Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy
Headscarves and Hymens is a clear reminder that unless the political revolutions we've started in the Middle East and North Africa are accompanied by social and sexual revolutions - that have gender equality nestled in their heart - they will fail. If we just keep replacing one man with another at the top without paying attention to what that man and others do to women, on the streets and at home, we will never be free. I want everyone who reads this book, regardless of where they live, to understand that the revolution must cross the threshold into the home - Mona Eltahawy 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.
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So we have a winner for book-title of 2015 @monaeltahawy's 'Headscarves & Hymens - Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution.' BRAVO -- Caitlin Moran Now Eltahawy has written this fearless roar-to-arms, which sets her own experiences - including how she was groped while on Hajj in Mecca - alongside those of dozens of other women. She illustrates the misogynistic and sometimes downright barbaric attitudes towards women in the Arab world; from the Hobson's Choice of the hijab and the Saudi cleric who declared that women shouldn't drive because it damages their ovaries; to FGM and Rawan, the eight-year-old Yemeni "bride", who died of internal bleeding after being violently penetrated on her "wedding night". Sometimes we need books that will make us angry enough to want to change things. This book will certainly disturb you, and possibly make you very angry indeed - but you must read it. -- Caroline Sanderson THE BOOKSELLER - Editor's Choice Book of the Month Shocking, heartfelt and well-researched NEW STATESMAN This feisty Egyptian lady made headlines after she was arrested by police, beaten and sexually assaulted in 2011 during the Egyptian revolution. Her subsequent article for Foreign Policy magazine, Why Do They Hate Us?, was a no-holds barred attack on the treatment of women in many Arab countries. "When it comes to the status of women in the Middle East," she wrote, "it's not better than you think. It is much, much worse" -- Camilla Cavendish SUNDAY TIMES 'Headscarves and Hymens is an impassioned, deeply felt and affecting memoir that confronts a very real problem. -- Tahmima Anim THE TIMES Brave and impassioned ... A shocking book, and one that will make anyone who has seen veiling as a cultural issue think very hard about what is really going on MAIL ON SUNDAY Inequality, state brutality, resentment, sexual frustration, religious indoctrination, shame culture and struggle for power ... Eltahawy holds a match to this combustible mix ... A brave call for gender equality GUARDIAN (What are you currently reading?) Headscarves and Hymens by Mona Eltahawy. I was lucky enough to interview Mona recently and she is enormously inspiring and very, very funny. -- Laura Bates THE INDEPENDENT This is a fascinating, can't-look-away, whistle-stop tour of the Middle East through the eyes of an angry but lucid observer. Eltahawy is brave as well as perceptive: her reports cause outrage and controversy. She blames the West as much as Middle Eastern attitudes for the lack of change, especially Western liberals who criticise imperialism and yet turn a blind eye to the cultural imperialism that doesn't push misogyny to the fore, as if there might time to sort that out later when more important matters have been "fixed". -- Viv Groskop DAILY TELEGRAPH This a call to arms against misogyny in the Arab world is furiously plain-speaking. -- Viv Groskop SUNDAY TELEGRAPH To Eltahawy, the root of this inequality is clear: "a toxic mix of culture and religion", particularly Islam, and more particularly the spread of its ultra-conservative Saudi-style interpretation. -- Rachel Aspden THE GUARDIAN Overall, however, it is the oscillation between the personal and the political that makes Headscarves and Hymens a tour de force...Sometimes we need books that will make us angry enough to want to change things. This courageous book will certainly disturb you, and may make you very angry indeed. But you still must read it. -- Caroline Sanderson MSLEXIA Headscarves and Hymens is less a call to arms and more a protracted bellow for equality, progress and common sense. -- Anakana Schofield IRISH TIMES This book should be made compulsory reading in all those schools where British Muslim girls are being groomed to go abroad to be Islamic State brides. Eltahawy is laceratingly honest about how hard it has been for her as an Arab Muslim woman to confront the institutional misogyny of her culture, to free herself of the "taboos and silence". Only when there has been a revolution in the relations between the sexes, she insists, will there ever be genuine political change in the Middle East. -- Daisy Goodwin MAIL ON SUNDAY Headscarves and Hymens is useful for those who are new to the situation in the Middle East, as it's a good overview of the main social issues affecting the region. NEW INTERNATIONALIST This is a timely and provocative call to action for gender equality in the Middle East PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY (USA) Eltahawy's passionately argued case is irrefutable. But how to harness this rage to achieve real political change remains the unanswered question. SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (Australia) In her debut book, Egyptian-American journalist and commentator Eltahawy mounts an angry indictment of the treatment of women throughout the Arab world. KIRKUS REVIEWS (USA) This is a ground-shaping book that defines the edge of so many vital contemporary debates. Hers is a voice simultaneously behind and beyond the veil. -- Colum McCann This a powerful global feminist demand for equal rights. -- Vanessa Bush BOOKLIST (USA) Headscarves and Hymens is a call to arms by a woman who's plainly proud of her justified rage. She brings to mind those angry, outspoken women in the 1970s who were branded "strident" feminists - the ones who yelled, who offended, but who generated change. "It is the job of a revolution to shock, to provoke, and to upset," Eltahawy writes, "not to behave or be polite." Mission accomplished. -- Marcia Kaye TORONTO STAR (Canada) Mona Eltahawy brings a journalist's keen eye, a revolutionary's prophetic courage, and a feminist's incendiary intellect to this work, demolishing the last cultural relativist myths. And she writes so well that it's hard to put down this audacious, information-packed treasure about the half of the Arab world that's female. Miss this book-the real key to the Middle East-at your peril. -- Robin Morgan Headscarves and Hymens is timely, important and much needed. It should be translated into many languages, especially those spoken in the Middle East. Eltahawy encourages the girls of the Middle East and North Africa to be "immodest, rebel and disobey" and know they are entitled to be free. Her book deserves to be widely read, discussed and acclaimed. -- Elif Shafak LITERARY REVIEW A passionate and brilliantly argued polemic...When I put down Eltahawy's deeply affecting book, I felt that a bit more Enlightenment universalism is in order. Instead of bellyaching when some idiotic man calls a woman "dear" or a hideous professor sends his student a creepy email, feminists should wake up and recognise the cruel, systematic violence that millions of women still face throughout the world. -- Jane O'Grady THE TABLET Informative and engaging, a brave and much needed insight into suffering which is rarely talked about openly. THE F WORD
About Mona Eltahawy
Mona Eltahawy is an award-winning journalist and commentator on Arab and Muslim issues. She has appeared as a guest speaker on CNN, the BBC and Al Jazeera, and her essays on Egypt, the Islamic world, and women's rights have been published by the WASHINGTON POST, the GUARDIAN and the NEW YORK TIMES. She has won numerous awards for her writing, including the EUROPEAN UNION'S SAMIR KASSIR PRIZE FOR FREEDOM OF THE PRESS in 2009. NEWSWEEK magazine named Mona as one of its 150 Fearless Women of 2012. She lives in Cairo and New York. @monaeltahawy
Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy
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