Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Who is Mona Eltahawy?


If you haven’t heard of Mona Eltahawy then you’re in for a treat, because you’re about to read about a fearless, liberal Muslim Egyptian-American feminist and be all the better for it.

From Mona’s website (link: http://www.monaeltahawy.com/):
“During the 18-day revolution that toppled Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, she appeared on most major media outlets, leading the feminist website Jezebel to describe her as "The Woman Explaining Egypt to the West".
In November 2011, Egyptian riot police beat her, breaking her left arm and right hand, and sexually assaulted her and she was detained for 12 hours by the Interior Ministry and Military Intelligence.
Newsweek magazine named Ms Eltahawy one of its "150 Fearless Women of 2012", Time magazine featured her along with other activists from around the world as its People of the Year and Arabian Business magazine named her one of the 100 Most Powerful Arab Women.”
Many people are scared of brave feminists. Of angry women. Of women who won’t be silenced.
I love them.
I seek them out. Feminism is at its strongest when it rises up and voices opinion without fearing the backlash. Watching Mona manage the critics who seek to silence her and the islamophobes who seek to twist her words out of context displays to me a feminism that is equal parts intelligence, humour and bravery.

Mona’s book, Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution is a devastating account of what some women endure in the Middle East. In the book, Mona talks about Middle Eastern feminists, about her own struggles with her sense of self, about sexuality, and how the patriarchy works at ‘state and street’ levels, shaming and abusing women to keep them in check.
But there is hope in the book too. Because Mona gives example after example of how exactly women will not be kept in check.
Mona’s twitter feed is an amazing resource. She links to her own articles such as
What the world would look like if we taught girls to rage (https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/what-world-would-look-if-we-taught-girls-rage-ncna843511), an amazing piece about how we teach girls they are weak and vulnerable, that we as a society sap power from girls, and #MosqueMeToo: What happened when I was sexually assaulted during the hajj https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/02/15/mosquemetoo-what-happened-when-i-was-sexually-assaulted-during-the-hajj/?utm_term=.20ad4ac8a937 where she talks about sexual assault during the Muslim pilgrimage (the hajj).
Mona’s twitter has recently produced the glorious #ibeatmyassaulter (https://stepfeed.com/this-egyptian-feminist-beat-up-her-assaulter-and-it-was-glorious-1581) - the hashtag is a collection of women who retaliated against their sexual assaulters, led by Mona’s victorious and furious recount of punching a man who groped her (and then icing her fingers!).
She also signal boosts activities of feminists of colour and tweets great book and poetry recs!

To me, Mona’s feminism is defiant, lyrical (yes the word fuck is lyrical to me when it’s used to signal your disregard to those wishing to shame you into silence) and inspiring. You don’t have to be Mona, you don’t have to punch men who assault you, and you don’t have to be angry to listen to her point of view. She seeks to shine a light on the darkest, most hidden corners of male patriarchy and force it to be accountable for what it does, wherever it is.

Plus it’s just plain amusing to watch her drag the people who flock to her twitter with many opinions on how exactly she should act and what exactly she should say.



By: Tee Linden

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