An intern at Awakenings and an excellent part of the Awakened Voices editorial team, Gillian Marwood now offers their voice to The Nightingale. In a review of The Seven Necessary Sins For Women and Girls by Mona Eltahawy, Gillian writes with the same care, nuance, and zeal that they praise in Eltahawy’s work. They call for attention to aspects of life as a woman (and as a survivor) that are at once specific and universal, and Gillian describes how this recommended title dives into experiences of minorities while simultaneously highlighting aspects of feminism that are felt by all of us in our daily lives.
Review: The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls
by Gillian Marwood
We need a new education, and Mona Eltahawy has written it. The feminist activist and author of 2015’s Headscarves and Hymens, has given new meaning to the taboos we have lived by for too long in The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls. Eltahawy lays out her plans to dismantle the patriarchy, while dismantling the ways we have been taught to be women. In a world ruled by men, every single woman, girl and queer person has a reason to be angry, but despite being told to back down, be quiet, and be small she tells us to show that rage and fight. In each of the seven sections; Anger, Attention, Profanity, Ambition, Power, Violence and Lust, she defines what those words mean as a woman, and how we have been manipulated into thinking they are wrong. By the time you finish even the first chapter, you’ll be pumping with feminist fury, dying your hair red and screaming “Fuck The Patriarchy”.
What makes Mona’s book so captivating and important to feminist culture is her pursuit to unite women whilst keeping our differences known. When discussing female empowerment and protest in music, she doesn’t end at Pussy Riot; she interprets the lyrics of Halsey, Cardi B and Siuoxsie and the Banshees. She writes about injustices that women are facing all over the world, whether it be one woman or an entire population. They’re things that are happening now, not twenty years ago, but the stories of women that are still dying and the trials that are still going on. She keeps us thinking about fighting the war on patriarchy by giving us hypothetical scenarios as well as practical ideas we can implement right now. She truly highlights the importance of keeping up with what is happening to women everywhere and is creating a worldwide community filled with anger, empathy and support.
The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls has come during a new age of feminism, one where a hashtag of three words can save a woman’s life. In my favorite section, Attention, Mona explores feminist journalism and how twitter is more than just a platform for shower thoughts and selfies. In 2018, Mona created the tweet “MosqueMeToo” for women like herself to share their stories of sexual violence during their pilgrimages to Mecca. The tweet blew up on twitter with retweets and translations, and created a platform for people to write about their experiences alongside others just like them. If you continue reading, you’ll even see how twitter saved Mona’s life after being beaten, assaulted and detained in Egypt during a protest. We have all read about feminists 10, 50 and a hundred of years ago, but Mona uncovers what it means to be a feminist today, paving the way for young people protesting with phones instead of soap boxes.
This book will give you a voice. And if you’re not ready to tell your own story, then talk about the women in this book. Talk about the women in Tokyo whose exam scores were lowered to deny them entry into medical school. Talk about Stella Nyanzi who was sentenced to 18 months in jail for writing a poem about the injustice of being denied period products. Talk about Qandeel Baloch who was murdered by her brother for having a large social media presence. If I could share just one lesson from Mona Eltahawy, it would be that “I count”. Our words, opinions, theories and ideas matter, and if you weren’t ready to share your voice before, you will be after reading this book.
Gillian Marwood is currently a literary intern at Awakenings, and has recently graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in creative writing and a focus in Poetry. She was born in Washington State but grew up living as an expat in Russia, Dubai and Scotland. Before Awakenings, she was an editor for Columbia Poetry Review and hopes to work for more literary and feminist magazines in the future.