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Headscarves and Hymens

Cover of Headscarves and Hymens

Headscarves and Hymens

Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution
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A passionate manifesto decrying misogyny in the Arab world, by an Egyptian American journalist and activist
When the Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy published an article in Foreign Policy magazine in 2012 titled "Why Do They Hate Us?" it provoked a firestorm of controversy. The response it generated, with more than four thousand posts on the website, broke all records for the magazine, prompted dozens of follow-up interviews on radio and television, and made it clear that misogyny in the Arab world is an explosive issue, one that engages and often enrages the public.
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 in countries from Yemen and Saudi Arabia to Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya as second-class citizens.
Eltahawy has traveled 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.

A passionate manifesto decrying misogyny in the Arab world, by an Egyptian American journalist and activist
When the Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy published an article in Foreign Policy magazine in 2012 titled "Why Do They Hate Us?" it provoked a firestorm of controversy. The response it generated, with more than four thousand posts on the website, broke all records for the magazine, prompted dozens of follow-up interviews on radio and television, and made it clear that misogyny in the Arab world is an explosive issue, one that engages and often enrages the public.
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 in countries from Yemen and Saudi Arabia to Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya as second-class citizens.
Eltahawy has traveled 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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About the Author-
  • Mona Eltahawy is an Egyptian American freelance journalist and commentator. Her essays and op-eds on Egypt, the Islamic world, and women's rights have appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Miami Herald, and other publications. She has appeared as a guest commentator on MSNBC, BBC, CNN, PBS, Al-Jazeera, NPR, and dozens of other television and radio networks. She lives in New York.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 9, 2015
    Egyptian-American journalist and feminist activist Eltahawy unleashes her passion and outrage at misogyny in the Arab world. Raised in Egypt and England, Eltahawy moved with her family to Saudi Arabia in her teens, when she notes she was “traumatized into feminism” by living in a country where women “were infantilized beyond belief.” Covering countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Yemen, Eltahawy highlights how women remain covered up, harassed on the street, subject to genital mutilation, and forced to get permission from a male guardian to marry or divorce. She does not shy away from difficult topics, such as the way some countries allow rapists to escape conviction by marrying their victims. Nor does she avoid her personal struggles grappling with her own sexuality, her reasons for wearing a hijab for many years, and her assault by riot police during the Arab Spring. Blaming the “toxic mix of culture and religion” evident in the modern legal codes in many Arab countries, Eltahawy is staunch (albeit single-minded) in her criticisms. But she finds hope in the “open mic initiative” in Egypt, in which women can broadcast their harassment stories; the march for women’s rights in Lebanon, led by mothers whose daughters had been murdered by their husbands; and women turning to social media in Saudi Arabia, among other examples. This is a timely and provocative call to action for gender equality in the Middle East. Agent: Jessica Papin, Dystel & Goderich.

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    Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Headscarves and Hymens
Headscarves and Hymens
Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution
Mona Eltahawy
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