Why They Don’t Hate Us: A Critique of Mona Eltahawy’s Perception of Misogyny in the Middle East

I. Introduction

The article’s title is “Why Do They Hate Us?”, where “they” refers to men, and “us” to women in the Middle East. It opens with a short story by Alifa Rifaat, which raised some red flags with me. The story essentially simplifies a woman’s quality of life and allows it to be symbolized as the pleasure she experiences, or is denied experience of, between her legs. If this is supposed to have an anti-sexism message, it does an awfully good job at fully sexualizing women in order to do so. The story concludes with the woman calmly drinking her morning coffee, after finding out her husband has died. I’m not sure how a woman’s chilling satisfaction at her husband’s death is supposed to prove that men hate women. And if I misunderstood the story, and denial of orgasms is the end-all proof of hatred, that still wouldn’t deny the fact that casually sipping coffee after her husband’s death can, at the very least, hint to some sort of equal, if not more, feelings of hatred toward him as a man.

The thesis of the article is then briefly stated,  “We have no freedoms because they hate us”, and “They hate us. It must be said”. Since this is a discussion of women’s freedoms in the Middle East, it therefore must be of political nature. As a result, the mere mention of “hatred” in the realm of politics is shallow. Why? It reduces an intricate sphere of power play into a purely expressive and personal “hatred” between “us” and “them”.

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