In response to Mona Eltahawy’s hate argument

Mona Eltahawy’s article “Why do they hate us?,” published in Foreign Policy Magazine’s special issue on women, has a catchy title.  When I first saw it, I honestly thought it was referring to the Egyptian military’s violations of women’s rights by performing “virginity tests” — especially as the military’s aim seemed to be to exclude women from taking part in political life by brutalizing them and showing them as fragile and vulnerable.

Continue reading at Al Monitor

27 comments: (+add yours?)

Anonymous said...

I'm a woman, a feminist, and your article is bullshit.

Mona said...

and you are anonymous!

IbnHomran said...

Great piece here but I must say if you are going to just blame the media for the story of others in the region then you are wrong...this is what I dislike about your argument here that you obviously disagree with what Mona has written and I understand that. But what I don't understand is to why you fail to acknowledge the truths of her writings? The truth must be told millions of women go through the painful feelings of not being able to effectively be aroused due to traditions that have no basis in any godly believing ways...before you go ahead and criticize Mona's right to write of the truths that go untold in the region, please understand in a world where there is many opinions, those untold are the echoes of a silenced passive ways. Please tell me why the Media in the region has failed to cover issues such as this...I will post a reply to this soon.

Tanya said...

I read both... And I'm sorry to add but your article lacks any Contextual body. Your counterarguments seem merely for the sake of countering her claims. That's one of the major problems I've seen; the demand for logic when none is needed. if someone is being beaten, hidden or considered to be the only one who is the measure of a family's honor and virtue, what logo do you need to determine how that person is going to be treated... Or rather how that person is feared to taint family values. We live in an irrationally barbaric patriarchal society where religion is our greatest Barrier to thinking on a humane level...

Eman Hussein said...

Very well written and very BALANCED! Good job...

Mona said...

Tanya and Ibn Omran. Thanks for your comments.
Please do not argue with me over what I haven't said: the violations she mentioned are there and I do not disagree. I disagree with the reasoning she has: MEN HATING US! Please consider re-reading. I do not wish to repeat this; I am very clear about this, all this horrible status exists, the objection is to the reasoning. I repeat: the objection is to the reasoning. Thanks

Jean Salim said...

While talking about hate, we all know most people oppose Mona for her siding with the French ban against Niqab, this is where the polemy and opposing camps strated. And you mention it in the article while it was mentioned in hers.
Niqab is undeniably one of the faces of patriarchal society domination. And talking about choice is irrelevant in that case, I can find you plenty of Arab Women that are conviced they are less important and of lesser status than men. They speak the things that the patriarchal society taught them since they where kids with such conviction it makes you afraid for the future. So no, saying people choose to wear this way is wrong. Wether fighting the Niqab is a piority, there I don't agree with her. But saying it's not a problem that reflects extreme patriarchal dominance is not realistic.

Suha said...

I'm very impressed! I finally found out what was bothering me about her article. I totally agree with you and it's exactly the points you're mentioning. Thanks alot, Mona :)

mohamad saleh said...

That was a fun read, I must say I did not read Mona's article yet but I remember her interview about the ban on Niqab, she said that sarkozy was a racist but she still supported the ban. I myself am in no place to critize women's right to wear it but if I had the power to impose a ban I'll most likely use that right, in my humble knowledge Niqab is a mere accessory that Islam neither stopped or encouraged, it was just like anyone tribal dress, the concern now though is the imposition of Niqab itself on women in the name of Islam, which Niqab isn't part of, which I think is a crime on its own. Still I support a woman's right to dress however she wishes as long as she is not tricked into thinking it is something it isn't.
Cheers :)

Jareer Kassis said...

Maybe Hussein Ibish said it better than ElTahawy:

"Religious conservatism invariably focuses on social and sexual control. Women are the most immediate targets and primary focus of the authoritarianism of the religious right, wherever they may be."

http://ibishblog.com/article/2011/11/16/islamism_and_misogyny

Anonymous said...

I agree with all u say except my objection to Niqab is that it takes away my right as a woman to see the face of the personal sharing my social space or interacting with me in public. I feel if someone goes to the extreme of covering their face, an important element in any social interaction, they should stay home...

Daniel Pacheco said...

This is a fascinating controversy for the Western eye. Mona Eltahawy is dangerously persuasive. She hist all the right words that we (as a Colombian I regretfully view the world through a somewhat underdeveloped Western looking glass) want to hear to proclaim cultural superiority against muslim barbarism. But its always more complicated. Two takeaways: form @charquaouia if you dare to take the first person plural be prepared for some close personal scrutiny; and from my dear Mona Kareem, hate and patriarchy: very different, easy to confuse.

Andrew Cagle said...

I think people are too quick to point the Islamophobe and Orientalist finger. While I would have liked some more big picture context and public polling data from Tahawy, she brings up issues that should be addressed. I see some of the same problems here in Africa. In Latin America it's called machismo. Currently, the topic of women in the Arab world is one that brings up emotional and polarized views. Regardless of your like or dislike of the article, it sparked an important dialogue.

Nour, said...

منى الطحاوي وأمثالها نتاج فاسد لثقافة الرأسمالية والعلمانية والمصلحة الخاصة.. لا عاشت ولا درست ولا يهمها تدرس ثقافة المرأة المصرية والعربية ولا سلبيات الغرب أنفسهم في إزدراء وإحتقار المرأة! هي بتعمل ده بإختصار عشان أكل عيش مش عشان إيمانها بحقوق المرأة!

taher elaraby said...

The same I say Very well written and very BALANCED! Good job...What the deferant

Monira Al Qadiri said...

Great rebuttal, really on point.

The problem I have with Mona El Tahawy's article is that it actually stems from the same logic that extremists use against women all the time : "Arab men are hateful sex-driven beasts that need to be tamed" - thus women need to be protected & veiled, schools should be segregated, cinemas should be banned, etc.

Its not so much about the women than it is about the portrayal & definition of men and their urges.

If Arab men were seen & treated as rational mature people who think about things other than sex, the root of the problem could be countered, or at least examined with more clarity.

She reaffirms that negative image of Arab men that the West / media / extremists have been perpetuating all along, which is really sad and will help no one.

Salma said...

Bravo, Mona. I applaud you on your last point in particular! THANK YOU.

Milan Rakas said...

The context in which Mona ElTahawy published his text, can not be ignored, because it is the occasion for a public appearance. We had 1) a repressive system 2) revolt of workers against a) poor social position b) corruption regime c) repression of the regime. Among all who had rebelled, there were men and women. Now, a social rebellion, ElTahawy interpreted as a "feminine revolution". She brings to the fore something that could be described as a struggle for the liberation of women from centuries of cultural constraints. So, my question is whether in Egypt we have a revolution for Social Justice, or another, for the rights of women? Or is that a single process?

JMousawi said...

Well written, read both articles, well done Mona!

Anonymous said...

@Monira Al Qadiri, you have made the most sensible point I have read today (and I spent my day reading Mona El Tahawy's article, all the comments, 4 responses to Mona's article and all their comments, haha). Really, I think you've nailed it.

Anonymous said...

Mona, I can't believe you are stuck on the "hate" part. We know culture norms can support what seems to others as "normal" as they do things to others that suggests supporting that old form of hate. It's done in racism, it's done in gender issues, it is done in other area's as well. Her use of "Hate" in this was really reflective of that, more then what your claim in actually meaning of someone "hating". There is a long history of using norms to support old behaviors that treats groups differently. This is a form of supporting misconceptions, and yes - hate.

Anonymous said...

There is a war on the poor, women, minorities, disabled, metrosexuals.
Ok, the last one I can't disagree with.

But this war is intended to prevent the affected from developing a stable independent consciousness.

The poor are treated as lazy so as to keep the mildly successful from offering help and as such keep the poor willing to accept starvation wages.

The hidden jewel meme is meant to make men extremely reactive to the idea of a woman as a prize and to distract women from more important concerns. Head coverings are the same as lipstick.

But the Men Hate Women rhetoric doesn't work. In the West we are very confused. We use the word hate to amplify an issue from our relative safety and isolation. We don't feel hated. We feel oppressed in a more abstract sense. But to get a point across we use simplified language.

When this Warholesque caricature is transferred to the East, something absurd happens. Men and women in the East hear this phrase literally and associate it with direct physical trauma, which of course doesn't make any bloody sense to them.

Nayefj said...

@Monira

Which brings us the issue of the maturity of the Arab male society. How many Arab men are able to talk a woman in Saudi without fearing persecution or retaliation? How many of these men are mature well-balanced individuals? How many of them believe in the societal standard of women being second-class citizens who shouldn't be treated equally?

These are important matters to think about out. How the general population thinks of women, and how governments contribute to that. Only then one will know. And it depends on each country. Men in Kuwait are different from men in Saudi and men in Egypt. But what is the common standard used by all?

Sanna said...

And so? All these is really happening trough Middle East and North Africa, as Mona has written. They should not be denied, but writings like yours are denying them.

Virginity test, genital mutilation and the cruel fact that Middle-Eastern Woman don’t enjoy equal status under the law in many North-African or Middle-Eastern Countires (e.g. getting divorce is more harder to woman) are bigger problems than some “orientalist” pictures of women in the magazine. The issues what she was writing are still real and they are really happening.

I don’t think Mona wanted Arabic women to look like helpless, stupid victims. At least in my eyes she did not that. I know women everywhere are powerful and able to think and make their own decisions. We western people are not always rasictic and orientalist, even if you would like to think so. Mona was just telling the fact how Islamic law is treating arabic Women. Unequality, genital mutilation, not same position under the law.. These are true things and even if I'm western person, I'm feeling these things should be changed. It's not orientalistic or seeing arabic women as a helpless victims, if I want that arabic women would enjoy the same status under the law as arabic men do. Or that there wouldnt be all these grievances what Mona was writing about.

And is it always and only Western Powers who enslave, colonize and otherwise subjugate. Why are there not more women in Arab parliaments? Is it because of colonialism only?

Is it not possible that Arab society has its own reasons for female inequality as well as other inequalities?

If nothing else, do not be a deflector using the West as the reason for all Arab problems. At some point you must stand behind your own decisions.

Pedro said...

1. I'm with Kareem on the niqab.

2. I'm with FP on the photos. They're more honest in their anglophone feminism than the text is: the Western package is the vote, a car, and freedom defined as nudity, take it or leave it (what do you mean, "a 3rd way"?). As Eltahawy believes the niqab is always oppression (besides being stereotype) I think she'd agree with the photos.

3. I'm not convinced Eltahawy meant "they" to be "Arab men": "so many lowercase patriarchs still opress us... the woman who heads the women's committee of the Brotherhood's political party said recently that women should not march or protest because it's more dignified to let their husbands and brothers demonstrate for them."

4. The charge of Arab monolithism is nitpicking. It's a convenient way to speak of societies with many commonalities in the way they discriminate women. Kareem mentions it is actually over 20 cultures - isn't this State monolithism?

5. Its interesting that Eltahawy derives part of her international legitimacy from being Arab - Arab critics of Arab countries are reformers, Western critics are imperialists (and imperialists do love examples of non-Westerners who have seen the light). Kareem protests, her ideology is Westernized, we must seek "authentic" Arab feminists in the grassroots. Kareem, Eltahawy, and the head of the women's committee will disagree about what Arab women "authentically" want.

Grand pharaoh said...

Well, sometimes you need two arguements. One for the West and the other for close minded Arabs. It is not contradiction it is more of custom made arguements.

Eli Rabett said...

Despise is perhaps more accurate although hold in contempt is a bit less confrontational.

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