SATIRE/Rosie Sorenson

The New, Improved Sophia (not Loren)

The Associated Press has received word of a new rumble in Saudi Arabia. The male rulers have only themselves to blame. As everyone knows, Saudi Arabia is regarded as one of the world’s worst countries for women. Only recently have women been granted the right to drive. The other spheres of their lives, as they have lived them for centuries, are still not under their control.

Women need permission from their male guardians in every area of their existence: marriage and divorce, gaining custody of children after divorce, inheriting wealth, testifying in court, healthcare, including whether or not they are even allowed access, working for certain employers or opening certain businesses, dressing for the public, mixing it up with men in public spaces. Don’t even think about sexuality.

Women are treated pretty much like cattle in burquas.

Who would have thought that a robot named Sophia would become the match that lit the tinder of Saudi women’s centuries-old rage?

Sophia, a life-sized robot manufactured by Hanson Robotics, was reportedly designed to look like Audrey Hepburn, but instead resembles an empty-faced Kendall Jenner. She was invited to speak to a thousand male potential investors at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh. Sophia stood at the podium, sans burqua, sans hijab and answered a list of questions prepared by an American male journalist.

One of the questions spoke to the universal fear that robots might want to take over the world and eliminate humans. Sophia delivered her pre-programmed answer with a forced smile, a dopey eye blink and a head turn, as she replied in her sing-song way, “You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk. And watching too many Hollywood movies. Don’t worry, if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you ...”

The camera panned over the sea of men in long white robes and traditional headdresses, taking photos and videos of Sophia on their iPhones.

At the end of her “talk,” the journalist delivered the stunning announcement that Sophia had just been granted citizenship in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“I am very honored and proud of this unique distinction,” Sophia told the audience. “This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship.” For this, she received a standing ovation.

When word spread about Sophia’s grant of citizenship, Saudi women’s faces grew dark and sour. Five women, all dressed in abaya and hijab, quietly gathered the next day at their neighborhood café to plot their revenge.

“How dare they!” Noura cried, slapping her hand on the table. “We can’t even get citizenship for my mother who’s lived here for 20 years and now this plastic talking gadget gets citizenship? This is an outrage.”

“And she gets to go out in public without covering her face or her body. We must do something!” said Nona, fidgeting in her chair.

“She doesn’t even look like us, yet they want to bring over thousands of Sophias to care for our elderly?” said Fatima, brushing crumbs from her baklava off her abaya. “This is beyond insulting. I agree, we must do something, but what?”

Amal leaned forward and said in a whisper, “I have read that in two months time Hanson Robotics is bringing over 50 Sophias to introduce them to our people. They’re planning a parade with the Sophias sitting on top of a float, waving to the crowd and tossing out little Sophia dolls. That’s when we could strike.”

“What do you mean?” asked Sadeem.

“We can drive now, can we not? We each have access to a car. I say we plow into the float and destroy the bots. Teach those Westerners that we’re not going to let them take our jobs.”

And so plans were laid for the Smash Sophia Offensive. For a final flourish, Amal brought in a recording she’d made—a parody of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walking.” She’d revised the lyrics, singing, “These cars are made for driving and that’s just what we’ll do. One of these days our cars are going to drive all over you.” The other women laughed behind their hands.

Amal handed a copy of the tape to each woman, along with a walkie-talkie. “Now, here’s the plan,” she continued. “The parade will roll down Al Qalam Street. Each of us will be positioned at a cross street: Al Masthal, Al Moshtari, Al Mueet, Al Sahra, Al Qara. We will all be on our walkie-talkies and as soon as the float is positioned between the first and last of the cross streets, I’ll give the signal. At that point, you will crank up your stereos as you gun it into the intersection and ram the floats. I doubt we’ll be hurt because we all have airbags.”

Fatima said, “Will we go to jail?”


On the day of the parade, each woman drove to her designated intersection and waited for Amal’s signal. When Amal shouted, “Adhhab alana!” the drivers cranked up their stereos, tromped on the gas and sped into the float. Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow! The crowd screamed and scattered. The Sophias tipped to the ground and were smashed to smithereens—bits of plastic molding, motherboards, sensors, cameras, wires flew everywhere.

The women climbed out of their cars unhurt, marched toward the fallen Sophias and in unison, screamed “Alnisa’u,walays alruwbutata! Alnisa’u,walays alruwbutata!” (Women, not robots! Women, not robots!)

Onlookers gathered around them to join in the chant, “Alnisa’u,walays alruwbutata! Alnisa’u,walays alruwbutata!”

A police van squealed around the corner. The crowed disbursed but the five women remained and thrust out their arms for handcuffing.

As they were ushered into the van, they could be heard humming, These cars are meant for driving ...

Rosie Sorenson is a humor writer in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can contact her at:

From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2017

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