There has been a large amount of social media backlash ever since a post showcasing a sign hung at a Saudi Arabian Starbucks branch that read “Please no entrance for ladies, only send your driver to order. Thank you,” went viral.
The sign was hung up after the collapse of the branch’s gender wall. Saudi Arabian law prohibits women of being in the same public space as men, unless the woman is accompanied by a male ‘guardian’, which is why most venues have a gender wall. It is also illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, which has caused most women to have their own personal drivers.
Many women and activists took to social media to express their outrage on the sign, as well as their initiative to boycott Starbucks.
Some French activists, such as members of a French LGBT and feminist activist group called Les efFRONTé-e-s, also protested in front of a French Starbucks branch.
According to BuzzFeed News, Starbucks released a statement following the incident making it clear that it was all a misunderstanding, and that the gender wall is required by Saudi law. They stated that now that the wall was built, women were once again allowed into the store.
“We are pleased to share that the store is now accessible to single men on one side as well as women and families on the other side,” a Starbucks spokesperson said. “Starbucks now has 78 stores in Saudi Arabia and all stores cater to both families and singles, except for one that is exclusively reserved for women and families.”
Saudi Arabia is a country known for its problematic laws which hinder women’s rights, but which have also been instilled in the country’s traditional culture for many generations.