Maquina Lectora

Notes of a curious mind

Tag: gender equality

Headscarves and hymens

They hate us because we are at once their temptation and their salvation from that patriarchy, which they must sooner or later realize hurts them, too. They hate us because they know that once we rid ourselves of the alliance of State and Street that works in tandem to control us, we will demand a reckoning.

Imagine you are a woman born in the United Arab Emirates. Your father or brother or husband can beat you and remain fully compliant with the law so long as he leaves no marks. If you are unlucky enough to be born to Egypt there is a 90% chance to have your genitals cut and almost certainly (99.3% ) you will experience sexual harassment at some point in your life.

bookIn Saudi Arabia, you are not allowed to drive and you need the permission of a male legal guardian to travel, marry, work or access education. You have to wear the abaya in public.   Yet,  even though you cover your entire body in black,  86.5%* of the Saudi men think that  “women’s exaggeration in wearing make-up (to clarify  – that means mascara and eyeliner)  is the main cause of the rise in molestation cases in public places.”  Not that is better in Moroco, where 16 years old girls are forced to marry their rapists, so that the rapist to escape conviction.

The Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy is perhaps the most provocative voice in misogyny in the Middle East. Headscarves and hymens is a brassy, provocative and emotional book – a mix of memoir and indictment against the misogyny society who oppress Arab women.

The Arab women, Eltahawy says,

…live in a culture that is fundamentally hostile to us [women], enforced by men’s contempt. They don’t hate us because of our freedoms, as the tired post 9/11 America cliché had it. We have no freedoms because they hate us.]

They hate us, she writes, because they need us, they fear us, they understand how much control it takes to keep us in line, to keep us good girls with our hymens intact until it’s time for them to fuck us into mothers who raise future generations of misogynists to forever fuel their patriarchy.

They hate us because we are at once their temptation and their salvation from that patriarchy, which they must sooner or later realize hurts them, too. They hate us because they know that once we rid ourselves of the alliance of State and Street that works in tandem to control us, we will demand a reckoning.

To back up her argument, Eltahawy presents horrific statistics and stories about women that survived genital cutting (FGM), child brides who bleed to death when they are raped by their husbands on their wedding nights, young women in Egypt who sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square and forced to have ‘virginity tests’.  Egypt, she writes,  “is an important case study in how state and street work in tandem to push women out of public space”. It demonstrates how regimes, regardless of ideology, have proven unwilling to address what Human Rights Watch has described as “an epidemic of sexual violence.”

In his study on the relationship between “Oil, Islam, and Women,” Michael L. Ross argues that gender inequality in Arab states is influenced by oil rather than Islam. Since there is little economic diversification in the oil produced countries, there is little chance for women to join the non-agricultural workforce. Oil production has resulted in Arab states’ patriarchy. It is a compeling argument, but he underestimates the power of Islam on gender roles and the fact that the influence of Islam on Arab culture predates the discovery of oil by several millennia.

On the other hand, Eltahawy’s generalisation and isolation of the Arab women from a fight that is global is not perhaps the best way to approach gender equality. Not all Arab societies are the same and misogyny do not exist just in the Middle East.  They are many women across the globe who feel like ‘second-class citizens’.  But this is her fight and it is just great that her article and book has reignited a discussion that needs to be at the forefront of the public debate in many societies.

*2014 poll from the King Abdul Aziz Centre for National Dialogue

Tέσσερις γυναίκες μιλούν στο Lifo για τη θέση της γυναίκας στη σημερινή Ελλάδα

Τα ατομικά μέλη του κόμματος των Ευρωπαίων Φιλελεύθερων – Δημοκρατών στην Ελλάδα (ALDE Party) στοχεύοντας – ανάμεσα σε άλλα – στην ενδυνάμωση της ισότητας των φύλων στην Ελλάδα, στη στήριξη των γυναικών που θέλουν να ασχοληθούν με τα κοινά και στην υποστήριξη της συμμετοχής περισσότερων γυναικών στη δημόσια σφαίρα, ανακοινώνει τη δημιουργία του Δικτύου για την Ισότητα των Φύλων (ALDE Party Gender Equality Network) και διοργανώνει ανοιχτό διάλογο με ενδιαφερόμενα μέρη και ενεργούς πολίτες.

Καλεσμένοι στη συνάντηση είναι εμπειρογνώμονες από όλα τα επαγγελματικά και κοινωνικά πεδία για να παρουσιάσουν την εμπειρία τους σε θέματα ισότητας, ομαλής ένταξης στην αγορά εργασίας και καθημερινών προβλημάτων που αντιμετωπίζουν οι γυναίκες και οι άνδρες σήμερα.

Με αυτή την αφορμή ζητήσαμε από τέσσερα μέλη του Δικτύου για την Ισότητα των Φύλων να απαντήσουν στις ερωτήσεις μας.

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