Eltahawy and Sadjadpour in Foreign Policy’s "Sex Issue"
Foreign Policy’s May/June issue is labeled their “Sex Issue.” Yes, at first encounter it seems an unlikely publication to have a sex issue, but it turns out to have some important content, not least on the Middle East. Anyone even slightly familiar with the region hardly needs to be told that the role of women is a central thread in all the culture wars now roiling the region, and that sexuality and sexual harassment are among the taboos often met with denial. So Foreign Policy has a sex issue.
When U.S. magazines devote special issues to sex, they are usually of the celebratory variety (see: Esquire, April 2012 edition; Cosmopolitan, every month). Suffice it to say that is not what we had in mind with Foreign Policy‘s first-ever Sex Issue, which is dedicated instead to the consideration of how and why sex — in all the various meanings of the word — matters in shaping the world’s politics.Why? In Foreign Policy, the magazine and the subject, sex is too often the missing part of the equation — the part that the policymakers and journalists talk about with each other, but not with their audiences. And what’s the result? Women missing from peace talks and parliaments, sexual abuse and exploitation institutionalized and legalized in too many places on the planet, and a U.S. policy that, whether intentionally or not, all too frequently works to shore up the abusers and perpetuate the marginalization of half of humanity. Women’s bodies are the world’s battleground, the contested terrain on which politics is played out. We can keep ignoring it. For this one issue, we decided not to.
Two of their articles are particularly noteworthy for anyone dealing with our region:
- Mona Eltahawy, “Why Do They Hate Us? The Real War on Women is in the Middle East.” An angry, and powerful, indictment of the plight of women in the Middle East, with focus on the Arab world. It deserves to be read by anyone dealing with the region, male and female.
- Karim Sadjadpour, “The Ayatollah Under the Bed(sheets).” A look at sex and sexuality in Iran since the Revolution. His piece is also essential, I think.
There’s much more in the issue, but these two powerful articles are a good place to start.
These issues will not go away, and it’s refreshing to see them addressed directly and not sensationally.