Review: The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls by Mona Eltahawy
I was recently given the opportunity to work on Mona Eltahawy’s latest, The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls, and I jumped at the chance. I work for a company that summarizes books into easily digestible pieces that you can read in 20 minutes or less.
I will say that it was a large task to summarize this under 200 page manifesto. It isn’t a very long book, but it is super dense: filled to the brim with Eltahawy’s advice on how to take down patriarchy.
I’ve never read Eltahawy’s first book, Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, but after reading this one I’m itching to get my hands on it. I find it so inspiring that she has no qualms in speaking out on subjects that no one dares to touch, like the need for equality for Muslim women in the Middle East. She also spends much of The Seven Necessary Sins discussing this need, but brings in other harrowing examples from all over the world. Patriarchy isn’t just a problem in the Middle East, it is a problem that affects women and girls everywhere.
The author seamlessly weaves in her own personal experiences, and stories of other women around the world with fiery guidance on what it will take to disrupt and dismantle patriarchy. This book isn’t for the feign of heart, and I found myself growing increasingly angry the more I read. Eltahawy throws around terrifying statistics, like the fact that there are over 160 reported rapes per day in Brazil. And, that’s just the assaults that at reported.
The seven necessary sins according to Eltahawy are as follows: anger, ambition, profanity, violence, attention, power, and lust. These are things that women and girls everywhere are pressured to keep bottled up. Each chapter illuminates why women should be using these sins to their advantage. Eltahawy also reminds us that the fight against patriarchy isn’t just a fight for women and girls. It is a fight that people in the LGBTQ community are faced with everyday too.
She begins the manifesto by talking about a personal experience that changed her life forever: when she was 15 years old and making the hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, dressed in full hijab, Eltahawy was sexualy assaulted. She didn’t tell anyone about the incident until she was 30 years old, and people criticized her. Some asked her why she had waited so long to tell her story, and some went so far as to say that she was “too ugly to be assaulted.” Sound familiar? It should. This type of victim-blaming happens all too often when women and girls come forward with stories of assault.
In her chapter on power, Eltahawy goes on to bring up the important point that in many instances women are placed in powerful positions to disguise the fact that women are actually losing their rights slowly but surely in many places around the world. Privileged women are wrongly convinced that they don’t need feminism. She tries to answer questions like, “Why are women voting for sexist candidates?”, and “How do these people even get elected?” As I write this, a congresswoman named Katie Hill is resigning from her post for her involvement in an affair with a coworker. Multiple other politicians (men) have been in this position, and haven’t stepped down. How is this still happening in a supposedly forward, progressive and “feminist-friendly” country like the United States? Spoiler alert: the US is not forward, progressive, nor feminist-friendly.
As an American who hasn’t lived in my home country in almost 6 years, I have been lucky in that I never had to experience what the United States is turning into thanks to the corrupt and misogynistic man that we have put in charge. Eltahawy makes an excellent point when she touches on the fact that when we put misogynistic men in power, it gives other men a sense of permission to act disgustingly towards women. I believe she’s right.
The Seven Necessary Sins is eye-opening, rage-inducing and tear-provoking. And I think these are exactly the reactions that Eltahawy was hoping for. She wants us to be uncomfortable, she wants to tell us stories that will make us angry, and, perhaps most importantly, she wants us to fight back against patriarchy. She wants us to harness our power and use it to wreck the messed up patriarchal system that controls the world. She wants us to claim ownership of our bodies, as should be the right of any human being. She calls us to demand the attention we deserve, and use it for good. Women and young girls especially need to strive to be “more than,” and never “less than.” Only through these tactics will we be able to take down patriarchy, and with books like The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls, we are moving towards it. And that, my friends, is as good a reason as any to start sinning.