Headscarves and Hymens

Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution - Mona Eltahawy

I have to admit I am conflicted about the whole complete veil, the niqab.  It just seems segregating in a way that simply covering your hair doesn’t do.  Furthermore, the men who seem to endorse it, by and large, are men that I never want to meet.  Yet, I am American enough (Eltahaway would undoubtedly say I am Western liberal enough) that if it is a choice freely made than who I am to say otherwise. 


                And the key to that sentence is freely.  And it is too Eltahaway’s credit as a writer that she has gotten me to rethink me view on the public veil bans in some European countries.  Eltahaway’s point is that how can be choice when women aren’t involved in the debates about wearing it, where the voice of the men in the community overrides and shock over the women.  Mansplaining in the worse case.


                Undoubtedly her argument in this regard does have some weak points, but it is a strong point and one worth thinking about it. 


                If you have listen to Eltahaway’s reporting on the BBC or her commentary on some American cable channels much of this book retreads those same points, expanding on them in some cases and offering more detailed reasoning.  Her focus here is mainly on Egypt, understandably so, and she keeps the focus mainly in the Middle East.  For the Western feminist, there are plenty of more women to add to your reading list, making reading this book perhaps an expensive proposition.


On one hand, at some points in the book, I wish there had been more footnoting.  Despite, this, however, there is passion in the book, and Eltahaway does make you think about the role that the West plays.  Why do we stand up for the women of Afghanistan but not the women of Saudi Arabia?  Is it simply the question of oil?  How can the West help facilitate change?  The questions that she raises do not have easy answers.