Lingerie in Saudi Arabia

Lingerie is a battleground of the sexes. In Saudi Arabia, the majority of lingerie shops have, in recent years, been staffed by salesmen, this despite a 2006 labor law which stipulates that shops selling “female products” should be manned, as it were, by women. Reem Asaad, a Jeddah-based businesswoman and academic, has been leading a campaign to implement the law, with a Facebook site and pre-Valentine’s Day boycotts of offending stores, in an effort to get more women into gainful employment–resulting in a crackdown on male purveyors of filmy nothings, and fatwas rising to their defence. For all the debate in Saudi Arabia about ikhtilat (mixing of the sexes) in education, health and on the job, selling lingerie is one the place where gender segregation is seen as a step forward.