Order for a discount (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Superman Is an Arab, By Joumana Haddad. Westbourne Press, £8.99
Tuesday 23 October 2012
Joumana Haddad, a Lebanese poet and journalist, has written a bold and often very funny polemic on patriarchy in the Arab world. The macho species, Haddad argues, see themselves as "Supermen", and Arab men, in particular, find it hard to reveal their vulnerabilities or share their anxieties with women. Like Superman, they have "the same split personality: the same macho manners; the same 'I'm Good and the rest are Evil' stance; the same 'I am indestructible' delusion".
She is quick to point out that her book is not a diatribe against men but "a howl in the face of the patriarchal system". She equally takes to task those women who refuse to fight against sexism, who don't assert their independence, who tolerate bullying males, and the mothers who keep silent while their daughters are abused.
Haddad rails against child marriage, honour killings and the sexual double standards of the Arab world – in particular the overvaluing of female chastity. As she points out, many Arab women are expected to remain virgins until they get married, while men happily "collect sexual experiences". It's all about controlling women's sexuality, and one of the worst manifestations is female genital mutilation. Shockingly, this barbaric practice still affects millions of girls and women.
As well as its humour, there is much that will resonate with Western readers. One "rant" – "Penis: directions for use" – contains tips on how to sexually please a woman.
Haddad received death threats after founding the Arab world's first erotic cultural magazine and continues to be harassed for her feminist writing. So there is something celebratory and defiant about her rallying call for women to destroy "the rotten system" in order to rebuild, with men, something better.
She outlines the need for "a new kind of man: the kind that doesn't require the subjugation of women, the hijacking of their rights and the degradation of their feelings in order to feel 'manly'". And she urges women not to rely on a super male ego for their needs but to seek financial independence, engage in politics and strive for equality.
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
- 2 McKamey Manor: This 'extreme' haunted house is the stuff of nightmares
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 5 David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
After Sam Smith’s Mobo success, is the help of a pushy parent the surest route to stardom?
Pottermore: JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story featuring 'greying' 33-year-old wizard
JK Rowling to publish new Harry Potter story online for Halloween
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Tony Blair 'says Ed Miliband will lose 2015 general election'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Putin: The US is to blame for almost all the world's major conflicts