The Real War on Women
One of the most revered journals on the political front has taken a cue from Sports Illustrated: Foreign Policy now has a sex issue, indeed what is billed as “the sex issue.” Someone forgot to tell the editors that there is such a thing as “gender,” since there is very little bedroom-variety “sex” revealed in the articles. If a review of “Women in Politics” is about “sex,” then the journal misses out on the real sex going on, like politician John Edwards cavorting while running for President and several secret servicemen strip clubbing the night away in Columbia. And if what is going on from India to Iran is “the new politics of sex,” it looks a lot like the old. The reader might even accuse the journal of false advertising, since the seductive pose of a model clad in hijab black on the cover suggests more politically incorrect eye candy inside.
The lead article by the journalist Mona Eltahawy has launched a barrage of commentaries and counter commentaries in the academic community. Echoing the cover tag, she asks “Why do They Hate Us?” with a less than subtle subtitle of “The Real War on Women is in the Middle East.” Were this “really” the case, it might be seen as good news, since I have always been under the impression that the real war on women was more or less worldwide. How wonderful that women in Africa, Asia and Latin America no longer have to worry about real warfare. Of course, we all know the real war against women ended in Europe when the wielders of the Malleus Maleficarum burned the last witch and in the United States when women started voting in 1920. And I am sure the GOP is quite relieved to know that the war on women announced for the upcoming election is phony.
I understand the author’s frustration at the lack of progress for promoting women’s rights in the aftermath of the now rather chilly “Arab Spring.” Her experience in Tahrir of being groped and sexually assaulted is despicable. But to assume that those men stand for all Egyptian men and that all Egyptian women are hated is what one says in anger. The “real war” here is not about groping; it is a battle for minds, not bodies. The “real” enemy is a politics charged with a dogmatic rhetoric that is less about what men and women do in the bedroom than how they conform to an imposed tyranny that benefits the proverbial one percent, be they dictators or clerics.