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January 28, 2022

Raging Gracefully: Feminism & Rage With Mona Eltahawy

Nina Collins is in conversation with Mona Eltahway, curator of the FEMINIST GIANT newsletter.

When I talk about patriarchy I think of an octopus.

Nina Collins is in conversation with Mona Eltahway, author and curator of the FEMINIST GIANT newsletter.



From Mona:

I wanted to create a space to write about feminist and gender issues - in US-based publications, those spaces are usually given to white women - and I wanted to write about global feminist and gender issues - the United States is not the center of the world. 

So I am creating that space for myself!

I have worked fucking hard to establish myself as one of the most well-known feminist writers in the world today. Does that sound arrogant? I write about the “sin” of ambition and attention and five other “sins” in my second book The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls - read it! The pandemic pushed me to reassess how I wanted to work and how I wanted to make a living, and staying independent was the answer to both questions. I have another book you should check out too - my first one called Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution.

Episode Transcript:

This transcript is auto-generated and lightly edited, please excuse any grammatical errors. 

NC: So hello, everyone, I'm Nina Collins, I'm the chief creative officer at Revel. Revel is a social platform and events platform for women over 40. The social platform for women over 40 - I like to say um - and this is our regular weekly - live webinar, podcast recording for our podcast raging, gracefully, so it'll be a webinar. We have participants in the audience who can write in the chat. They'Re also welcome. Participants are welcome to raise their hands and speak as long as they don't mind their voices being recorded, because this will go out as a podcast recording on Friday, and our special super special guest today is mona. Eltahawi mona is a very well-known feminist writer, Muslim, feminist writer, you're Egyptian. She lives in new york and Canada, and I guess also in Cairo. You'll have to tell me about that. We'Ll talk about it, we'll talk about it all she's written two books. One is called Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution and the second book is called the Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls, which I own and bought. It came out just in the last year or so um you're kind of famously you were, I don't know, abused injured during rheumatics during the revolution. In was that I'm not sure what year that was November, the 18-day revolution - 2011. yeah 2011., oh Newsweek magazine, has called mona named for one of 150 fearless women of 2012 Columbia journalism, review uh named you one of 20 women in media to watch and the Missouri School of journalism awarded you an honorary medal for distinguished service, so it's just really a thrill. And you write about rage, which is a subject near and dear to my heart. I don't know if you know, but I once wrote an article for Elle about my own history with rage, um, so welcome, and I thought we want to - we generally do these conversations for about 30 to 40 minutes. I could probably talk to you for hours. What I would love to know to start with is kind of your story a little bit because you're so unusual right, a fierce Muslim feminist is not all that common. So welcome, and you can just start talking and I'm going to listen and ask questions. 

ME: Well, you know, one of the things that I did in my first book was to show that fierce Muslim women are quite common. So when you read  Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, you know I go through the history of several feminist movements in the region that is called the middle east or sometimes called southwest Asia and north Africa. Just to show that there's an indigenous feminist movement, you know in Egypt and other parts of that that that region, but my own personal story, also kind of encompasses that too, because I was born in Egypt in 1967 through Egyptian parents, as you said, and then when I was seven: my parents both got scholarships to study for their PhD in medicine because my parents are now retired, but my parents are both physicians, so they moved our family to London. When I was seven and my brother was three - and we also now have a sister who came later so we lived in the UK for about eight years and then we moved to Saudi Arabia. Where I lived for six years and then I moved back to Egypt to study to become a journalist and I - and during my years in news reporting, I worked for a variety of media, including Reuters news agency, with which I moved to Jerusalem, where I also reported, And then I eventually moved to the US in 2000 and when soon after I moved to the US, I became an opinion writer and stopped news reporting. But one of the things that i do is i identify as a feminist. I don't identify as a Muslim feminist, because it's really important for me that I ground my feminism in secularism and i ground my feminism in a universality and that basically directs its rage. Seeing as we're going to talk about rage against the patriarchy. Because I make that distinction, because there is a school of feminism called Islamic feminism, just as there is Jewish feminism and Christian feminism. That is not my feminism. I am just a feminist, I'm a background, I was born in Egypt, but I'm just a feminist. 

NC: That's great, I love that. I should also say for our participants that you have an incredible newsletter um and I also want to talk a little bit about your business model because I'm really interested in that. So that's a really important thing that you said that you were a secular feminist and you don't identify as I love those two things also I wanted to not forget. I was in Egypt this year I went to Egypt I’d Never been, and it was amazing and so beautiful and the people are so beautiful and um. Also, your hair and your lipstick are so great. I just had to say that also and you change your hair color frequently right. 

ME: I do. I mean one of the things that I did you know when the pandemic first started. I used to have bright red, curly hair that was down to my shoulders and then I buzzed it all off Nina. I just shaved the whole thing off and i kept well so like the long and short of it is after I was assaulted in 2011 in November of 2011 by Egyptian riot police. They broke both my arms and they sexually assaulted me and I was detained for 12 hours by the police and the military and soon after I was I was released and you know I needed surgery and both my arms weren't cut - 

NC: But wait. Let me back up for a sec, so you moved to new york in 2000, so you were around 30, we're pretty much the same age. I was born in 1969. So then what took you back to Egypt? Why were you there in 2011.? 

ME: So I - for the revolution I mean I was living in new york, but the revolution was something that I had dreamed of all my life. So many Egyptians had because I knew we deserved to be free and when the 18 days happened, I was in new york city, but I went back to Egypt twice later in the year. I couldn't go back during those 18 days and one of the times that I went back was for a pivotal protest and that's when the riot police broke. My arms sexually assaulted me and I was detained for 12 hours now when both my arms were in casts. I promised myself that when my bones were healed, i would dye my hair bright red because it says now. I want to tell everyone that I'm a big fan of profanity, so there's going to be a lot of [ __ ]. So when both my arms were in cars, i promised myself that i would give myself a gift for surviving bright red hair said [. __ ], you, you didn't kill me. I survived and tattoos on both my arms as again a gift for surviving wow when the pandemic began this bright red hair, that was my [ __ ] you I survived like, was no longer serving me because we were now those of us lucky enough to be working from home, it wasn't about being outside and signaling. With my red hair I survived now, the signal to survive is to stay at home because many people can't stay at home, and so I shaved off my hair as a signal to say the way to survive. Now is to stay at home if you can so that as a community, we can help those who are vulnerable and those who can't stay at home. So I shaved off my hair as that signal 

NC: nice. Well, it looks absolutely stunning and it must be a lot to maintain, though you must have to bleach it and then color it, but anyway we'll talk about more important things. So, let's talk about feminism in general. How do you run your business? You're, an academic you're, a journalist, what's your daily life like?

ME: Sorry, i had my alarm on so I would not forget to press on the zoom and it keeps going up. Um, like I said I, I stopped news reporting a long time ago and I switched to opinion writing when I moved to the US and I became an opinion writer in about 2001 2002 and for the greater parts of my opinion. Writing. I wrote as a freelancer for the Washington post and the new york times, they're the two newspapers in the us that have published most of my opinion writing and in just before the pandemic. I was a contributing opinion writer for the new york times and the Washington post, but the kind of opinion writing that they wanted from me was about. The middle east was about. Egypt was about Islam, and I wanted to write about feminism in general, and I found one of my biggest frustrations in the United States is that it's mostly white women who are given the platform to write about feminism in general, the rest of us black women. Women of color women who are not white are basically told - Okay. You write about your books because feminism with a big f is for white women, and you have to talk about Egypt. You have to talk about Islam, you have to talk about being black, but not about feminism with a big f. So it goes back to this idea of being kind of ghettoized as an Israel as an Islamic feminist, and I wanted to clean feminism with a big, f and so and the pandemic you know, coincided with my ability to do that because I do a lot of public speaking and we couldn't travel in the pan. You know up until now. I can't travel the way I used to so I thought, okay, what am I going to do so? At first, I launched a Patreon which I still have, and I ask people I said to them. Look you know those of you who have been following my writing. You know the kind of writing that I do and I want to expand it and as an anarchist, I want to be able to provide the kind of work that I do for people who can't pay to subscribe to the new york times or whatever. So those of you who have funds, please help me and they did, and then i thought, okay, what am I going to do now that I have a base of funds? I thought let's do a newsletter and again I insisted that the newsletter be free, because I believe that feminist knowledge is a resource we must share. So I said I'm going to keep this newsletter free, but those of you who can pay please pay because it helps to keep it free and they have been, and that's how I've been supporting. Thanks to my to my readers, you know this anarchist feminist has been able to live off those two models. That'S really amazing, so Patreon and people really supporting you. The newsletter is called feminist giant by the way for everyone who wants to subscribe. So do you have? I I've read that you have women working for you. You have journalists who you're also paying, which is pretty amazing. I do I mean it's a small setup right now, but you know with big ambitions. It will be expanding, but it's only been around for a year and a half, and so what happened is very soon after I launched a professor of feminist and gender studies asked me if I would take some of his students as interns because they couldn't do an Internship physically because of the pandemic, so i thought wow what perfect timing. So i took on five interns who, I trained to curate: feminist news of feminist resistance from around the world yeah, and that became the global roundup and then, when they finished their semester. Two of them said you know if you'd like more, you know we would love to stay on, and so I took them on as paid interns. I couldn't pay them when they were interns, while they were studying, because in Canada, universities don't pay their interns. This isn't this wasn't something I chose, but once they finished their course and they became interns for me now I paid them, and so, thanks to my patrons and those who choose a paid subscription to feminist giant, I was able to pay two interns. Now, amazing, that is really they're all women I assume yes, these are women of color, they're, they're, very young, I think they're, probably 20 and 21, and now it's down to one, because one of them is in graduate school and she's very busy. So the one who remains is now a contributor and she compiles she curates twice a week and I will be getting two new interns from the study program very soon. 

NC: That is great. When we get to travel again and you come to Brooklyn, I want to get you to do something at the Brooklyn public library, where I'm on the board. 

ME: I think that would be amazing.

NC:  I would love too when you say, you're an anarchist. What does that mean?

ME:  It means that i believe in the dismantling of all forms of hierarchy. So as a feminist, I believe in the destruction of patriarchy and patriarchy, for me is a system of oppressions that privileges male dominance. But it's not just about men, because there are some women who benefit from patriarchy and and i believe, the way that patriarchy maintains its power is through hierarchies and those hierarchies are we're all familiar with them. You know white supremacy, capitalism, ableism homophobia, that's used against queer people. I also identify as queer transphobia ageism ableism. These are all you know: militarism the the incarceration the prison industrial system. These are all forms of hierarchies. It'S a lot. It's a lot to dismantle I'm a busy woman Nina. 

NC: So wait. I have so many questions already so when you say you're queer, does that mean you're with men and women, or does it just mean you're identifying to be open? 

ME: Yes, so I'm with men and women I'm attracted to, and I have sex with men and women and also my partner, my beloved. I call him with whom I spent much of the pandemic here in Montreal, I'm polyamorous, and so we have an open relationship. He's bisexual and I'm queer, so we we have what I believe is a revolutionary relationship which is part of what my anarchism means. You know as an anarchist. I also don't believe in in monogamy right. You want to take apart all of these structures that we've come to kind of take for granted. 

NC: I had, I hosted an event here last night, a Revel event um. It was a vision board workshop and there were ten women in my apartment and two or three of the ten were really advocating. Polyamory like it definitely is a revolutionary thing that is, is becoming mainstream, it's fascinating. It really isn't, and I'm so delighted that more and more people are talking about it, that it's been featured in more and more so called mainstream media. It's a really exciting time to see. All of this come come out, you know, and what about financial structures like? Do you consider yourself, a communist, a socialist? What is your belief about the future of money and workforce and all that kind of stuff right? 

ME: Well, as an anarchist, I belong firmly on the left. So you know there are some anarchists who identify as communists and some who identify as socialist, but the reason that I use the word anarchist is to distinguish myself from any political ideology that believes in. In a hierarchy, whether it's to be led by workers by farmers - and so you know I hold on - but i'm definitely firmly like you know radically - on the left, so I'm anti-capitalist and i'm also a firm believer in universal basic income which addresses your question about work, I believe that everyone should be given a basic income and if they choose then to work to make more money than that basic income, then you know go ahead and work, but I believe that everyone must get a universal, must get a basic income and I think the pandemic has made that especially urgent.  Yes, absolutely so universal basic income, universal health care, universal education.

NC: Yes, how do you feel living in the states compared to - 

ME: It’s a big challenge. Well, you know compared to Canada, so Canada, you know there are more. Probably there are more open discussions about ubi as universal basic income is called because they already they're far ahead of the US when it comes to health care, for example, absolutely yeah universal medicine. You know all of that, and - and there is an account I follow on Twitter called ubi works - that is, that basically makes its existence. It's to um, encourage politicians who are running for office to include ubi on their platform. So I think that you know what, when, when we begin to emerge from this pandemic - and we see you know the immense immense, not just challenges but the horror that it subjected so many people to threats of eviction. You know the great resignation, as we call it more and more people leaving work because they recognize that they are being squeezed dry. You know by injustices, uh when we hear that billionaires got richer during the pandemic and and the poor got poorer. This now is that it's the perfect time for the united states to start talking about ubi, to start talking about a more just way of being, because what came before the pandemic must never be something we go back to 

NC: I mean I couldn't agree with you more, except i think it's the opposite is likely to happen. It feels like Biden is not doing well and it feels like we're just opening ourselves up for another republican yeah government right in 2020. 

ME: Nina I mean look on on Friday. I think it was Friday yeah. It was the 49th anniversary of Roe v Wade and most likely the last anniversary of Roe v Wade. 

NC: You know so yeah, so it feels like everything you're advocating for makes a lot of sense to me and unfortunately it feels like that's not going to happen here in the United States. I mean I don't know who did you support for president? I wonder. Do you talk about that? 

ME: I did not support anyone for president Nina, because I didn't find anyone who was running. You know to be someone that represented me, but because the United States, because of the way that we vote in the united states, I mean as an anarchist, I barely believe in elections anyway. You know because the very idea of the nation-state is that kind of is like the originator of the kind of hierarchies that I'm trying to dismantle. However, the more pragmatic practical side of me recognizes that in the United States, the way that we vote forces you to choose the lesser of of the worst. You know constantly we choose the best of the worst and that's why we need ranked-choice voting so that we can guarantee that people. You know the person who really should be in office should be in office but yeah, and then I look at new york city and I see how, for the first time ranked-choice, voting gave us who eric Adams. 

NC: I know we did ranked-choice, voting in New York and i don't know if it was really the best thing I mean you know. Time will tell, but I know so. 

ME: We went and chose an ex-cop at a time when we're talking about abolished cops. Oh my god.

NC: Were you a fan of Maya Wiley by any chance? I liked maya. 

ME: I was a fan. I was also a fan of Diana Morales. You know. Yes, she was my favorite, I wanted Morales. You know. 

NC: Actually, it's really funny. You said that, because yesterday, during our vision board workshop, one of the women here had a picture of Diana Morales on her vision board, which I thought was fascinating, um. Okay, so tell me if you had to pick one American female politician who you most admire, who would that be? 

ME: Oh, let's see now um see you know i mean AOC, you know comes to mind. Uh Cori Bush comes to mind. Ilhan Omar comes to mind. You know I want, I mean all of those politicians obviously belong in the squad. You know and the squad go as far left as they can without completely freaking Americans out, because even you know, they're not you know fully in the socialist rank, but even that freaks. So many Americans out, so you know if I could combine all of them into one and just push them as far the thing that I most look for in a politician is: have they been hungry, have they ever gone without a meal and have they ever been unhoused? Cori Bush has she's talked in interviews about sleeping in her car with her two children. Have they ever been? You know a single parent, someone like Katie Porter has have they ever been subjected to the various oppressions that I believe come from patriarchy,AOC and Ilhan Omar. Have you know so I when I look at politicians, I look at the US congress and I see that so much so many of the people in it are millionaires, if not billionaires, so many of them have not gone one single day facing any kind of Struggle that now in a pandemic should be center stage and that's why it's so frustrating to follow American politics. So if I could, I'm just sitting there waiting for an anarchist politician that comes around and says you know what I want to burn all this down. Elect me so that I can destroy the electoral system yeah. 

NC: This may not be the country where that's going to get very far, but I, but I admire your principles um. What of all the kind of feminist agendas? What's most important to you right now, if you could fix one thing, what would it be? 

ME: It's really difficult to choose one thing, because you know when I talk about patriarchy, Nina um, Nina um, I think of an octopus. I always tell people I want you to imagine an octopus, because I think when people talk about patriarchy, they often talk about men and just men and it's not about men unless they even talk about patriarchy, because I often say too, when, when you bring patriarchy up, It's like asking a fish: what is water? You know, a fish is going to say what what what is water, because everything around the fish is water. It's like the air, it's the whole structure. It's the air, we breathe. 

NC: I mean it's like systemic racism. It'S there are tentacles, it's everywhere 

ME: Exactly so that and that's why I talk about the octopus, and so the one thing that I want to destroy is that octopus because I want people to imagine that the head, the head of the octopus, is patriarchy and each One of the eight tentacles is one of the oppressions that that system patriarchy uses so there's white, supremacy, capitalism, misogyny homophobia, ages, ableism transphobia, and so when you ask me to choose one, it's really difficult, it's impossible right! What's in unison, you know.

NC: so I guess what that makes me think because I think you're completely right in some ways. It's a stupid question, then the question for me becomes: can we really address these larger issues, or can we only really do it in an individual way as it strikes me that your polyamorous state, for example, or stance, is a really good way on a personal level To address patriarchy right, it's allowing yourself more sexual freedom, it's turning things on their head and that we can do these things in our private lives, but I guess I often feel I think, as a lot of us do really overwhelmed in the large scale. Like can I really change anything in the greater world, so I guess my question to you is I mean you're spending all your time, 24/7 trying to address these issues. When it comes to the end of your life do you think you will have made any headway in any particular issue? 

ME: Well, you know we. We often say you know when, when it comes around to Rosa Parks' birthday, for example, we we like we must remind everyone that it wasn't just this one incident in Rosa Park’s life when she refused to get out of her seat that that changed everything, because Rosa Parks was an activist for decades before that, so I think it's really important to see that change. Big systemic change doesn't come overnight and doesn't really take one. We all have to be working on it over and over and over again and it comes from dedicating our life to that work yeah. So what i often say is I tell people that I believe in feminism in 3D and the 3D are actually 3’D’s and they are defy disobey and disrupt. So I often tell people every day find a way to defy disobey and or disrupt the patriarchy, because when, when you do that, it's like you're building you're strengthening your feminist muscles, it's like when you start to weight, lift you begin with, maybe five pounds. Then you go up to eight pounds. You go up to twelve pounds when you do the three d's every day or as many times a day as you can. You strengthen your feminist muscles because it doesn't come from suddenly you know deadlifting two hundred pounds. 

NC: Right so tell me give me some examples of how we can do that. Actually, someone in the audience just said what are some ways we can encourage and organize young women 18 to 30 to do the 3Ds like what are concrete actions like I again I go back to the kind of like I'm familiar with rage on a personal level. I've gotten much better. I no longer feel angry. I did when I was younger um and I've written about it. Now I'm more at peace, but I probably am also a less um activist, like I like not feeling angry every day feels like a better way to live. On the other hand, I want to disrupt the patriarchy. Also I fully I'm completely a feminist. So give me some examples: what are things we can be doing?

ME: Well, you know, like simple things, seemingly simple things, if you hear or see someone being misogynist or homophobic, disrupt that if you see um someone who is actively harming someone or you know those tentacles of the patriarchy, disrupt it disobey it, you know one of the things That I write about in the chapter on anger and the seven necessary sins for women and girls is that all children are born with what I call the pilot light of rage and that that pilot light is like the pilot light in the oven. That you know is simmering, and then you turn it on when you need to get. You know when you're baking, something or roasting something, but what we end up doing to girls is that we snuff out that pilot light and we keep it raging in boys. So that when boys grow up when boys become men, anger is the only emotion available to them at the expense of all other emotions and for girls. They grow up to become women, for whom anger is never ever available to them and they subsume it and it becomes sadness, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders. All of that so for parents, I would say a way to defy disobey and disrupt the patriarchy - is to nurture that rage against injustice in girls and to allow it to continue because of something called the global adolescent research study that I quote in my book. Again found that around the world, not just in the east or the west around the world by the age of 10, girls had been taught and had accepted that they were weak and vulnerable. So we have to stop very early. We have to start even earlier than 18 to 30. We have to see you know, you see a little girl and you know when she's denied something that she believes. Is hers she's going to be angry, but you see parents often say: oh, you know be nice. You know nice go through that, you know so, let's go much earlier than 18 and allow express our rage there's a great. I mean there are a number of great books on this subjec.

NC: I completely agree with you. So allowing women and really encouraging calling out basically calling out calling in actually what do you think of that distinction between calling out and calling in have you studied the work of Loretta? What's her name at uh Smith, uh, there's an academic who does a lot of black women on this idea of because it sounds like you're more of the calling out school of thought right? 

ME: Yeah yeah, I mean I've called out and I've been called out. You know so it's interesting that that um, I mean one of the reasons that I love black feminists and - and I quote black feminists as much as I can - is that that octopus, the patriarchy octopus, when we see who is most strangled by those tentacles, You will find that black women, and, and especially if you're, talking about a trans, black woman or a queer black woman or a disabled black woman, and that's why the Mumbai river collective. You know this collective of uh queer socialist black women in the 1970s. I write about them in Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls and what they did was they came about at a time when the black power movement was fighting against white supremacy, but It was ridden with misogyny and you had second-wave feminism, which was fighting against misogyny, but it was riddled with racism, and so they came along and said. You know what we're fighting misogyny and we're fighting racism. We're also fighting capitalism and they said when, when black women are free, we will all be free. So all the work of black feminists right now is is especially vital. So when I follow,  I don't know the the particular academic that you mentioned, but I do know Adrienne Marie Brown, who wrote Emergent. I think she wrote Emergent Strategy and she's and she's written pleasure activism, she's a fantastic activist, and she often talks about calling in and calling out and - and I appreciate the distinction because, especially with comrades and allies, the calling in is a more loving and compassionate way of doing it. With people who are not my allies and people who do not mean me well, I will call out yeah because you're working I mean it is a little bit the distinction. 

NC: Also that goes back to uh. You know MLK and Malcolm X, it's kind of the difference between rage and violence, and you know non-violence and it's an age-old debate um, but I do think there's a place for rage. I agree with you, and particularly for women and rage, because we're not - and it's so true that women suppress it and I often felt I struggled personally in my 20s and 30s when my mom died young and I had a father I was really angry at and I acted out in so many ways in a personal level, I had a lot of fear and and but it was really just submerged anger that I had to kind of get at, and you know anger and fear are very closely aligned so anyway, I really appreciate it. Um, oh good, someone just put into the chat the um kabahi river, collective statement. Do you have time in all your work, to do things like read, fiction and stream things tv? What do you love? What's your personal life like? 

ME: Absolutely so soI you know before the pandemic - I had this um challenge to myself to read a book every week and I kept it. The pandemic has wrecked my reading, of course, but I'm trying, I think it's wrecked our attention. Generally, our attention span so I'm trying, and so what I do with my reading is, I specifically seek out black and women of color authors. I specifically seek out queer authors and I specifically seek out fiction in translation and I also love poetry, so between all of those. I try to find titles that you know kind of, like the venn diagram of all of that. So i just finished a book called um. What was it called? Oh god, i think it's called um Dora dies by dreaming it's on my shelf somewhere. I think it's called Dora dyes dreaming something like that. Oh all, good guys dreaming! Oh god! Oh god! That'S it!

NC: Yes, yes, this was our book in this week's newsletter and it just hit this the bestseller list. 

ME: Thank you for reminding me. This is my perimenopausal moment where I just forget, things totally understand.

NC: I have actually not dug into this yet, but one of the members of our community asked us to make it a book club pick. So it's going to be our July book club pick. I only read books by women. I'm just not interested in books by men in general. 

ME: I know right enough already right?  

NC: Yes, and do you have children? Did you decide not not to have children? What's your stance? 

ME: I am child-free by choice and I'm actually writing - so i'm working on several book projects right now. One of my book projects is writing a book called for now called Unmothering. I wrote an essay called Unmothering, it's one of my most popular essays on the Feminist Giant newsletter, and it's about why I'm childfree by choice I'm adapting that into a book and I'm also writing a book called Bloody Hell and Other Stories. Uh from adventures are on menopause from across the personal and political spectrum and that's going to be an anthology, a menopause anthology in which the contributors are global and gender expansive. So those are book projects that I'm working on the in, through which I address being childfree by choice, and I mentioned menopause specifically because I mean finally, finally, this this thing about being pregnant is almost behind me: i'm not fully menopausal yeah, i'm still perimenopause.

NC: Oh i'm fully menopausal and it's awesome. And it's one of those things. You don't really believe till it happens, because that perimenopausal period kind of sucks I mean you, look like you're handling it beautifully, but I was pretty miserable for a few years, and now i haven't had a period in almost four years and I feel great, like oh - 

ME: I'm so happy for you, it's [, __ ] miserable, oh, my god. It sucks so, and so you know I channel all of that into Feminist Giant. I never wanted children. I write about abortion because I had two abortions one illegal in Egypt and one legal in the united states. So all of that you know - 

NC: Was the illegal one scary?  I've had two as well.

ME: So the illegal one, and this is a reminder of how, when you, when you criminalize abortion, it hurts the poorest and the most vulnerable. I had money when I had my illegal abortion, so I was able to go to a doctor in Egypt who provided abortion care for money. You know in return for money. Nonetheless, I honestly thought I was going to die Nina. I was just so overwhelmed. I thought I was going to die and I survived, but so many women do die. I wasn't that young I was 29.

NC: Is abortion? Is abortion legal in Egypt? I don't even know - 

ME: Only only if the mother's life is in danger and I think in some instances of rape, but no, but so many women try to self-abort because you know they're poor or they have no access to it and they end up in the Emergency Room if they're lucky, where they will then they're hemorrhaging and they will get a dnc. You know and a woman died in poland. Yesterday I was writing about her on twitter. Before I came on to speak with you, a woman who was pregnant with twins, one of the fetuses died and they wouldn't give her an abortion because of polio abortion and they waited for the other fetus to die and she died too. So this is what we have to remember so, and I was talking about writing about abortion, because power, so perimenopause is [. __ ] hell, but perimenopause has also given me this shamelessness. This ability to talk about things. I was never able to talk about before. So about my abortions and being child-free by choice. Everything I'm like you know: [ __ ], this [ __ ] yeah yeah, and it gets even better. 

NC: So I'm curious - your childfree by choice stance, is it more political or more personal? 

ME: Well, I use child free by choice, so I just like you know very at a very, very early age I recognized that I did not want to become a mother. I also didn't think I wanted to ever to be married, but I made the mistake of marrying for two years and got out and it's never going to happen again. I just never had that urge to be a mother. I recognize you know that that people there are people who do want a parent. I have never had that desire in me, and so I'm proudly child free by choice, and you know in new york. This is another thing that in the us is being studied more and more, like polyamory, like we were saying, because uh some research came out quite recently that one in four people, um surveyed in the u.s say they are child free by choice, and this was the first time ever that child free by choice was distinguished from being childless under any circumstance, yeah yeah. But this isn't, because we couldn't have children.

NC: No you're, absolutely right child free by choice and sorry, I screwed up the language is an absolutely great way to put it and no I admire it. I think it's great and I think it should be highlighted more because there is so much ridiculous shame around it and women who don't have kids are constantly asked. I mean I wanted to ask you because I'm curious about your legacy and I was also kind of curious. I asked the question for the audience, but I knew you didn't have children, but I was curious how much of a political statement it is. You know the world is so [ __ ] up like i do feel like. I have four children, and at least one or two of them are pretty sure they don't want to have kids, because the world is so [ __ ] up. So I was interested if it was more kind of an inner thing like you didn't, feel a need to mother anyone or if it was because you know it it's much more, a personal thing. 

ME: I also think you know in my essay on for Feminist Giant Unmothering, you know I begin by saying that my paternal grandmother had eight children and my maternal grandmother was pregnant 14 times 11 of of of them of the pregnancies came to term and then so. The oldest of of those 11 pregnancies is my own mother, and so her mother had 11 children. My mother has three children and i'm the eldest child of my mother, and I have chosen to have none. So when i look at you know the legacy that my ancestors as we say you know when I look at my paternal and maternal grandmother: eight children, 11 children and I'm just I try to imagine my maternal grandmother's life. She was basically almost every every two years, every year and a half and like wow, you know I mean so I think a part of that went into my decision. You know I'm like I am, I mean bless my grandmother. May she be at rest and in peace and power wherever she is right now, but you know we are more than walking incubators for patriarchy. 

NC: I completely agree, and I have to say I wanted children really young, because my mom had died and I wanted some sense of family. But - and I love my children obviously, but had I known how much stress and work and expense and endlessness it would be I you know I might have done it a little differently. It's a lot. Children are a lot, it's a big responsibility. 

ME: It really is, and here in the united states you're talking about you know, I think, the only industrialized country in the world first of all the wealthiest most powerful country in the world, the only industrialized country in the world that doesn't give paid maternity leave. Yeah and then you have these anti-abortion [ __ ] and i deliberately profane about them. You say: oh, you know what it's so much easy to have a child. Now you don't have to choose between working. Children have children so that they're advocating for births, yeah they're, treating us like we're, walking incubators for them and they have the [ __ ] nerve to say it's so easy because you know they come from a life of privilege and you're. Talking about working-class women, black and women of color, who are barely holding on during this pandemic? No, it's just sickening! I know when i think about women in those states like texas or Mississippi - I mean it's just [ __ ], coming to the city very soon. 

NC: And it's also just a relentlessly thankless job being a mother. So mothers get blamed for everything. So I don't know, I hear you this has been so fascinating. I just think you're amazing. I can't wait to meet you in person. Um, someone in the audience says this is outstanding. Thank you just added my support on patreon for Mona's work. So that's lovely Alice. Thank you. We will um. Oh. My last question is: what is that amazing artwork behind your head say? 

ME: Oh i'm so glad you asked. So this is an egyptian feminist activist called mahdi and on her bare chest is written, “There will be millions of us” and I write about her in Headscarves and Hymens - why the middle east needs a sexual revolution, because about two or three weeks before I was assaulted in cairo, she posted a nude picture of herself from her family home, not on the Street, but from her family home a new picture of herself, just to speak out against sexual hypocrisy in egypt. This was during the year of our revolution. There was so much outrage and a lawyer who was a pro-regime raised a case to strip her of her citizenship, to punish her for stripping. She had to leave Egypt and she now lives in political she's, a political um asylee in sweden, so she basically had to go into exile because she posted a picture of herself naked on her blog. You know it's insane. 

NC: Can you spell her name, because I want to look up her work? 

ME: Absolutely I mean I don't know what she does online right now, but it's a l, i a a alia and then her family name is e. L-m-a-h-d-y. This is by a an artist friend of mine called Nadine Farage, who had an exhibit in new york where this painting was, and others of um, basically portraying nude and semi-nude protests from around the world, because in many parts of the world the nude protest is the Most powerful form of protesting. There are many countries on the continent of Africa. South africa, nigeria, you know, she's egyptian, where appearing semi-nude or topless or naked, is the highest form of protest, because what what do we own? Besides our body, you know so yeah nadine had an exhibit called naked revolt that was basically honoring people who use their bodies naked bodies as a form of political protest. 

NC: Wow I'm gonna look all that up. That's fabulous! All right! You have been the treat of my week. I absolutely love this um. Just thank you. A ton we'll continue to follow and support and read your work and spread the word, and I hope I get to meet you in person one day soon. 

ME: Thank you so much. I really appreciate speaking with you and if I may, I would encourage anyone who is perimenopausal to please look up Bloody Hell and support that book, because we're crowdfunding for the book, so they can, if they have funds if they could support Bloody Hell. Um. There's information about it on my Twitter and on my um Feminist Giant and please support Feminist Giant my newsletter. 

NC: Absolutely everyone go subscribe to Feminist Giant and lookup Mona's work. Thanks again, all right take care, bye.

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