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My 2MAS [Two-Minute Audio Sense] on Eltahawy's "Why Do They Hate Us?"

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Foreign Policy Magazine's latest edition is a special issue on Sex. Unfortunately, the Magazine considers sex in the Middle East mostly with a single article on China and a mention of it every where else across the Globe. Jadaliyya co-editors Sherene Seikaly and Maya Mikdashi wrote a stellar piece evaluating the issue and Mona Eltahawy's controversial piece, "Why Do They Hate Us?" 


Below, I respond to Eltahawy's piece in a two-minute audio recording.  


1 comment for "My 2MAS [Two-Minute Audio Sense] on Eltahawy's "Why Do They Hate Us?" "


Hated or Oppressed? I hesitated before reading Mona Eltahawi’s “Why do they hate us?” article in Foreign Policy (the May-June 2012 issue). For me, Eltahawi is one of the promising faces of the Egyptian revolution. Young and articulate, I consider her one of many faithful representatives of a new progressive and forward-looking generation. I don’t know her personally, but I had the same trepidation that invades me before opening a letter from a close friend that I haven’t heard from for a lengthy period of time. I was anxious and afraid of being at the receiving end of depressing, bad news yet, I was curious to read more about who are “us” and “them”. Apart from her conclusion which –unfortunately or fortunately- became the title of her article, I found that Eltahawi listed a series of well-known facts about the status of women in several Arab countries, in societies where being oppressed and marginalized is the norm. However, unlike the unprivileged, poor majority, women frequently face additional challenges when their oppression extends to the “home-front” resulting in unbearable pressures that aren’t necessarily insulated by social or economic status. My use of the term “oppressed” as opposed to “hated” is the essence of this review for two reasons. The first reason stems from a quick observation of the daily reality in many Egyptian streets where quarrels erupt regularly between neighbours because of an inappropriate comment or gesture towards someone’s sister or female relative. Many of the men involved in defending their relative’s dignity exhibit jealousy, possessiveness but the height of their hypocrisy gets exposed when they repeat the same indecent offence without realizing that the new “prey” is also someone’s sister. Such “jealousy and possessiveness” are manifestations of unhealthy ways or notions of love but they can’t –almost by definition- get associated in any objective way with hate. Other lighter, albeit distasteful, analogies might be a rich man’s obsession with his car or the universal masculine fixation on a favourite sports’ team. For sure, such fascinations aren’t as harmful as sexist attitudes or oppressive practices. However, if you believe that the long road “to recovery” from such ills can’t start from the premise that men hate cars or hold a grudge against sports, why would you buy the argument that when it comes to improving the status of women all you need is love! This brings me to my second, perhaps more important, reason for preferring the use of the term “oppressed”. I think that post-colonialist political theory and literature can inform the discussion initiated by Eltahawi because of their examination and analysis of the oppressor’s sense of “superiority”. An inhumane notion, that forms and evolves to justify exploitation and injustice. You don’t need to dig very deeply in history books to note that “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” didn’t apply to the colonized. Similarly, the “pursuit of happiness” excluded the slaves and the indigenous. The colonizers internalised “superiority” but history tells us that the oppressed starting point to gain freedom was suppressing “inferiority” then, moving on to organize, mobilize and reach out for allies to build coalitions. Women’s emancipation isn’t separate or different from the struggles for societies’ emancipation. They are intertwined. During the first seventeen days in Tahrir, the revolutionaries established á la parisienne a 21st century Cairo commune. The liberated square didn’t just epitomize the political will of the people but it demonstrated how unity of purpose can build a just community of truly equal beings. I am not in a position to substitute Eltahawi’s –or anyone else’s- terminology. She probably considered other options before the term “hate”. Most likely, she chose this title to be provocative in the same long held tradition that prompted our great poet Nizar Kabani to ask “When will they declare the death of the Arabs?” Finally, I would like to explore the reactions to such provocative message. Will we choose the hatred of cursing Eltahawi and the day FP gave her a podium? Or, will we “get provoked” into thinking, organizing, mobilizing and reaching out to build coalitions to fight oppression in all its ugly forms. If you are patient enough to read this lengthy, boring commentary then, most likely you will opt for the latter. Personal note: my views should never be construed as a carte blanche for my lovely wife and my dear daughter to start revolting against my imperfections! Wael Farouk Afifi Ottawa, May 10, 2012

wael farouk afifi wrote on May 12, 2012 at 12:50 PM

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