Thursday, April 21, 2016

Mona Eltahawy's Headscarves and Hymens

Don't laugh at me but I have been reading her book, "Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution".  Is this a joke? Or is this a new genre of anti-feminist essentialism fake feminism which Western culture welcomes? She reminds me of the anti-feminist Lebanese Joumana Haddad.  I think Western culture welcomes such manifestation because they internalize the racism and bigotry and non-scholarly generalizations about all Arabs and about all Muslims.  And the documentation of the book is hilarious: she mentions in passing some feminist names but then is obsessed with Newsweek and various shallow journalism of the West. This is her audience and her sources.  And she loves to titillate Western readers with stories about "what Arab men are doing to us".  Her generalization about Arabs and their peculiar culture are based on ranking by the World Bank. I kid you not (p. 2--of an electronic edition).  She tells you that Newsweek committed an error in hailing King Abdullah of SA as a reformer and adds that it "ought to know better".  Yes, because Newsweek has a history of first-rate journalistic coverage of the world.  She tells you that clerics of Saudi Arabia are obsessed with women, as if reactionary clerics of Judaism and Christianity are not obsessed with women.  But don't think that she didn't work hard in researching her book. For example, when she talks about Islamism, she knows what she is talking about and she even uses the official definition of Islamism as offered by...AP.  I am not making this up. (p.4).  She tells you that Arab "men can't control themselves", thus implying that all Arab men are rapists and sexual harassers and predators.  Her questions reminds me of when a boy or a girl stumbles on feminism at age 11 or 12.  As in: why are there double standards, etc.  And she implies that in Arab culture women are not expected to have sexual drives, when the entire Islamic and Arab system of gender restriction is based recognition and even exaggeration of the sexual desires of women. But here she is extrapolating Western Christian standards on Arab culture.  She tells you that the regime that NATO installed in Libya was very sexist but instead of faulting NATO she faults...Arab men.  She tells you that Egypt is a "classist society". What can't Arabs enjoy living in the classless societies of the West, why?  But wait: she makes a case that if you disagree with her: you are either a Western right-wing bigot or you are a Western liberal who refuse to condemn misogyny.  So you are stuck: you have to agree with her or else.