"We Are More Than Our Headscarves And Our Hymens." (Mona Eltahawy)
Apr 26 2012
The Luxe Chronicles is not a political blog. While I occasionally post about the nexus of politics and fashion, I tend to stay away from "hardcore" politics. Having said this, it is my blog and I therefore retain the right to digress when I feel the need. Today's post is just such a digression.
Let me start by saying that I am neither a foreign policy expert nor an expert in Middle East politics. I am however a woman and mother of a daughter and so when I read this extremely brave, extremely graphic essay (from which the title of this post is taken) entitled "Why Do They Hate Us" by Egyptian-American columnist Mona Eltahawy, I cringed.
I cringed because like most women born and raised in an industrialised country to loving parents who never questioned the need to educate or prepare me to live an independent life, I take so much for granted. Every day, I take for granted rights (access to education, access to healthcare, reproductive control, political, civic, marital and property rights) denied women throughout the Arab world. Thankfully, my daughter will most likely take them for granted as well.
And yet, just a few hours' flight from our home, there are little girls not much older than she who have already been married off to much older men. They've never been to school and most likely never will. They will cook, clean, have multiple pregnancies and serve their husbands. This will be their life. To what can they aspire? Rights? Autonomy? Basic dignity?
This issue is extremely complex and I make no claim to understanding it fully. I have noticed however that whenever the plight of Arab women comes up in the media, many are quick to point out "progressive" Arab women like Queen Rania of Jordan, PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrwawi and until recently, Syria's Asma Al Assad as proof that the status of women in Arab states is evolving. With all due respect, this map of "The Worst Places To Be A Woman" would suggest otherwise. These token examples of privileged women leading modern, Western-style lives are usually followed by cautions against imposing our Western-style liberalism to foreign cultures. This is usually where the conversation ends.
This is not a post about white or Western liberal guilt. This is not a post about cultural relativism either. This is a post about raising awareness and asking questions: What can be done to change the plight of Arab women? How do we help them take control of their lives? Personally, I don't know where to start. Do you? If so, I'm all ears. But first, you really must read Ms. Eltahawy's essay for yourselves. And by all means, pass it along.
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