Of Headscarves & Hymens: A Candid Conversation With Mona Eltahawy
Bruised, Defiant – Just Don’t Try Rescuing Her
“When more than 90% of ever-married women in Egypt — including my mother and all but one of her six sisters — have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty, then surely we must all blaspheme… to hell with political correctness.”
So wrote tonight’s guest, Egyptian journalist and women’s right’s activist Mona Eltahawy in her explosive Foreign Policy magazine article Why Do They Hate Us?— “us” being women and “they” being Arab men. Her rage was fueled by personal experience: in November 2011, just blocks from Tahrir Square, Mona was sexually assaulted, had both arms broken and came within a tweet of being gang-raped by Egyptian Armed Forces– then headed by current Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el Sisi. Having written for the New York Times, the Guardian, the Observer as well as being featured on the BBC, CNN, Newsweek, PEN, Al Jazeera, NPR, the Atlantic, MSNBC– Mona was saved by her profile. But how many others weren’t so lucky?
The article went viral. She fleshed it into a bestselling book: Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution. Since then she’s been condemned by Islamists, celebrated by feminists, hijacked by neo-cons and the source of much hand-wringing by liberal multiculturalists. Oh, and dickered with over semantics by Berkeley and Oxford professors (WTF, BBC?)
You don’t speak for us, said some Arab women while many others– while most others– didn’t speak at all.
Tonight Mona talks candidly about her teenage years in Saudi Arabia, how Westerners can help Arab women, getting tattooed, losing her headscarf and her hymen– and even being a bit of a cougar!