Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The day the Egyptian cyberspace nearly exploded on the issue of women's rights

The Egyptian cyber sphere nearly exploded today over an article written by Egyptian writer Mona El-Tahawy on the treatment of women in the Middle East, provocatively titled 'Why do they hate us?'.

To me the article merely seems to state the obvious ('woman are second class citizens in the Middle East') and I am fairly disappointed it doesn't offer a broader solution than 'be vocal and demand your rights'.

Eltahawy's piece is mainly listing incidents that underline the unequal position of women in the Middle East. Granted, this has reignited the debate on women's rights, but it offers no solutions to fix the problem.

The question in the title doesn't get answered, which I think is the main issue. Once we figure out where this 'hatred' comes from (and the 'orientalist' in me is screaming 'culture' here, not to be confused with Islam, as it often is), we can attempt to cut it of at the root and start to reform this institutionalised gender inequality.

Many people are upset over Eltahawy's use of the word 'hate' and the images used with the article. Again this distracts from the real debate: how do we achieve gender equality in the Middle East?

If only I was teaching a level five or six class this term, I would definitely dedicate an entire class to this article and some of it's responses. I would subsequently have material for another dozen blogposts.

Here's Eltahawy on the BBC, defending her article (and the use of the word 'hate').

Here's a good interview with Eltahawy on NPR.

UPDATE: Foreign Policy asked six writers to respond to Eltahawy's article.
Many others have written sensible responses, here's a short list:

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