x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Do 'they' hate us?

A fierce debate on misogyny in Arab countries, sparked by a Foreign Policy article, has drawn both bitter anger and heartfelt support. It is a debate that must be had.

Do Arab men hate women? That question, regardless of the answer, will always provoke strong reactions. But why do international surveys rank Arab countries near the bottom in terms of gender equality, with Yemen dead last? And can Arab men be lumped into some amorphous "they" when it comes to how they treat women?

Multiply those questions by the Twitter-sphere and you'll get a sense of the debate that Mona Eltahawy has set off with her article Why Do They Hate Us? published in the current edition of Foreign Policy magazine. Eltahawy has written a searing criticism of how Arab societies treat women, from roles within the family to social, professional and political rights to basic physical safety.

The examples that Eltahawy mentions start in Egypt, and from within her own family, but no Arab country is spared. Her premise - that many Arab men essentially hate women - has had an enormous backlash. On Foreign Policy's website and social media, comments have debated, supported and condemned the article, some on solid intellectual grounds, and others with contemptible drivel.

Early on, the article states that given conditions facing some women in Egypt - genital mutilation, virginity "tests" and spousal abuse - we cannot stay silent. There will be more disagreement and anger. But this is a discussion on society and gender that must be had.