Arab News) The issue of feminizing cosmetics and lingerie shops has stirred controversy. In fact, bringing up the subject again can be considered absurd because it is dated.
A couple of weeks ago, I went shopping with my wife. We entered the Body Shop shops and were greeted by a young saleswoman. She showed zeal in her job. She helped my wife with samples and explained the sort of lotions that would suit her skin. I felt that there is no need for me to be vigilant: They were women talking about their own business. However, the young saleswoman brought to my attention that the cosmetics shops will be only for woman. No men are allowed unless they have a female companion with them. It made me raise an eyebrow.
The concept behind feminizing cosmetic and lingerie shops is confusing. I am puzzled and not able to take a stand on the issue.
Two main reasons were the trigger behind mandating the employment of only Saudi women in cosmetics and lingerie shops. The first, to which I find myself in support of, is to create an opportunity for the unemployed Saudi women to find jobs and support themselves and families with a steady income.
This step, I believe, gives equal opportunities for Saudi women to be active members in society, developing themselves and improving their social and economic status. Employing women will, as claimed, lead to an increase in the profits of the cosmetics and lingerie companies. Of course, this is left to the sales records to prove.
The second reason, having saleswomen in shops will give the female customers more liberty to shop without embarrassment. I put across contradicting views on this point. I understand the embarrassment of a female customer when asking a salesman about a product in a lingerie shop. The customer would be reluctant to express her need about a specific underwear or a certain size. So with the presence of a female saleswoman she will feel free to express her needs without feeling that her privacy being invaded.
However, when it comes to cosmetics shops like the Body Shop or Nectar, I beg to differ. Seeing the signs on the entrances of shops in malls reading Families Only, makes me get confused. I consider it from three perspectives, which I limit to cosmetic stores only. First, the idea behind allowing women to work in these shops had the promising intention of increasing the profit of the shop.
Nonetheless, this seems not going to work if we exclude certain customers based on their sex from entering the shops. The second, as a customer I sometimes like to buy some cosmetic products from these shops knowing my wife prefers them over other products, usually this happens when I have one of them romantic swings inside me. Not being allowed to enter these stores would deprive many customers from surprising their loved ones with exquisite gifts.
Even if some shops may allow men inside, the location with the daily traffic jams makes it an adventure to save a princess locked up in some tower.
The third, there have been many calls for equality of women in Saudi Arabia. There are demands that women are to be given rights to be members of the Shoura Council, the right to run for municipal elections and calls for driving.
With the wisdom of our beloved king, most of their rights were acknowledged and were granted to them. However, one characterizing feature in the debates over these rights is worth mentioning. When one attempts to argue against granting women those rights, there is the overreacting reply that women are not different from men and there is nothing wrong in attempting employment performed by men. If that is the case, how come the attitude changes when it comes to cosmetics and lingerie, in which these gender differences become clear and accepted.
To sum up, I agree with feminizing cosmetics and lingerie stores if the reason stems from the need to give women an opportunity to work and support themselves.
However, if there are other reasons based on gender issues I beg to disagree because it would simply contradicts the idea of women's equal rights.
Mohammed Sumili is the assistant director of the English Language Center at Jazan University.