“It is no coincidence that so many in the West are affronted by Muslim women’s veils: they symbolise the last refusal of Islamic cultures to be stripped and consumed by the Western narcissistic gaze.”—
“Postcolonial feminisms have worked tirelessly to highlight the complexities of identities and resistance. Let us not undo all the blood, sweat, and tears with a comfortable yet taxing regression to a binary mode of thinking. Foreign policies, exclusionary domestic politics, racist immigration laws, and wars have been formulated and launched “at the tip of the clitoris,” to borrow Elizabeth Povinelli’s expression. This is the preferred site where anxieties about national identity and cultural diversity are played out; this is where Eltahawy drives her argument of hate home. Povinelli shows that in the mid to late 1990s, debates on “genital mutilation” and clitoridectomy abounded in the Western European and American public spheres that were increasingly dealing with the presence of ethnic others. Outlawing these practices as barbaric made it possible to exclude the uncivilized other while producing the fantasy of a national civilized collective will. In the United States, the urgency that an Illinois legislature expressed around the issue in 1997, “which suggested that the Midwest was in the grip of a clitoridectomy epidemic, was perhaps rather more motivated by their anxiety that urban areas like Chicago were haunted by the Black Muslim movement.” This is not to suggest that genital mutilation and other cultural practices should not be subjected to scrutiny, nor to accuse, as some did, Eltahawy of merely performing for a Western audience. These are discussions we should necessarily be having, in both local and international public fora. However, holding up the clipped bundle of nerves to public scrutiny is not an answer. It is only when we start looking beneath the nerve endings to identify the roots and layers of our multiple oppressions that we can begin to ask the right questions; and the best answers, to be sure, lie beneath the tip of the clitoris.”—
Sara Mourad begins her piece with a relevant point:
What baffles me most about Mona Eltahawy’sForeign Policy article is that it does not accomplish the task it sets out for itself; it does not, in fact, answer its foundational question: Why do they hate us?