Stoking a women’s sexual revolution in the Middle East

Connie Schultz reviews Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy: In the early 1990s, Mona Eltahawy walked into the women’s section on the metro in Cairo wearing a beige-and-red headscarf that framed her young face. A woman covered in a black veil that revealed only her eyes bristled with disapproval. “Why aren’t you wearing a niqab?” she asked Eltahawy.

Eltahawy had always found the niqab “terrifying” in its ability to render a woman invisible. “Isn’t what I’m wearing enough?” she asked.

“If you want to eat a piece of candy,” the woman said, “would you choose one that is in a wrapper or an unwrapped one?”

Eltahawy’s reply: “I’m a woman, not a piece of candy.”

A bold response for an encounter with a stranger in a public space in Egypt, and an early glimpse into the life of activism that has culminated in her new book, “Headscarves and Hymens.”

Divided into seven essays and an epilogue, this is a small but packed manifesto, incendiary by design. Eltahawy is calling for a “revolution of the mind,” which is where she insists the battle for women’s bodies must begin. She takes on any and all Arab customs that serve to imprison women not only in their countries and in their homes but, just as dangerously, within the confines of their own psyches. [Continue reading…]

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