Roger L. Simon

Sexual Segregation in Saudi Arabia: Et tu, Starbucks?

Naive me… I had assumed Starbucks – with its high-minded CEO who has received an award for “ethics in business” from Notre Dame and its general do-gooder, post-hippie ethos – was on the more progressive side of corporations and that they would never (heaven forfend!) engage in practices like segregation.

Yet they do. Sexual segregation. According to a fascinating front page article in the LAT today by Megan Stack, the Starbucks in Saudi Arabia have a small women’s only section accessed through a back door. The full bore Starbucks that we all know and sort of love is for men only. And Stack knows of what she speaks. She spent months walking around that medieval center of psychopathic misogyny in a black abaya.

Evidently other American fast food joints are in Saudi Arabia (I think I knew that), obeying the misogynistic Sharia laws, as are some of our hotel chains. Pretty bad… but Starbucks? Hath they no shame?

I guess the argument is they are subverting the system from within (remember Google and Yahoo in China) but reading Ms. Stack’s article I think they are just giving the Saudis another venue for expressing their sick Wahhabi value system. Actually, Starbucks and the others are enabling the system by allowing one half of Saudi society to live modern or semi-modern lives while treating the other half like chattel.

Time for Starbucks to pack up its frapuccinos and get out. Time for the rest of us to stop drinking the oil of these creepy potentates.