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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?Of course, those first seeds of misogyny had to come from somewhere. Some say that it's simply because men are bigger and could fight their way to dominance; some that men seek to control women, and particularly female sexuality, out of a subconscious fear being of cuckolded and raising another man's child; others that the rise of the nation-state promoted the role of warfare in society, which meant the physically stronger gender took on more power.You don't hear these, or any of the other evolutionary theories, cited much. Like Christianity, Islam is an expansive and living religion.After all, nearly every society in history has struggled with sexism, and maybe still is. S., for example, women could not vote until 1920; even today, their access to basic reproductive health care is backsliding.We don't think about this as an issue of American men, white men, or Christian men innately and irreducibly hating women.And so do South Asian societies -- where a population of nearly five times as many women as live in the Middle East endure some of the most horrific abuses in the world today.
The foreign overlords ruled the public sphere, local men ruled the private sphere, and women got nothing; academic called this the "patriarchal bargain." Colonial powers employed it in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and in South Asia, promoting misogynist ideas and misogynist men who might have otherwise stayed on the margins, slowly but surely ingraining these ideas into the societies.Picture a woman in the Middle East, and probably the first thing that comes into your mind will be the hijab.