Mona Eltahawy on Trump, Twitter trolls and the threat of modesty culture

Durga M Sengupta @the_bongrel | First published: 13 October 2016, 12:31 IST
Mona Eltahawy

Mona Eltahawy's isn't a face you'd miss in a crowd.

An award-winning Egyptian-American feminist journalist and commentator, Eltahawy makes a political statement with her arresting red hair as much as with her writing. "My body is a canvas," she says, while referring to how female bodies are used for men's agendas and therefore women must reclaim them.

Eltahawy in her first book Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, released recently, talks about the political, cultural and religious forces that wield their power to control women. She urges young women to question and stand up against this "toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend."

Also read - Why was Mona Eltahawy's NYT article censored by Pakistan?

A campaigner for women's rights in the Middle East, right through the Arab Spring, Eltahawy asserts herself as a liberated Muslim woman who once wore the hijab but chose to reject it. She doesn't see it as a liberating piece of clothing as it is a marker of modesty that was once enforced upon her, and many like her.

Eltahawy talks about the problem with such impositions, about the men who are imposing them, and about the women fighting back in this interview with Catch.

She talks about Donald Trump and the misogyny and bigotry he encourages, about faceless bullies on the internet who, much like Trump, shout to silence women, and about the cultures that have silenced women through generations in the name of 'modesty'.

On supporting Clinton over Trump

As an American citizen, Eltahawy believes it is important to call out Trump supporters for being inherently "racist, misogynistic, homophobic and fascist" as they are "hiding behind false arguments like 'nobody listens to the white working class anymore', 'oh, nobody listens to white disadvantaged men anymore'."

"I think these are all bogus arguments," she says.

"I think what Donald Trump has done is that he has enabled, given a voice to something people had begun to finally learn were shameful things, to believe in them and say it out loud."

But she insists that Trump cannot be seen as divorced from the ideology of the Republican Party.

"For decades, the Republican Party has been courting the racists, misogynists, bigots and the homophobes in the United States. For decades, this has been happening. It hasn't happened overnight," says Eltahawy.

"So Donald Trump is the logical conclusion of decades of the Republican Party deliberately courting racists and misogynists under this umbrella of family values and of a Christianity that worships a white Jesus. And I want to know what kind of religion would allow that kind of hate."