Closing the week 17 – Featuring Sex, Arab Women and Orientalism

Most popular on Closer this week:

  1. Seks, Dood en Islam
  2. Art, Islam & Europe
  3. Film: Dochters van Malakeh
  4. Interview Veena Malik: My Pakistan is infamous for many reasons other than me

Foreign Policy: The Sex Issue
The Sex Issue | Foreign Policy

Women’s bodies are the world’s battleground, the contested terrain on which politics is played out. We can keep ignoring it. For this one issue, we decided not to.

The Ayatollah Under the Bed(sheets) – By Karim Sadjadpour | Foreign Policy

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, all politics may not be sexual, but all sex is political.

The Worst Places to Be a Woman – By Valerie M. Hudson | Foreign Policy

Mapping the places where the war on women is still being fought.

Why Do They Hate Us? – By Mona Eltahawy | Foreign Policy

There is no sugarcoating it. They don’t hate us because of our freedoms, as the tired, post-9/11 American cliché had it. We have no freedoms because they hate us, as this Arab woman so powerfully says.

Yes: They hate us. It must be said.

Some may ask why I’m bringing this up now, at a time when the region has risen up, fueled not by the usual hatred of America and Israel but by a common demand for freedom.

Foreign Policy Debating the War on Woman; six commenters
Sondos Asem: Misogyny exists, but blaming it for women’s suffering is simplistic

Eltahawy uses a combination of hyperbole and perhaps benign neglect to highlight offensive stances and bury more women-centered ones. Far from constituting a solution, this type of one-dimensional reductionism and stereotyping is one of the problems facing Arab women. Let’s be clear: There is misogyny in the Arab world. But if we want progress for Arab women, we must hack at the roots of evil, not at its branches.

Shadi Hamid: Arab women have more agency than you might think

The fact of the matter is that Arab women, throughout the region, are exercising their moral and political agency, but not necessarily in the ways we might expect.

Hanin Ghaddar: We need more badass ladies

Mona Eltahawy is right. They hate us. But they also fear us, as much as our dictators feared us. And we can break them, as much as we broke and will keep on breaking our tyrants. Today, their fear of the public sphere is multiplied because of the revolutions. We should use that fear to our advantage.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf: The Prophet Mohammad was a revolutionary feminist

Mona Eltahawy describes cultural practices in Egypt and the Middle East that predate Islam yet have been embraced by many people now as part of Islam. The practice of genital mutilation of women, for example, is found only in Africa. If it were part of Islam, it would be practiced by Muslims all over the world.

For his time, the Prophet Mohammed was a revolutionary feminist.

Naheed Mustafa: “Nekkid Burqa Woman” is lazy and insulting

Here’s a quick reenactment of me reading Mona Eltahawy’s cover essay as my eyes involuntarily (I swear!) flit over to Nekkid Burqa Woman: “So, yes, women all over the world have problems — BOOBS! — yes, the United States has yet to elect a female president — BOOOBS! — and yes, women continue to be objectified in many “Western” countries — BOOOOOBS!” And so on.

When I was asked to contribute this critique, I had to ask myself what exactly my problem was. I’ve narrowed it down to two things: The image of Nekkid Burqa Woman is lazy and insulting.

Leila Ahmed: Eltahawy misreads Alifa Rifaat

Disconcertingly, Eltahawy strangely misreads (in my view) the Rifaat story with which she begins her essay. After enduring “unmoved,” as Eltahawy correctly says, her husband’s sexual exertions, the story’s central character then eagerly rises to wash herself and perform ritual prayers. Eltahawy reads these actions as indicating Rifaat’s “brilliant” portrayal of “sublimation through religion.”

Talking about Sex, women’s bodies and Orientalism: my selection
Mona Eltahawy and Leila Ahmed discuss FP “Why Do They Hate US” piece on Melissa Harris Perry Show April 28th 2012
The Duck of Minerva: “Seriously, Guys!”: How (Not) to Write About Gender and Foreign Affairs

Below are three big do’s and don’ts for foreign policy magazines aiming to “take women’s issues seriously.”

Foreign Policy: The Sex Issue « Saira Says

This cover is offensive and disrespectful; it demonstrates the inherent disregard by Western society for women who do wear niqabs and hijabs. The cover also sets the tone for the entire issue.

The Intersection between Gender, the Ghost of Colonialism, and Religion « confessionsofamuslimpunk

I believe Ms. Eltahawy has attempted to explain away the misogyny of Arab nations as something indicative of Muslim and Arab cultures. This reasoning does contain some validity considering the inequality that has existed between males and females throughout the region’s history (e.g. females being given half of the inheritance of male family members upon the passing of a parent). It, however, fails to incorporate a long-form analysis of how misogyny among Arab cultures has evolved through the interplay between culture, religions, warfare, and general historical events.

Why Do They Hate Us? They Don’t. |

Racists don’t see nuance. They lump all people of a certain group altogether. That’s exactly what Mona Eltahawy does in her article. She paints the entire people of that region–or at least its men–with one broad bush. They hate women. All 170 million of them.

Let’s Talk About Sex

The primary focus is Islam and its production and repression of sex and gender politics in the Middle East. In discussing the role of fatwas in the regulation of sexual practices, Karim Sadjadpour parades a tone of incredulity. Leaving aside his dismissal of the centuries old tradition of practicing Muslims asking and receiving advice on sexual and gender practices, the article assumes an unspoken consensus with its readers: the idea of a mullah writing about sex is amusing if a little perverted.

Then there is the visual. A naked and beautiful woman’s flawless body unfolds a niqab of black paint. She stares at us afraid and alluring. We are invited to sexualize and rescue her at once. The images reproduce what Gayatri Spivak critiqued as the masculine and imperial urge to save sexualized (and racialized) others. The photo spread is reminiscent of Theo van Gogh’s film Submission, based on Ayyan Hirsli Ali’s writings, in which a woman with verses of the Quran painted on her naked body and wearing a transparent chador writhes around a dimly lit room. Foreign Policy’s “Sex Issue” montage is inspired by the same logic that fuels Submission: we selectively highlight the plight of women in Islam using the naked female body as currency. The female body is to be consumed, not covered!

Do Arab men hate women? It’s not that simple | Nesrine Malik | Comment is free |

To heed Eltahawy’s call and indulge in cultural absolutism – if we are to use the west as a model, basic women’s and even minority rights, did not become enshrined until there was a political environment when traditional structures (particularly the church) had sufficiently receded.

The call to arms, therefore, should not be to the outside world to recognise the truth of men’s hatred towards women, but rather to Arabs. And in a time of political upheaval this call should ask them to look inwards and continue to recognise and dismantle the structures that have been perpetuated for too long. This reform is already under way when it comes to women’s rights thanks to the efforts of several Arab feminists, such as Nawal El Saadawi and Tawakul Karman, who recognise that we need to fight the patriarchy, not men.

Mona: Why Do You Hate Us? « Tahrir & Beyond

The fundamental problem of Mona’s essay is the context and framework of how she analyzes why women in the Middle East are oppressed and the only reason she could give is because men and Arab societies (culturally and religiously) hate women.

Oh, Mona! « AmericanPaki

t this point, I have successfully lost count of the number of women who told me that the title of her article bothered them – but they couldn’t quite figure out why it was. I will tell you why: it is because the title divorces the countless number of women who might identify with the very real grievances they have living under a ruthless system that hates women, from the broader war on women. To claim that the “real war on women is in the Middle East” stakes the legitimacy of Arab women in the war against women, that I view as a global phenomenon not unique to Arab women, while leaving millions of non-Arab women, also victims of systemic misogyny, to fend for themselves.

Us and Them: On Helpless Women and Orientalist Imagery | Frustrated Arab

There are also unanswered questions:

  1. Why not publish the article in Arabic, therein engaging with the intended audience more directly?
  2. Why choose Foreign Policy as the platform and not a media outlet which would direct her piece at those she addresses?
  3. Why is there so much orientalist imagery present? If she was not aware that these photographs would be used, did she take it up with Foreign Policy after realizing this?

Mainstream media and the Orient

the veiled bodies. The exposed bodies. The veiled yet exposed bodies. The hunger. The squalor. The eccentricity. The modest eroticism. The yearning for modernity, civilization and freedom. Welcome to the world of orientalist imagery.

In line with our Bernard Lewis Award, we would like to introduce an award for the “Orientalist Image of the Week”. This week’s award (won with honours) goes to Foreign Policy, for its Sex Issue cover.

On Mona Eltahawy’s “Why Do They Hate Us?” « RanaBaker’s Blog

Indeed, Eltahawy’s argument that the reason behind Middle Eastern and North African oppression of women is “hatred” is a simplistic one that ignores the social, cultural and political contexts in which these women live. But not only that. Eltahawy went as far as to say that it is the Islamic philosophy that enables men to “hate” and hence “oppress” and “sexually harass” women.

While this is true for certain groups that practice religious exploitation to justify crimes against all sectors of a society, including women of course, the Arab world, especially prior to the outbreak of the Arab Spring, had long lived under the rule of secular authoritarian governments who took no issue with their “security apparatus” committing sexual harassments here, virginity tests there and in some few cases rape crimes.

Dear Mona Eltahawy, You Do Not Represent “Us” – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

The issue is framing and presenting women in the region as a monolith and pitting their struggles against the backdrop of an argument which points to “hate.” The argument dismisses the role of figures like Tawakul Karman, Zainab and Maryam al-Khawaja, and others — women who rose through the revolutions and were present in the public sphere during protests and demonstrations, standing alongside their compatriots demanding change and an end to injustices of all kinds. These women stood up as individuals and not as self-proclaimed representatives of Arab women.

Jillian C. York » On Listening (a response to the Mona Eltahawy criticism)

the idea behind some of these comments is essentially: “Hey – foreigners find this valuable, shut up dissenters!” I even spotted one foreigner–who presumably lives in Egypt–telling various Egyptian women on Twitter that they were simply wrong.

The thing is, Arab women, in Eltahawy’s piece, are not active participants in the conversation, but subjects. That, I think, is why so many women took issue to her use of “us” — it felt disingenuous. I realize, of course, that there’s backstory here and she has a considerable number of non-fans and trolls, but this article in particular provoked a stronger reaction than any I’ve ever seen, and there’s a reason for that.

‘Why Do They Hate Us?’ A Blogger’s Response – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

Women like Manal Al-Sharif, Rasha Azab and Samira Ibrahim are not less “feminist” than other prominent female figures in the world. The veiled Bahraini protester Zainab Alkhawaja, for example, can speak well of the women’s struggle as she protests alone in the street and gets arrested for the sake of her detained father. He is Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, the prominent Bahraini-Danish human rights activists who has been on a hunger strike in prison for 76 days. He, I am sure, does not hate her.

Monica L. Marks: Do Arabs Really ‘Hate’ Women? The Problem With Native Informants

Books by these “native voices” — including Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “Infidel,” Azar Nafisi’s “Reading Lolita” in Tehran, and Irshad Mandji’s “Faith Without Fear” — have flown off the shelves in post-9/11 America despite being roundly rebuffed by leading feminist academics such as Columbia University’s Lila Abu-Lughod and Yale’s Leila Ahmed. Saba Mahmood, another respected scholar, noted that native informants helped “manufacture consent” for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by serving up fear-inducing portrayals of Islam in “an authentic Muslim woman’s voice.”

??????? ?? ????: Love, Not Hatred, Dear Mona !

I was attracted to the opening of your article. Your style is interesting and you do poke the issues, and our issues are one, Mona. There’s no doubt that the facts in your article are accurate, that the problems highlighted are real, and that the suffering you write of is experienced by Arab women, even if they are not always aware of it. My anger faded as I read, slowly…until I reached the section where you explain “The Arab men’s hatred toward women”. Hatred?

Let’s see. In our Arab society, does the son hate his mother? The brother his sister? The father his daughter? And the husband hates his wife, and the lover his beloved? And the male colleague hates his female colleague, and the male friend his female friend, and the male neighbor his female neighbor?

Tahrir Spirit: I don’t really think they hate us!

I refuse to be lumped into this monolithic group of oppressed, abused and hated victims. Arab women’s problems are not the same across the board. Even within one country like Egypt, what I see as a problem, might not be the most pressing issue for the woman next door. So, I refuse to have Eltahawy talk on my behalf as if she is the expert who can accurately identify my plight.

Mona ElTahawy, stop victimizing us « Gold & Glitz’s Blog

Mona, who tries to empower women, marginalized us with this article, making a minority seem like the majority when in fact it is not and I say this while being a non-hijabi living in Southern Lebanon. Yes, I will be honest- I have been disallowed to do certain things because of my gender. But not because I am simply a girl, but because people fear for my well being. In the whole world, not just the Middle East, everywhere is a scary place to be. Now imagine how it would be for a woman to just walk out thinking she is equal to everyone else when she’s not because of teachings that existed before the Middle East did. She will only end up hurt. There is no reality in Mona’s extreme feminism and instead of empowering women to do something they’re good at and inform us of the rights we should be asking for, she marginalizes us and seeks pity. This works right into misogynistic hands, to make the woman seem like she is a victim when Arab women are damn strong.

Between You and Me | The Majalla Magazine

And for those women wishing to be treated equally to men, then it’s time to take these revolutions to the next level.

What many have taken issue with, however, is not this. It is Eltahawy’s assertion that men’s hatred of women is the cause for the absence of women’s freedoms in the Middle East. Though she has been criticized up and down for this claim— this is understandable when considering her lack of nuance and sophistication—there is some truth to it in that human rights are violated all the time because of a deep-seated hatred for a person or a group.

Mona, misogyny and the Middle East « Field Notes

Instead, let’s focus on the political and economic systems that depersonalize women’s discrimination. Let’s focus on divorce, citizenship and criminal laws that are vague and arbitrary. Let’s start by framing women’s relationship to the state: assume that women are citizens of the state—as they should be, that they enjoy the rights of the state—as they should enjoy, and from that, call out those persons—judges, politicians, army—that violate that relationship between a citizen and the state, violate that trust, violate those rights.

2 cents in favour of Mona Eltahawy
You gonna believe Mona Eltahawy or the grand mufti? | Butterflies and Wheels

Meaning what? We shouldn’t worry about women stoned to death, girls taken out of school and forced into marriage, girls who are held down while their genitals are sliced off, women whipped for not wearing a burqa? We should just say “that’s their culture, it’s none of our business” and go on our way rejoicing? We should be insular and selfish and indifferent?

MEI Editor’s Blog: Eltahawy and Sadjadpour in Foreign Policy’s “Sex Issue”

These issues will not go away, and it’s refreshing to see them addressed directly and not sensationally.

It’s Complicated: Mona Eltahawy’s Arab Violence Against Women Story Arouses Passions

As one critic put it: “Some Muslim women from Muslim backgrounds have been willing to join forces with media and governments in seeking to discipline unruly Muslim communities. Ayaan Hirsi Ali being the most prominent international example. However, other Muslim women…are painfully aware of the ease with which discussion of social problems within Muslim communities can be appropriated to vilify Muslims in general.”

That fear is understandable for both Arab societies and Muslim communities in the West, but it has been used to silence appropriate criticism such as Eltahawy ‘s and Hirsi Ali who, unfortunately, never runs out of examples of violence against women within the culture she knows a great deal about…

Mona Eltahawy Agonistes – Under the Black Blanket

The backlash started immediately, and she’s being attacked by Islamist supporters, and their women.

Mona Eltahawy sparks debate on plight of women in the Middle East «

What must be remembered is this is a new age in the region, women are integral to Arab Awakening as Eltahawy mentioned — as the bearers of children, the top notch of the educated, the teachers, and even the bread makers — we must not let their plight be ignored. Women have come a long way, from not being allowed to go to school, to work in office regular or political – some of the biggest talking heads in activism and politics are women. To ignore the imperfection of women’s rights is to ignore the past struggles our mother and grandmothers have come to endure. Women still struggle to make it, there is no denial of that; whether the glass ceiling is in Cairo or Washington. My own aunt was not allowed to go to college by her husband. When he passed away some years ago at the age of 64, she attended university and got a bachelors in history. The renowned stories of the struggles women Mona mention are a reality and must not be ignored.

MEDIAinEGYPT: Mona Eltahawy: ‘Why Do They Hate Us?

Eltahawy tells the BBC’s Katty Kay that post-Mubarak Egypt has not provided women with the basic freedoms that all Egyptians asked for during the revolution.

Why do they hate Mona Eltahawy for speaking about Arab women? « Major Karnage

If no one says anything, nothing will ever get done about this. Good on Eltahawy for standing up to the cultural pressures trying to crush her into silence. Elections in Egypt will not bring democracy so long as female candidates cannot even have their faces on electoral material.

Massoud Hayoun — Off the Presses: On Mona Eltahawy’s ‘Why do they hate us’ — A study in journalistic context/ audience

As we see from the efforts — whether effective or ineffective, wholehearted or otherwise — of the Egyptian government under Mubarak, not even the Egyptian government can break down the doors of the Egyptian household and prevent abuses against women. I have strong reservations about the capacity of Foreign Policy’s largely American liberal, neo-liberal and right-wing readers to contribute to the betterment of Arab women in their households. I’d be happy if positive revolutionary changes were made, from any party. But there are so many examples of do-gooders hurting more than they help.

some of this must be true: Mona Eltahawy and the silencing of women

The depth of awfulness in the five or so responses I have read is such that I can’t hope to counter it all. The sheer variety of ridiculousness of argument present is stunning, ranging from old tropes such as “men are victimised too, therefore you can’t talk about women” and “the Arab world is very diverse, therefore no aspect of it can be criticised” to arguments I have never heard before, such as “the problem is not to do with religion or culture, but with the state” (say what?). I feel so utterly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of this shit that I am going to focus on just one type of response, which is endemic, but is also perfectly objectified in this article by one Samia Errazzouki: Dear Mona Eltahawy, you do not represent “Us”. This article engages in a vast amount of obfuscation using dizzying array of techniques, but it is primarily about silencing: the silencing of Mona Eltahawy, and ultimately, the silencing of any woman who dares to state the truth about patriarchy.

For Argument’s Sake | Out of the Black

Like all good polemicists, Ms Eltahawy uses strong language and a broad brush. Predictably, the blogosphere has objected rather facetiously to the implication that all Arab men are consumed with hate for the fairer sex. Yet however polemical Ms Eltahawy’s article, there is a germ of truth that deserves more credit than condemnation. The difference between Ms Eltahawy and the editors of a Danish magazine who mocked Islam some years ago to widespread derision is that Ms Eltahawy is not wilfully ignorant, as those magazine editors were. On the contrary, she is well aware of the issues she is describing. So to deride her sensationalist style, as Nesrine Malik does in The Guardian, is beside the point. Ms Malik goes on to admit that all of the issues described are true enough but suggests, isn’t politics the answer?

Why do they hate us? | A World of Progress

Eltahawy’s despair should be taken seriously. Yes, she quotes only the most extreme evidence in support of her thesis. But the events she describes took place. Twelve-year-old girls are dying in childbirth in Yemen because child marriages are legal. A woman caught driving in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to ten lashes and needed a pardon to avoid them, another woman, gang-raped, was sentenced to prison for having entered a car driven by a man not related to her. And in Morocco, a sixteen-year-old did drink poison because she had been forced to marry her rapist (which the law allows for him not to be punished for the rape) who then continued beating her.

University Diaries » “Hatred of women.”

Mona Eltahawy pulls no punches in this spectacular essay, one of the few UD‘s seen worthy to be read alongside the essays of George Orwell. Eltahawy and Orwell share an incandescent anger which lies unsteadily under hyper-controlled prose. This latent, labile, anger sustains the riveting tension and clarity of their unsettlingly poised voice. After you read Eltahawy, read Orwell’s How the Poor Die. The same outrage, the same strange, meticulous composure; and of course the same focus upon a large segment of hated humanity.

Why Do They Hate Mona? | VoVatia

The thing is, it seems like the vast majority of the criticism and attacks come from Islamic fundamentalists, with a smattering from people who are totally opposed to Islam throw in. Eltahawy identifies as a liberal Muslim. I read a few of the comments on this article, and they were basically along the lines of “So who cares if women are treated like crap? That’s what Muhammad told us to do!” These religious fundamentalist trolls (and not all of them are Muslim by any means) presumably spend all their time searching for things to be outraged about, then leaving angry comments that could never possibly change anyone’s mind. That said, cultural relativism also comes into play, and there’s some criticism from liberals of the “hey, they’re making progress, so don’t rush them” variety. These people are sort of glacially progressive, I guess. “What do we want? Better treatment for women! When do we want it? Sometime in the next thousand years!” It really seems to me, however, that most of the people who hate Eltahawy hate ALL women, so there’s real reason to single her out. From what I’ve seen and heard of her, I really like her.

Young Kurdish Woman Found Stabbed in Swedish Town | KURDISTAN COMMENTARY

It is Eltahawy’s article and it is Blesa’s life story. It is Maria’s life story and it is my personal experiences. It is not black and white and the more efforts are put into making it so, will only derail us from helping more young women escape the vindictive knives of scorn families.

Taking step back
Responses to Mona Eltahawy’s “Why Do They Hate Us?” « Muslim Reverie

The vast number of critiques written by Arab, Muslim, and South Asian women call attention to how Mona’s simplistic analysis and characterization of Arab women as “helpless” plays into larger discourses that have a real impact in the world, particularly in the way the US oppresses racialized people in Muslim-majority countries. This construction of the “helpless woman of color” who must be saved from the “dangerous man of color” has a long history of sexual violence, colonialism, and racism.

Arab News Blog » Firestorm of Debate on Mona Eltahawy’s “Why Do They Hate Us?”

Whatever you think of Mona Eltahawy’s article (and I was struck by its sad truths from the beginning), she got our attention. She threw down a gauntlet and managed to get the whole Middle East commentary community talking for a couple of days. That is what opinion journalism, informed by fact, does at its very best. And that should please the author and her editors.

Article on women in the Middle East triggers debate | The Stream – Al Jazeera English

Mona Eltahawy’s article “Why Do They Hate Us?” about what she calls the “war” on Arab women in the Middle East has sparked an online debate.

While some netizens have defended the piece, many have criticised it for its tone, presentation and its depiction of Arab women and men.

What 6 Egyptian women say about Mona Eltahawy » Mohamed Abdelfattah: An Egyptian Journalist

These are quotes from the articles and responses against the thesis of Mona Eltahawy’s recent notorious article:

Tahrir Spirit: Compiled list of Eltahawy reaction pieces

So, here’s a comprehensive list of reaction articles and blog posts to Mona Eltahawy’s Foreign Policy article Why do they hate us? Most of the pieces were written by Arab women. After reading these, you be the judge if these Arab women are a handful or not.

Eltahawy’s controversial article & the ensuing dialogue « Iqadh – Awakening

A friend of mine sent me this great critique of Eltahawy’s piece. I posted it on another forum with her permission and it sparked a great dialogue.

» Visualizing the Polarized Discourse of “Why Do They Hate Us?” Blog — Alex Hanna

Although the substance of the debate itself is highly engaging, I was particularly taken by the polarization and how it quickly emerged. And it wasn’t all against one – my Twitter timeline was clearly marked by those who were siding with Eltahawy and those resolutely against her. There wasn’t exactly a rhyme or reason to the division. Some quipped that most American and Western readers lauded the article, while Arabs were critical. But there were some important exceptions.

PUKHTUNKHWA TIMES: After the Arab spring, the sexual revolution?

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 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.”

Egypt ‘necrophilia law’? Hooey, utter hooey. –

Today, Egypt’s state-owned Al Ahram newspaper published an opinion piece by Amr Abdul Samea, a past stalwart supporter of the deposed Hosni Mubarak, that contained a bombshell: Egypt’s parliament is considering passing a law that would allow husbands to have sex with their wives after death.
There’s of course one problem: The chances of any such piece of legislation being considered by the Egyptian parliament for a vote is zero.

Egyptian Chronicles: Necrophilia Law is a Rumor Ya People !!

This is a rumor so far , I really wish people to be careful on what they are spreading.

To conclude this sex issue, different magazine, different issue, similar audience, similar shit:


Does Mona Eltahawy’s Radicalism Advance Arab Women’s Rights?

History has shown that it is never the right time to fight for women’s rights. And that is precisely why the incrementalists need the radicals to “poke the painful places.” Without the latter, the millions of Arab and Muslim feminists who are the real heroes will not have the political space to permanently heal those painful places.

Ali A. Rizvi: Misogyny in the Middle East: The Real Elephant in the Room

This fight is going to be harder than that. Mona Eltahawy has done a fantastic, brave thing by starting up the conversation in the way that she did, particularly after the horror of what she went through in Egypt last year. But unless all of the contributing causes are acknowledged and fought — as dangerous as this may be to do — these things will continue. If you want to fight patriarchy, but stop short of criticizing religion — you’re not fighting patriarchy. Period.

The Real Roots of Sexism in the Middle East (It’s Not Islam, Race, or ‘Hate’) – Max Fisher – International – The Atlantic

Arab societies suffer from deep misogyny, but the problem is not as particularly Arab or Islamic as you might think.

On “Why do they hate us?” and its critics – Blog – The Arabist

The responses to El Tahawy’s piece came fast and furious. I will admit to only having read about twenty of them, though I am sure there are dozens more. Even before reading the responses, I could have guessed what most would say, for indeed El Tahawy’s piece is reductive and essentialist, at the same time that it generalizes and perpetuates some of the very stereotypes individuals like her have long struggled to debunk.

However, El Tahawy’s piece and the responses to it get caught in the same circular debates that feminist theorists have been trying to address for some time, and highlight the significance of two theories in particular: intersectionality and the double-bind. » The Real War on Women

The “real war” here is not about groping; it is a battle for minds, not bodies. The “real” enemy is a politics charged with a dogmatic rhetoric that is less about what men and women do in the bedroom than how they conform to an imposed tyranny that benefits the proverbial one percent, be they dictators or clerics. After the opening tease of a fictional Egyptian woman unmoved by sex with her husband, Eltahawy identifies the broader problem: “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.” Yes, but the numerous dead bodies of young men martyred in opposing these tyrannies prove that it is more than half of humanity that is being treated like animals.

On Mona Eltahawy’s “Painful Places” and the Power of Stories « A Muslimah Writes

What Ahmed alerted readers to is something I want to expand on here: faith and a powerful spiritual inner existence does not feed off of systematic, entrenched injustice, whether it be in the form of misogyny, racism, or any other system of oppression. In light of prevailing stereotypes about Muslim women, it’s too easy to say “Well, of course she has to believe in God, she has to meditate and escape from her reality, look at what a sodden sex life she has!” Sodden sex life or not, the places where women are truimphant–whether it be affirming their individuality through prayer or marching in the streets against tyranny–deserve to be examined on their own terms, not some heinous, monolithic, patriarchal hell they have to escape. Mona Eltahawy keeps stressing how she wants to “shake people up” and “poke the painful places,” but it’s one thing to poke that place, and quite another to aggravate it.

On Mona El Tahawy and ‘Native Informants’ | wadistocracy ??????????

The problem with Tahawy’s article, as others have pointed out, is that she attempts to depoliticize the patriarchy and make it about emotion–hatred–because, you know, Arabs are all ‘hot-blooded’ and whatnot. Such a reductive argument would never be accepted as an explanation for patriarchal practices in the West. But her thesis seems to fold in on itself: if oppression of Arab women is rooted in hatred fed by a uniquely misogynistic religion and culture, then oppression in other places is rooted in what, general malaise? To say misogyny is rooted in hatred is just redundant. Misogyny isn’t rooted in hatred, it IS hatred, and hatred of women is a symptom, not a cause, of the patriarchy in which both men and women participate.

Mona El Tahawy or native neo-orientalism « Ibn Kafka’s obiter dicta – divagations d’un juriste marocain en liberté surveillée

An American journalist writing exclusively for European, US and Israeli media outlets, Mona El Tahawy is not interested in helping Middle Eastern activists to bring about the legislative and social changes required, or to identify the practical ways this might be achieved. No easy clues here: there’s only hate to confront. How does one confront hate – by drone attacks, invasion or forced conversion? She does not say. More importantly still, Arab men and women are not really her main target – her piece is written in the tone of a native informer bringing the White (Wo)Man her exclusive insights about the twisted minds of her fellow natives. That article is more a career move, à la Irshad Manji or Ayaan Hirsi Ali (but without the latter’s islamophobia), than a sincere contribution to a fight for equality that is both morally necessary and socially unavoidable, as Youssef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd have shown.

Throw Off the White Woman’s Burden, Mona « KADAITCHA

While western feminists focus on Islam and Arab men for the plight of Arab women, scrutiny of the predations of western imperialism and capitalism is minimised, and any potential threat from an evolution of the Islamic economic system nullified.

Here’s a collection of the best crits of Mona’s article “Why do they hate us?“:

Some Issues with Foreign Policy’s “Sex Issue”: Part One

We’ve got some responses from several MMW writers coming, today and tomorrow, but to start off, here’s a roundup of some of the (many, many) other reactions to Eltahawy’s article. There are many missing from this list; feel free to link and quote your favourites in the comments.

Some Issues with Foreign Policy’s Sex Issue: Part Two (MMW Responds)

The recent Foreign Policy issue focused on sex drew a number of responses around the internet. Earlier today, we posted a round-up of some of the other blog posts and articles that were written about the issue; here, Sharrae, Azra, Tasnim, Nicole and I discuss our many thoughts on the issue as a whole and on Mona Eltahawy’s article.

One thought on “Closing the week 17 – Featuring Sex, Arab Women and Orientalism

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