The Guardian reports: An explosive call for a sexual revolution across the Arab world in which the author argues that Arab men “hate” Arab women has provoked a fierce debate about the subjugation of women in countries such as Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.
Women are deeply divided over the article, entitled “Why do they hate us?”, by the prominent American-Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy, which fulminates against “the pulsating heart of misogyny in the Middle East” and builds to an early crescendo by stating: “We have no freedoms because they hate us … Yes: They hate us. It must be said.”
Eltahawy is not alone in stressing that a revolution has come and gone, but done little for Arab women. There are only eight women in Egypt’s new 500-seat parliament – and not one female presidential candidate. Domestic violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation are still part of the status quo across a region covering more than 20 countries and 350 million people.
“Even after these ‘revolutions,’ all is more or less considered well with the world as long as women are covered up, anchored to the home, denied the simple mobility of getting into their own cars, forced to get permission from men to travel, and unable to marry without a male guardian’s blessing – or divorce either,” Eltahawy argues in Foreign Policy. “An entire political and economic system – one that treats half of humanity like animals – must be destroyed along with the other more obvious tyrannies choking off the region from its future. Until the rage shifts from the oppressors in our presidential palaces to the oppressors on our streets and in our homes, our revolution has not even begun.”
Eltahawy draws on anecdotal and empirical evidence for her tirade: 90% of women who have ever been married in Egypt “have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty”; not one Arab country is in the top 100 nations as ranked by gender equality; Saudi women have been prosecuted for daring to drive a car. Eltahawy nails the paradox that it is women who must cover up – because of the sexual impulses of Arab men.
But plenty of women across the Arab world have taken objection to Eltahawy’s blanket condemnation of men.
“I agree with most of what she said but I think that the one thing that she might be reluctant to admit is that it’s not about men hating women, it’s about monotheistic religions hating women,” says Joumana Haddad, a Lebanese author and journalist. “They continually reinforce patriarchal standards and patterns that have existed long before. There is no harmony possible between monotheism and women’s rights. The teachings deny women their dignity and rights.”
Dalia Abd El-Hameed, a researcher on health issues at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, added: “It is oversimplistic to say Arab men hate Arab women; it presents us as needing to be saved. I don’t want to be saved, because I am not a victim. We can’t put all Egyptian women in one category, let alone Arab women. My problems are not the same as a rural woman from Upper Egypt.”
Sarah Naguib, a political activist in Egypt, said: “I honestly think it’s almost offensive to be asked if Arab men hate Arab women. That’s like saying all Muslims are terrorists and all Jews are evil and the American dream still lives on.” [Continue reading…]