Written and read by the author.
In November 2011, Mona Eltahawy came to worldwide attention when she was assaulted by police during the Egyptian Revolution. She responded by writing a groundbreaking piece in foreign policy entitled Why Do They Hate Us?; 'They' being Muslim men, 'Us' being women. It sparked huge controversy.
In Headscarves and Hymens, Eltahawy takes her argument further. Drawing on her years as a campaigner and commentator on women's issues in the Middle East, she explains that, since the Arab Spring began, women in the Arab world have had two revolutions to undertake: one fought with men against oppressive regimes, and another fought against an entire political and economic system that treats women as second-class citizens in countries from Yemen and Saudi Arabia to Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya.
Eltahawy has travelled across the Middle East and North Africa, meeting with women and listening to their stories. Her book is a plea for outrage and action on their behalf, confronting the "toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend." A manifesto motivated by hope and fury in equal measure, Headscarves and Hymens is as illuminating as it is incendiary.
Interested in women's issues, patriarchy and the reasons behind misogyny I was keen to hear Eltahawy's thoughts.
I found her depth of personal experience combined with supported research into the repression of women in the middle east and within Islam powerful, extremely informative, shocking and harrowing.
Her delivery as narrator has an underlying urgency.
To me this whole narrative helps me put words to my own muddled understanding of the complex and tangled historic nature of patriarchy and misogyny generally.
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For those of us who have been calling ourselves feminists for a longtime without taking in to account intersectionality; Headscarves and Hymens is an essential read.
Mona is a stunning writer and having read her book first in print I loved hearing her read it, feeling her outrage and commitment to the cause as she reads words she has written but is finding again. This is an important book. It is for the Middle East and it is for all of us. Outside the Middle East we are oppressed by and battle the same patriarch. His means have just become more hidden. Sharing our words and our stories. Becoming comfortable in the gap between public and private matters. Mina had helped me understand that, sent me a map, that I didn't have before.