'A ground-shaping book that defines the edge of so many vital contemporary debates. Hers is a voice simultaneously behind and beyond the veil' Colum McCann
Headscarves and Hymens explodes the myth that we should stand back and watch while women are disempowered and abused in the name of religion.
In this laceratingly honest account, Eltahawy takes aim both at attitudes in the Middle East and at the western liberals who mistake misogyny for cultural difference. Her argument is clear: unless political revolution in the Arab world is accompanied by social and sexual revolution, no progress will be made.
Headscarves and Hymens is the book the world has been crying out for: a powerful, fearless account of what it really means to be a woman in the Muslim world.
'A fascinating, can't-look-away, whistle-stop tour of the Middle East' Daily Telegraph
'Brave and impassioned . . . A shocking book, and one that will make anyone who has seen veiling as a cultural issue think very hard about what is really going on' Mail on Sunday
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.