Article on women in the Middle East triggers debate
Netizens praise and criticise journalist Mona Eltahawy’s piece “Why Do They Hate Us?”
- Mona Eltahawy responded to some of the criticism:
- Many netizens reacted to the article, which turned into an online debate.
- However, immediately, the title sets off an alarm: the use of the first-person-plural. The first-person-plural can be appropriately used when the speaker has been elected to speak on behalf of the group they are speaking on behalf of. In this case, the “They” being Arab societies and “Us” being Arab women. Mona’s self-appointed representation of Arab women is neither professional nor accurate. While I sincerely value the freedom of self-expression and have not one single problem with her expressing her views, doing so on the behalf of all Arab women is enraging.
- Mona Kareem also wrote a blog post in response to the article. Here is an excerpt urging the media to highlight voices from other Arab women.
- I think someone like Eltahawy has been working for women rights and had many chances to present her thoughts. If western publications, including Foreign Policy, are interested in spotting the light on the so-called Arab Feminism, then chances should be given to other names as well. Media has been writing the stories of different women from the Arab world after the uprising yet they rarely give them chances to speak about their experiences and of their opinions (and I do not want to get into the whys.) Women like Manal Al-Shariff, Rasha Ezzb, and Samira Ibrahim are not less feminist than any prominent figures in the world. The veiled Zainab Al-Khawakja, for example, can speak well of the women struggle as she protests alone in the street and gets arrested for the sake of her detained father, whom am sure does not hate her!
- Below is an excerpt of Al Jazeera journalist Dima Khatib's take on Eltahawy's article in a blog post called "Love, not hatred, dear Mona!."
- Your article paints a picture of the Arab society that matches the images of the article: black, bleak, depressing, a painted black body. You have reduced the problem of the Arab woman to the feelings of men; while the image of Arab women was reduced to the image that the West has of her. What you have tackled is true, and we have a long road ahead, and the revolutions have not achieved anything for women or for any one else when it comes to societal demands, and we have not yet been granted our basic rights, as women or as men. Like you, I felt a huge shock when the new Egyptian parliament was elected in front of my eyes while I was in Egypt, with women representing less than 2% of it. But the picture in your article is incomplete and gives the impression that we are all miserable, helpless female beings. Arab society is not as barbaric as you present it in the article.
- In this excerpt of the blog post, "I don't really think they hate us!" Nahed Eltantawy notes that the problems plaguing women are not exclusive to one gender:
- some of the evidence Eltahawy relies on, such as virginity tests, criminal codes, etc are problems of undemocratic governing and have nothing to do with hate of women. These are problems that also impact men. There are numerous accounts of police brutality in Egypt, where men have been beaten, sexually abused or beaten to death. Have we forgotten about Khaled Said, the young Alexandrian, whose brutal death sparked the Jan25 Revolution? Or how about Essam Atta, the young man who was tortured to death in prison? Why do we always have to focus on violence against women? And if you are going to mention unfair criminal codes, then out of fairness, let's examine Egypt's child custody laws, laws that empower mothers but are ridiculously unfair towards fathers.
- Roqayah Chamseddine wrote "Us and them: On Helpless women and orientalist imagery" and discussed what she perceived as a dichotomy in Eltahawy's argument:
- It can be argued that Mona Eltahawy’s piece superficially condenses a complex subject into an easy-to-swallow ‘them vs. us’ dichotomy, where the role of totalitarian leaders and authoritarian politics are both grotesquely marginalized in order to mournfully examine the cruelty of men, purposefully grouped into one easy to attack assemblage. They hate us, she laments, in a most puerile manner. Men hate women. A dichotomy which not only appoints Mona Eltahawy as the representative for all women of the Middle East-North Africa, but has caused many of her backers to argue that women disagreeing with her premise are suffering from a sort of internalized oppression, brought about due to a stigmatized, negative identity they have come to accept due the reoccurring torment women face at the hands of men.
- Hossam Bahgat tweeted at Eltahawy his thoughts on the piece:
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