In a recent blog, I quoted a Muslim woman who expressed her shock at the immodest use of a woman’s body in western advertising. (Blog 4/9/15) She considered such women as slaves, doing the bidding of corporations. I disagreed and offered a brief rebuttal, but I should have waited. A Muslim sister has published a book about male attitudes in the Middle East, a follow-up to her essay, “Why Do They Hate Us?” The new book is Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution. The author is Mona Elthahawy an Egyptian-American journalist.
Elthahawy writes of her struggles to free herself from the “toxic mix of culture and religion,” that enslaves Middle Eastern women and uses her words to “fight silence, alienation, and violence…I am the daughter of the taboos and silences…” (Women, Unwrapped,” by Carol Mithers, a review of Headscarves and Hymens. for More Magazine, April 2015, pg. 59.) Elthahawy hopes her words will tap into the psyche of her sisters in whom she senses, “a rage and determination that cannot be contained.” (Ibid pg. 59.) I hope she’s right. A revolution is overdue.
However, in the same edition of More, I came upon another article which revealed a blind spot in western culture. In an interview with Malika Saada Saar, a human rights attorney who works in Washington D. C., she reveals the shocking statistics of child prostitution in this country. Each year, an estimated 100,000 children between the ages of 12-14 are bought and sold for sex in this country. 1 girl out of 4 will experience sexual violence before turning 18, a rate “comparable to those in Africa, Latin America and Asia where the numbers are considered a human rights issue.” (“Voices,” by Sharon Cotliar, More Magazine, April, 2015 pg. 52-53.) Worse, the demand for these innocents comes largely from “educated white, middleclass, married men.” (Ibid pg. 53.) Children lucky enough to be arrested report they often plead to no avail with their customers to help them escape.
To treat these youngsters as prostitutes is an unspeakable injustice says Saar. They are not prostitutes, she points out. They are the victims of multiple rapes. And the predators, who are seldom prosecuted, aren’t “Johns.” They are rapists.
The Middle Eastern woman with whom I initially disagreed does have a point about Western culture. Our children are exploited and over sexualized. It’s time to open our eyes to some inconvenient truths about ourselves.