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Women's rights in the mostly Arab countries of the region are among the worst in the world, but it's more than that.As Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy writes in a provocative cover story for Foreign Policy, misogyny has become so endemic to Arab societies that it's not just a war on women, it's a destructive force tearing apart Arab economies and societies. How did misogyny become so deeply ingrained in the Arab world?In other words, it's a problem that Arab societies have, but it's not a distinctly Arab problem.The actual, root causes are disputed, complicated, and often controversial.There are two general ways to think about the problem of misogyny in the Arab world.The first is to think of it as an Arab problem, an issue of what Arab societies and people are doing wrong. If that misogyny is so innately Arab, why is there such wide variance between Arab societies?One of their favorite tricks was to buy the submission of men by offering them absolute power over women.
That's not to downplay the harm and severity of the problem in Arab societies, but a reminder that "misogyny" and "Arab" are not as synonymous as we sometimes treat them to be.As Maya Mikdashi once wrote, "Gender is not the study of what is evident, it is an analysis of how what is evident came to be." That's a much tougher task than cataloging the awful and often socially accepted abuses of women in the Arab world.But they both matter, and Eltahawy's lengthy article on the former might reveal more of the latter than she meant."Women and children were the inevitable chips with which the political and religious leaders bargained." Some misogynist practices predated colonialism.But many of those, for example female genital mutilation, also predated Islam.