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Mona Eltahaway. Image from VICE via Google.

Egyptian writer and outspoken feminist Mona Eltahawy is asking important questions about the necessity and possibilities of female anger. In an op-ed titled “What the World Would Look Like if We Taught Girls to Rage,” published on NBCNews, she uses examples—of a stranger who showed her his genitals when she was a child, of Ursula K. Le Guin’s words, of male comfort, condescension and insults—to show how anger by women would challenge misogyny and sexism to the point of change. “I am an angry woman,” she writes. “And angry women are free women.”

Mona Eltahawy, who is also a public speaker based in New York City and Cairo, is the author of Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution (2015). In addition to her views on feminism, she is known for her advocacy for human rights and reforms in the Islamic world.

Read an excerpt from her op-ed.

*

What would the world look like if girls were taught they were volcanoes?

One day when I was four years old, a man stopped his car on the street under my family’s balcony, pulled his penis out of his pants and beckoned for me to come down. He did the same to my friend who had been talking to me from her family’s balcony across the street. I was so small that I needed a stool to see my friend from above the balcony railing. I was enraged. I waved my slipper at him to frighten him away.

When I included that incident in an essay I published (in Arabic, in an Egyptian paper) about the many times I’ve been sexually assaulted by men, a man emailed to ask me “What was so special about you at four that anyone would expose themselves to you?” As if having a penis flashed at you was a compliment. As if a four-year-old girl could, under any circumstances, be “special” enough to have a man expose himself to her.

If I were to use paint to mark which parts of my body have ever been groped, pinched, or otherwise touched without my consent, my entire torso, back and front would be covered. But I am enraged the most at that man who exposed himself to me and my friend.

What if instead of breaking their wildness like a rancher tames a bronco, we taught girls the importance and power of being dangerous?

What if instead of breaking their wildness like a bronco, we taught girls the power of being dangerous?

What if instead of breaking their wildness like a bronco, we taught girls the power of being dangerous?

I discovered music when I was about nine. It was 1976 in London and I spent hours with a small yellow transistor radio stuck to my ear. I learned quickly that boys almost always had the right to rage. I was mesmerized by punk, and via the tinny sound of my radio, I fell in love with Siouxsie Sioux and her Banshees. But as powerfully as I responded to Siouxsie, and indeed to the fury and ferocity of punk more broadly, it was abundantly clear that most of the punks yelling in my ears were men. Where were the women?

What if we told girls to erupt!

The novelist Ursula K. Le Guin died the day before a judge sentenced former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexual assault. During the trial, more than 150 women and girls came forward to accuse the doctor of abuse. In a 1986 commencement address she gave at Bryn Mawr College, Le Guin could have been speaking for every woman who read a victim impact statement at Nassar’s sentencing.

“We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains,” Le Guin said. “That’s what I want — to hear you erupting.”

“You young Mount St. Helenses who don’t know the power in you — I want to hear you,” Le Guin tells the all-female graduating class.

So what keeps girls from knowing the power in them?

Continue reading the full piece HERE.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, an academic, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review ("Mulumba," 2016), Transition ("A Tenderer Blessing," 2015), and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award ("You Sing of a Longing," 2017), for which he was shortlisted. His work has further been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2016 and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. His conversations appear in Africa in Dialogue, Bakwa, SPRINNG, and Dwartonline. He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, Enter Naija: The Book of Places (October 2016), focuses on Nigerian cities. The second, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (June 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. He studied history and literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is currently completing a postgraduate programme in African Studies, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. When bored, he just Googles Rihanna.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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