Mona Eltahawy doesn’t do subtlety. From page 1, it’s evident that you’re not reading the tentative words of a subservient woman. She’s not polite, she’s not concerned about upholding ideals of femininity or decorum, and she honestly doesn’t give a fuck about what people think. The woman is loud and proud, out to destroy the patriarchy and will accept absolutely no excuses or compromises in the process. What. A. Babe💕
The gospel, according to Eltahawy, is seven necessary sins: anger, attention, profanity, ambition, power, violence, and lust. She wants readers to take what is rightfully theirs and refuse to bend and budge under the thumb of patriarchal oppression. This book is geared towards the young, undoubtedly. Those with the fresh fire in their bellies, yet to be totally tarnished or indoctrinated by patriarchal systems. Even a few years shy of 30, I feel as though it will take me a long time to unlearn a lot of the problematic behaviours and attitudes I’ve picked up in life so far, and that’s coming from somebody who is generally self-aware and has been reading feminist texts since childhood… So take from that, what you will.
I have fallen a little in love with the idea of Eltahawy. She is the kind of woman who has fully realised herself and works tirelessly to use her voice for the benefit for those who can’t speak for themselves. What I especially appreciate about her stance is how fiercely she advocates for queer and minority communities, and how articulately she explains that we have a duty to be allies in the collective fight against patriarchy as opposed to fractured groups, vested against one another.
The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls is written beautifully and each chapter packs a powerful punch. Any woman can rant about both micro-aggressive and explicit instances of misogyny they encounter on a daily basis- there’s nothing, unfortunately, remotely remarkable about that. Eltahawy, however, has mastered the art of her craft as a writer, balancing the intimate recollections of her personal experience with scathing and astute social commentary.
The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls is part-journal and part-journalistic scrapbook, emotive and all the while, educational. Eltahawy probes at current affairs and examines the way that the patriarchy affects women, ethnic minorities, queers and gender non-conforming individuals across the globe. She looks at intersectionality, cultural differences, the way that religion reinforces patriarchal dominance and the counterproductive rise of foot-soldiers of the patriarchy. For instance, when looking at recent years, she considers why white women turned up in droves to vote for the openly misogynistic Donald Trump as the leader of the free world.
She makes solid argument after argument, never running out of steam and drawing upon an endless back-catalogue of historical evidence. She also draws upon the impact of radical acts by spunky feminist, queer and race activists across the globe, celebrating the ways they’ve disturbed the peace and made a ripple of change.
Truthfully, parts of the book made me extremely uncomfortable. Whilst reading about Eltahawy’s unflinching and often violent responses to misogyny, I was forced to examine myself and the many occasions I have tolerated disrespect and misogyny for fear of disrupting the status quo or inconveniencing others. I felt like a hypocrite while reading and found myself feeling deeply ashamed of my subservience. So often I have made myself smaller so as not to take up space I have felt I’m not entitled to, but why? Why have I tried to sympathise with my oppressor, to justify their nonsensical and violent acts of misogyny or racism? Why have I changed the way I dress or speak, to satisfy somebody else’s preferences?
Though I am very vocal and have risen to confront injustice through the years, even directly calling out/creating dialogue with my abusers as a means of moving on from trauma, I still feel as though I’m on the journey to fully recognising and appreciating myself as a powerful and capable woman. The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls has forced to re-evaluate how I can be a more consistent and empowered woman. How I can show up for myself and, in the process, show up for others.
I wish this book were on the curriculum for young women and girls everywhere, so that they would grow up with the knowledge that they don’t have to grow up feeling as though they’re only entitled to whispering when they’re capable of roaring 👭💫✨