Anthem of Misogyny: The War on Women in North Africa and the Middle East argues that misogyny—which operates through an interconnected network of ideologies, institutions, beliefs, aesthetics, and cultural trends—is too complex and too deep rooted to eradicate with superficial changes. Like a national anthem, misogyny in North Africa and the Middle East has acquired a sacred status. It is accepted uncritically and woven effortlessly into daily practices, creating a community of men of different ages, educational levels, and socioeconomic backgrounds who are united in their sense of entitlement to evaluate, scrutinize, deter, question, and expose women. For women, it is as if they are in a state of perpetual war, forever on the verge of being accused of deviating from the norms and being punished. These norms, however, are neither clear nor predictable.
This study of misogyny is written against a dominant orthodoxy in Western feminism. Critics are accused of gendered orientalism, savior complexes, and even Islamophobia if they dare to bring up misogyny and gender-based violence in North Africa and the Middle East in contexts other than calling it a Western-created issue. Rather than exaggerate Western agency, this book is invested in making Muslim agency visible. There are narratives of violence and injustice that produce discomfort, anger, and even despair. These stories deserve to be told, and those behind the injustices are entitled to an unfiltered portrayal because the non-West, too, is deserving of unapologetic feminist critique.
Ibtissam Bouachrine is professor and chair of the department of Spanish and Portuguese and former director of the Middle East studies program at Smith College, where she teaches courses on gender and sexuality, Islam and the West, Islamic Spain, and minorities in North Africa and the Middle East. Bouachrine’s first book, Women and Islam: Myths, Apologies, and Limits of Feminist Critique examines the discourse on Muslim women from the Middle Ages to the post-9/11 era.
Erudite, powerful, and moving, Bouachrine provides a passionate account for the persistence of a toxic masculinity and misogyny in the MENA region. At the root of the problem lay the prevailing culture of impunity. Explaining why this is so, Bouachrine examines power relations, social practices, and norms that have normalized the abuse of women whilst entrenching patriarchy. This book should be a wake-up to the region’s peoples and governments.