Essay: If Amy Coney Barrett was a Muslim
Are White Women Awake Yet?
Donald Trump anointing Amy Coney Barrett Five-Star General of the Footsoldiers of the Patriarchy on the White House Lawn.
In 2015, at an event in Dallas, Texas, during the tour for my first book Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, a white woman who said she had spent some time in Egypt, asked me what she could do to help Egyptian women fight female genital mutilation (FGM).
“Nothing,” I replied. “Egyptian women are fighting already, Why do you want to help women thousands of miles away instead of right here in your own state? Do you know how many abortion clinics have been shut down in Texas?”
A woman sitting next to her reminded my interlocutor that high rates of militarism and Christian fundamentalism made Texas one of the worst states for women in the U.S. And yet, here was a woman in the state of God, Guns, and the GOP who was more invested in saving Egyptian women.
In 2019, during an event for my second book The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls at the Brooklyn Book Festival, I read an excerpt in which I chastised white women in the U.S. - who I call Footsoldiers of the Patriarchy. I chastised those who voted for Trump and those who found their anger only after Trump, and not during the decades of misogyny, white supremacy and bigotry that led to him. A white women asked me, as I signed her copy of my book, to not “otherize white women.”
That’s the liberal women.
Meanwhile, in a Midwestern swing state where the majority of white women voters chose fascist fuck Trump, women have the fucking audacity to ask my sister-in-law - at the supermarket, they just go up to her and point at her hijab - “Did your husband make you wear that?”
Excuses and justifications are made to explain a norm for white Christian women that is pathologized when it comes to Muslim women. You think those Midwestern Trump-voting white women worry about Amy Coney Barrett’s husband when they hear the couple belongs to a Christian religious group called People of Praise in which according to its overall coordinator “Certain leadership positions are reserved for men. And while married men receive spiritual and other advice from other male group members, married women depend on their husbands for the same advice.”
Quick answer: no. Why would they when their religion, their lives, are organized the same way?
“Benevolent patriarchy” is patriarchy. The authors of the book, “Nasty Women and Bad Hombres: Gender and Race in the 2016 US Presidential Election, found that Republican women were just fine and benefited thank you from what those same women claim is oppression when it comes to Muslim women.
If more white women - liberal and conservative - had fought white supremacist patriarchy as zealously as they fight Brown Muslim patriarchy, if they had obsessed less over Muslim women and more with their own oppression, we would not have Trump or Amy Coney Barrett, his Supreme Court nominee who is about to become the Five-Star General of the Footsoldiers of the Patriarchy.
So successful has white supremacist patriarchy been at convincing white women that they’re lucky to live in the U.S. and not Saudi Arabia or Iran, that so many white women did not pay enough attention to the theocracy that white supremacy was building right here at home. It was being built by white men who look like their fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons, not the scary brown men with beards, right?
Last year, during a fellowship residency, a white woman - from California, no less - asked me “Don’t Muslim women who wear hijab realize they’re admitting they’re sex objects?” and just a few sentences later said - without a blink of irony - that her son’s girlfriend had voted for President Grab Them By the Pussy.
Liberal or conservative, white women in the U.S. are more obsessed with Muslim women and whatever they think is oppressing Muslim women than they are at recognizing their own oppressions. White supremacist patriarchy has so successfully lulled white women into a delusion of “Be grateful you don’t live over there” that those same women have sleep walked their way into the disaster that is Trump and his third Supreme Court nominee.
I moved to the U.S. in 2000. Over the past two decades, I have learned that many white Americans have a delusional amount of confidence in their government and its institutions. They are childishly naive in believing that institutions will save them from state power, which they think will work for rather than ever hurt them. That stubborn belief in U.S. exceptionalism undergirds the refusal to see the fascism that Trump brought. Black, Indigenous, and people of colour have no such delusions. They do not expect institutions to protect them because they are so often hurt by those institutions.
And so no matter how often those of us from authoritarian countries who know to be suspicious of state power, and those of us who have fought fascism -- be it via military rule or the rule of religious fundamentalists -- warned and warned, white Americans arrogantly shook their head that it couldn’t happen here.
And no matter how often we warned you that the fate of nations is not a straight line bending towards a “manifest destiny,” you only saw Iran and women in chadors or Afghanistan and women in burqas and refused to believe that their fate awaited you.
But that fate never comes overnight.
Just as Trump is not an aberration, but rather a fruition of decades of white supremacist, misogynist, bigoted rot, so too is the conservative dominance of the Supreme Court, which conservatives have worked for since the early 1970s. Amy Coney Barrett is not an aberration. She is the fruition of decades of work by white supremacist patriarchy. Even if they don’t belong to charismatic Christian groups that worship in tongues, white Republican women know what to say and do to benefit from their proximity to the power of the white men in their lives.
And liberal, affluent, white cisgender women thought as long as Roe v. Wade survived, they could ignore whatever the Christians were saying all along - since the 1970s. In the U.S., white and Christian is considered the default, a norm, not scary, not brown or Muslim or pathologized. They remained wilfully ignorant to the fact that Roe v. Wade died for many Black and women of colour and poor women in the South, where one after another clinics that provide abortions were being shuttered. But the good feminist sister in Texas wants to save women in Egypt.
White liberal women want to save Muslim women - preferably over there somewhere - and white conservative women want to feel superior to Muslim women and so refuse to see anything in their beliefs that consigns them to the subservience and submission they think Muslim women must live with.
Whether oblivious to their own oppressions or happy with them, will white women wake the fuck up now that the Five-Star General of the Footsoldiers of the patriarchy is someone who looks just like them?
Amy Coney Barrett via REUTERS.
Liberal white women finally found their anger over Trump after his “Grab them by the pussy” comments came out, not when he called Mexicans “rapists and murderers” and vowed to ban Muslims. Meanwhile, Trump women wore t-shirts exhorting Trump to grab their pussies and continued to gush at his rallies, chanted “Build that Wall,” and cheered when the Muslim Ban took effect; a ban Trump said was to protect white women from Muslim men, among other reasons.
And now liberal women finally recognize the disaster that an Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court will bring them. Did they see the harm the Supreme Court has brought the rest of us who are not white women, when the highest court in the land greenlit Trump’s vow to ban Muslims and the ways it has long failed Black people, indigenous people, and working class people?
And here is a woman - white, just like them - heralding disaster.
And that’s exactly why white women have not been paying attention. White supremacist patriarchy is their patriarchy. It looks and sounds just like them. It’s much easier to see Brown men and Black men as the danger. That is where white supremacist patriarchy always kept the attention -- always promised to save white women from.
‘Women for Trump’ listening to President Donald Trump speak at a campaign rally in Wheeling, WV, in September. AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
That’s why they long ignored the alarm bells that have been ringing:
52 percent of white women in 2016 cast their vote for Donald Trump. That was despite the 22 allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
Roy Moore got 63 percent of the white women’s vote in the 2017 Alabama Senate race, again despite sexual misconduct allegations against him.
Republican white women were the only demographic that increased its support for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during the hearings of sexual assault allegations during his confirmation process in 2018.
This isn’t “my flavour of patriarchy is tastier than yours.” This is “fuck the patriarchy everywhere.” This is a wake the fuck up because clearly you’ve been drifting, cruising on the delusions that your whiteness will save you from white supremacist patriarchy.
I want white women in the U.S. to take all their earnest “How can I help Muslim women” and “Why do Muslim women submit to misogyny?” questions and obsess over their white sisters who benefit from white supremacist patriarchy and who don’t give a flying fuck how it hurts the entire world.
And it is the entire world. Those women who voted for Trump: they helped put in place a man who is a danger to the entire world.
The blatant and bold theocracy that the conservatives have been working for over the decades is going to embolden other theocrats and hurt anyone who is not a white, wealthy, cishet and able-bodied man.
White supremacist patriarchy is happy to work with other patriarchies around the world as I described in my first essay for FEMINIST GIANT.
Have I upset you? Have I enraged you? Have I empahsised how fuckerd we all are, including you?
Stop asking visibly Muslim women if their hijab makes them hot during the summer and start calling white women -- those who vote for the GOP -- fascist enablers and footsoldiers of the patriarchy. And recognize how you too soldier for that patriarchy because even if you didn’t vote GOP, you haven’t been angry enough. Your whiteness, which shelters you from much of the fuckery to which the rest of us are subjected, has lulled you.
WAKE THE FUCK UP.
Amy Coney Barrett is here to stick her middle finger up your smug, white feminism. She probably would never stick her middle finger up anything but I want you to imagine her doing that as white supremacist patriarchy anoints her Conservative Feminist Queen.
Take every question you ever asked about Muslim women and ask them of the white women who led the charge to the fucking disaster that awaits:
- Who indoctrinated them?
- Who taught them to submit to men?
- Why are they so brainwashed?
- Should I save them?
When I moved back to the U.S. from Egypt in 2017, I semi-joked that I was returning to save white women. Well, here I am. Telling you what to do.
I’ve written lots about patriarchy and misogyny in my cultural and faith background. Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, targeting patriarchy in the Middle East and North Africa and The Seven Necessary Sins For Women and Girls targeting patriarchy in the U.S. & worldwide. I’ve never asked anyone to “save us.” No one saves you. You save yourself. So fight! Hard. No one will save you.
Patriarchy is over here, not just over there.
And I’ll be fucking damned if I tiptoe around Amy Coney Barrett.
And I promise you, much like the instant experts on Islam, Arab women, Muslim women, or any women from over there whose oppression they feel more comfortable dissecting because it detracts from the oppression on their doorstep, I will write a book explaining white women to themselves. After 20 years in the USA, I’ve earned it.
And my book will be called #NotAllWhiteWomen because I know that’s what I’ll hear once I publish this essay - and the book.
Mona Eltahawy is a feminist author, commentator and disruptor of patriarchy. Her first book Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution (2015) targeted patriarchy in the Middle East and North Africa and her second The Seven Necessary Sins For Women and Girls (2019) took her disruption worldwide. Her commentary has appeared in media around the world and she makes video essays and writes a newsletter as FEMINIST GIANT.
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Mona, sadly, everything written above tracks. We here in the US, especially those of us who are white and cisgendered, have to remember that we live in a country that was founded by religious extremists.
Our Pilgrims were an extremist, fringe, religious group who murdered women who behaved differently from the prescribed roles assigned them, calling them witches.
We fail to recognize that our Constitution's first amendment gives extremely short shrift to Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, gutting that screed against organized religion in favor of allowing us the freedom to practice a religion. The idea that Jefferson offers of freedom "from" religion in that statute is far from the freedom "of" religion that we got from Madison. The truth is that our ruling Elites have established a peculiar form of Christianity as the state religion of the US, a form of Christianity that is fraught with nationalism, magical thinking, denial of culpability, anti intellectualism, and worship of raw power. And Madison's amendment gave those Elites cover to do exactly what they did and continue to try to do.
I am not a woman, but I know that my mother refused to leave my father when I begged her to leave him so that I could be protected from his beatings, which followed every confrontation my mother had with him. My mother's response was a resounding "No." Her reason was that she wanted the protection my father, the well-off country doctor could offer her. She wanted his money, which she knew would be cut off if she left him to protect me and my brothers from his violence. Was it right that she was forced to make that choice? No. That admitted, is it right that my mother opted to subject her sons to their father's murderous rages, which she elicited as she pleased?
When I came out to my mother (I am a relatively happy, well adjusted, and prosperous gay man, for the record), her response was "Why did you have to tell me that?"
My mother was a good, white, Southern, Christian woman who was at bible study every chance she got; and who agreed with the theocrats who stood in the halls of government shouting for people like me to be locked up in concentration camps in the 1980's and 1990's.
Our toxic American Taliban have to be confronted, both male and female; and the truth about religion in the US has to be admitted. Religion was used to justify slavery in the US folks, and then the sanctity of white American women's chastity was used to justify Jim Crow and lynchings for the better part of a century after Reconstruction. Religion is a tool that was used to deny me full rights as a citizen for most of my life. Even if I live to be 90 years old, more than half of my life I was denied what straight, cisgendered, white women expect for themselves from the moment they achieve self awareness.
We need "freedom from religion" in the US. We need to understand that one's tolerance is the measure of one's ability to gauge her degree of intolerance. Our American religiosity stands in the way of our actually being the "Shining City on the Hill" that the ultra bigot Reagan loved to talk about. We need to understand that to be a liberal democracy, we have to relegate religion to the private world and banish it from our government completely. We have to understand that in a democracy, religion must always be a private matter and never something that is considered "public" in any official, "government" way. Allowing things to continue as they are with respect to religion now in the US, means that the US remains an oligarchy rather than finally graduating to democracy.
absolutely brilliant piece of writing. America has been sleep walking into disaster and fascism for years. The world is fucked