Joumana Haddad – Realities of Arab Women and Inventing the Arab Woman

Joumana Haddad is a Lebanese writer and poet. In 2010 she published I Killed Scheherazade: Confessions of An Angry Arab Woman. In this book she challenges prejudice, hypocrisy and religious bigotry; an effort (as she explains it) of self-criticism by taking on the dilemma’s and challenges of women in the Arab world and the Western stereotypes they are confronted with such as the suffering, oppressed woman. In doing so she asks tough questions but unfortunately also reinforces particular stereotypes with phrases such as ‘the Arab mind’ and constructing a dichtotomy between being religious on the one side and being liberated and emancipated on the other side. At the same time she tries to show the existence of multiple realities, the liberated Arab women exist as well as the oppressed (in her view similar as veiled) Arab women. This dual reality becomes her call to the West to stop generalizing and to Arab women to stand up and fight.

Last Sunday she was on Dutch TV. You can see the video below. The introduction is in Dutch, but the interview in English starts after 30 seconds.

Notwithstanding the critique that is certainly valid I liked her book. And although she is not the first and probably not the last Arab woman writing about controversial issues around sex, religion and oppression and challenging patriarchal norms and expectations in the Middle east, it is interesting how and why she became a sort of darling of the Western media likening to for example Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City and with profiles consisting of much attention to how she looks (unveiled, self-confident sexy). Ow did I mention she looks pretty?

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