Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review of Eltahawy's "Headscarves and Hymens"

One of the tropes, I think, that ought to be played-out by now, is the idea that the Islamic world needs a "Reformation".  The paradigm of Islam post al-Wahhab and Qutb is the Reformation. This was the pull toward traditionalism and a new reverence for The Book. Mona Eltahawy's book, Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution points to a kind of Enlightenment--maybe the more apt and realist take on Islam. (I would compare her to Wollstonecraft.)  She discusses the need for a sexual revolution. I think her feminist take on the culture is necessary and timely. Her thesis is direct and her examples are not "exceptional" but only too familiar when looking at the depredation of women in various cultures.

In her book, Eltahawy takes on "purity culture" and the myth of the importance or value of virginity, as well as the cultural forgiveness for crimes against women's autonomy as seen in clemency for rapists who consent to marry the "damaged goods" of their victims (regardless of the ability or willingness of the victims to consent to the same). She discusses the pedophilia implicit in child marriage. She highlights the absurdity of a culture like that of Saudi Arabia, that forbids women the right to drive or go anywhere without a male chaperone, and how this strands women into regular choices between greater and lesser apostatic ways of simply existing.

I did not love this book in the sense of enjoying it, because in many ways, it highlights the oppression of women and the difficulties they face in even trying to be recognized as people who bear grievances in the culture in which they live. But I did find her message to be a positive one, in the hope that examples exist for plotting a course to dialogue between Muslimas who yearn for independence and progressivism with the sternness of the faith.

For people interested in the struggle of feminists within Islam, Islam itself, or feminism in general, Eltahawy has balanced history with her own personal narrative to make a very interesting read. I sincerely recommend it.

1 comment:

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I heard an interview with Ms Eltahawy on the Brian Lehrer show. I think the "elephant in the room" in the Muslim world is the fact that Saudi Arabia has been funding wahhabist movements worldwide, under the guise of "development".

Afghanistan, before the jihadis came to fight the Soviets, embraced Sufism, the legacy of the Silk Road trade. There's a reason the Bamiyan Buddhas stood for so long.

And yet, the Saudis are our "allies", makes me wanna hurl.