The other way to think about misogyny in the Arab world is as a problem of misogyny.As the above rankings show, culturally engrained sexism is not particular to Arab societies."We have no freedoms because they hate us," Eltahawy writes, the first of many times she uses "they" in a sweeping indictment of the cultures spanning from Morocco to the Arabian Peninsula. Why did Egypt's hateful "they" elect only 2 percent women to its post-revolutionary legislature, while Tunisia's hateful "they" elected 27 percent, far short of half but still significantly more than America's 17 percent?Why are so many misogynist Arab practices as or more common in the non-Arab societies of sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia?A 2011 World Economic Forum report on national gender gaps put four Arab states in the bottom 10; the bottom 25 includes 10 Arab states, more than half of them.But sub-Saharan African countries tend to rank even more poorly.
That's not to downplay the harm and severity of the problem in Arab societies, but a reminder that "misogyny" and "Arab" are not as synonymous as we sometimes treat them to be."Women and children were the inevitable chips with which the political and religious leaders bargained." Some misogynist practices predated colonialism.But many of those, for example female genital mutilation, also predated Islam.Why, then, should we be so ready to believe it about Arab Muslims?A number of Arab Muslim feminists have criticized the article as reinforcing reductive, Western perceptions of Arabs as particularly and innately barbaric.One of their favorite tricks was to buy the submission of men by offering them absolute power over women.The foreign overlords ruled the public sphere, local men ruled the private sphere, and women got nothing; academic called this the "patriarchal bargain." Colonial powers employed it in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and in South Asia, promoting misogynist ideas and misogynist men who might have otherwise stayed on the margins, slowly but surely ingraining these ideas into the societies.It has moved with the currents of history, and its billion-plus practitioners bring a wide spectrum of interpretations and beliefs.The colonial rulers who conquered Muslim societies were skilled at pulling out the slightest justification for their "patriarchal bargain." They promoted the religious leaders who were willing to take this bargain and suppressed those who objected.After all, nearly every society in history has struggled with sexism, and maybe still is. S., for example, women could not vote until 1920; even today, their access to basic reproductive health care is backsliding.We don't think about this as an issue of American men, white men, or Christian men innately and irreducibly hating women.