Mona Eltahawy is an Egyptian woman who wrote an article for Foreign Policy entitled “Why Do They Hate Us?”; “they” being Muslim men, “us” being women. The piece sparked controversy, of course, making it clear that misogyny in the Arab world is something that engages and enrages the public.
In Headscarves and Hymens, Eltahawy takes her argument further. Drawing on her years as a campaigner and a 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 traveled across the Middle East and North Africa, meeting women and listening to their stories. Her book is a plea for outrage and action on their behalf; it confronts 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.