Book Summary: Headscarves and Hymens by Mona Eltahawy

Headscarves and Hymens by Mona Eltahawy Book Cover

Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution is a book written by Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American journalist and activist. The book was published in 2015 and explores the issue of sexuality and gender in the Middle East. Eltahawy argues that the region is in desperate need of a sexual revolution, one that would challenge the patriarchal norms and religious extremism that dominate the society. In this book, she discusses the various ways in which women’s bodies and sexuality are policed and controlled, and how this affects their lives and well-being.

The book is divided into seven chapters, each of which focuses on a different aspect of the issue. In the first chapter, Eltahawy introduces the concept of “hymenology” – the study of the hymen and its supposed significance in determining a woman’s virginity and moral worth. She argues that the obsession with the hymen is a tool used by patriarchal societies to control women’s sexuality and punish them for being sexual beings.

In the second chapter, Eltahawy discusses the issue of “honor” killings, which are committed against women who are perceived to have brought shame upon their families. She argues that these killings are a result of the patriarchal system that values women’s chastity and virginity above all else.

In the third chapter, Eltahawy explores the issue of sexual harassment in the Middle East. She argues that the problem is systemic and widespread, and that women are often blamed for the harassment they experience. She also discusses the #MeToo movement and how it has inspired women in the region to speak out against sexual harassment.

In the fourth chapter, Eltahawy discusses the issue of forced marriage, which is still common in many parts of the Middle East. She argues that forced marriage is a form of violence against women and that it is often justified by religious and cultural norms.

In the fifth chapter, Eltahawy explores the issue of homosexuality in the Middle East. She argues that the region’s homophobic attitudes are a result of the patriarchal system and religious extremism that dominate the region. She also discusses the persecution of LGBTQ individuals and the efforts being made to criminalize homosexuality.

In the sixth chapter, Eltahawy discusses the issue of women’s rights in the Middle East. She argues that women’s rights are often seen as a Western import and that they are often opposed by religious and cultural conservatives. She also discusses the efforts being made by women’s rights activists to challenge the patriarchal system and advocate for gender equality.

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In the seventh and final chapter, Eltahawy offers some solutions to the problem of gender and sexuality in the Middle East. She argues that the region needs a sexual revolution that would challenge the patriarchal norms and religious extremism that dominate the society. She also discusses the importance of solidarity and allyship in the struggle for gender and sexual equality.

Overall, Headscarves and Hymens is a powerful and thought-provoking book that sheds light on the issue of gender and sexuality in the Middle East. Eltahawy’s writing is passionate and insightful, and she offers a compelling argument for why the region needs a sexual revolution. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in women’s rights, gender equality, and the struggle for a more just and equitable society.

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