Mona identifies hatred – pure, transhistorical, misogynistic hatred – as the cause of women's oppression in the Arab world. This hatred itself, el Tahawy explains in terms of men's desire to control women's sexuality. Even if this explanation wasn't largely circular, which it arguably is, hatred is a woefully insufficient lens through which to understand the problem. Why is sexism stronger in some places and times than others? Why does it take specific forms? And aren't there some things about women's oppression which can't be explained by hatred, even as there are things that can?
Samia Errazzouki nods:
The entire article is framed in a way that portrays Arab women as helpless, and in need of rescue and protection. It’s a convenient narrative for Foreign Policy’s mostly Western-based readership. This is not to say that there are indeed injustices committed against women in the region, that women in the region certainly are victims of a patriarchal society, and that institutionalized oppression has marginalized, killed, and oppressed women in the region. This is not the issue.
The issue is framing and presenting women in the region as a monolith and pitting their struggles against the backdrop of an argument which points to "hate."
Naheed Mustafa focuses on the use of the cover image to frame the piece:
Nekkid Burqa Woman is, in fact, so common that she doesn't even shock or provoke anymore. Her image simply elicits, in the language of the Internet, a "Really, Foreign Policy? Really?" The covered-yet-naked-yet-covered Unknown Brown Woman is all over the place. You can find her on book covers and in movie trailers. You'll see her used in making the case for war and you'll see her used in making the case for jihad. The image, in fact, works against the essay. It belies the nuance and the breadth of the writing by reducing the subject to one easily consumable image — an image that doesn't even speak to the kind of women Eltahawy is writing about.
Shadi Hamid worries about proposed solutions:
In Egypt, women were at the frontlines of revolt. But when it came time to cast their votes, the majority of Egyptian women voted for parties that do not believe in "gender equality" as most Westerners would understand the term. Presumably, men did not force them to do so. The fact of the matter is that Arab women, throughout the region, are exercising their moral and political agency, but not necessarily in the ways we might expect.