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Response to snagglepuss (Original post)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 07:05 PM

42. The Real Roots of Sexism in the Middle East (It's Not Islam, Race, or 'Hate')

Picture a woman in the Middle East, and probably the first thing that comes into your mind will be the hijab. You might not even envision a face, just the black shroud of the burqa or the niqab. Women's rights in the mostly Arab countries of the region are among the worst in the world, but it's more than that. As Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy writes in a provocative cover story for Foreign Policy, misogyny has become so endemic to Arab societies that it's not just a war on women, it's a destructive force tearing apart Arab economies and societies. But why? How did misogyny become so deeply ingrained in the Arab world?

There are two general ways to think about the problem of misogyny in the Arab world. The first is to think of it as an Arab problem, an issue of what Arab societies and people are doing wrong.

But is it really that simple? If that misogyny is so innately Arab, why is there such wide variance between Arab societies? Why did Egypt's hateful "they" elect only 2 percent women to its post-revolutionary legislature, while Tunisia's hateful "they" elected 27 percent, far short of half but still significantly more than America's 17 percent? Why are so many misogynist Arab practices as or more common in the non-Arab societies of sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia?

A number of Arab Muslim feminists have criticized the article as reinforcing reductive, Western perceptions of Arabs as particularly and innately barbaric. Nahed Eltantawy accused the piece of representing Arab women "as the Oriental Other, weak, helpless and submissive, oppressed by Islam and the Muslim male, this ugly, barbaric monster."

The other way to think about misogyny in the Arab world is as a problem of misogyny. As the above rankings show, culturally engrained sexism is not particular to Arab societies. In other words, it's a problem that Arab societies have, but it's not a distinctly Arab problem. The actual, root causes are disputed, complicated, and often controversial. But you can't cure a symptom without at least acknowledging the disease, and that disease is not race, religion, or ethnicity.

Some of the most important architects of institutionalized Arab misogyny weren't actually Arab. They were Turkish -- or, as they called themselves at the time, Ottoman -- British, and French. These foreigners ruled Arabs for centuries, twisting the cultures to accommodate their dominance. One of their favorite tricks was to buy the submission of men by offering them absolute power over women. ... Colonial powers employed it in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and in South Asia, promoting misogynist ideas and misogynist men who might have otherwise stayed on the margins, slowly but surely ingraining these ideas into the societies.

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/04/the-real-roots-of-sexism-in-the-middle-east-its-not-islam-race-or-hate/256362/

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