The Mubarak in the bedroom

An interview with Mona Eltahawy when she was in Bombay for a literary festival (at which she was on a panel with Germaine Greer).

In Why Do They Hate Us?, you wrote about Arab feminists like Salwa el-Husseini and Manal al-Sharif. Since you’d worked with Reuters and covered the Arab Spring, do you think the media ignores women undertaking their own revolutions?
Yes, there’s a tendency to focus only on political revolution. Reports from Egypt are all about the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. They barely look at social and sexual revolutions. But such revolutions are necessary for change. The media must start covering these too and stop the obsession with just political upheavals.

Well you know how it is – men’s stuff is political and important, women’s stuff is just the trivial shit that only women care about.

My feminism is secular because I’m tired of doing ‘my verse vs. your verse’. But I recognise that there are women fighting the feminist fight within religion, and I mention several of them in my book. Whether they’re Jewish, Catholic, or Hindu feminists, their work is important, because they strive to change a tradition that has no space for them. They’re demanding the right to reinterpret their religion.

So I talk about women like Amina Wadud, the African-American scholar of Islam who, in New York, led people in Friday prayer as an imam. That’s unheard of.

We need to be strategic and use our different fights to come together as feminists.

…we can’t remain in our little ivory towers or citadels.
Yeah, but when it comes to a woman’s ‘choice’ – and I use the quote marks for a reason – to cover up, whether it’s an orthodox Jewish, Muslim, Catholic or any other woman, I’m not obliged to agree just because you’re a woman and I’m a woman. I reject the concept of modesty, because it’s imposed only on girls and women. So when one says it’s her ‘choice’, I say fine, but I do not believe it’s a feminist choice.

Choice feminism sucks.

In the trifecta of misogyny – in the state, the street and the home – bringing the revolution home is most challenging, isn’t it?
Absolutely. Revolution at home, against the Mubarak in the bedroom, is the hardest. Because the Mubaraks of the streets and the Mubaraks of the presidential palaces all head home. Since men act like they own public spaces, women are pushed into the house, believing they’ll be safe there. But we’re not safe at home. We’re not safe anywhere.

What about the revolution? Is Egypt stuck?

I believe we’ve started something irreversible. Egyptians still live under fascism, still live in a military dictatorship. It’s a military dictatorship that offers us only Islamists (the Muslim Brotherhood) as the opposition.

I reject both. I don’t want the fascist with the gun, and neither do I want the religious fascist. I want freedom.

We’ll continue to play the music chairs between men and men unless we make progress in the social and sexual revolution. Because unless women are free, nobody will be free.

The SOAS SU no-platformed her.

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