Happy Women’s History Month in the US. Let’s talk about feminism and burning patriarchy to the ground, shall we?
When I read ASKReview’s review of The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls in December 2021 I immediately threw it onto my to read list for 2022. A book described succinctly as “a call to action written by a queer woman of color” was absolutely something I want to read.
There is much in the world that is fucking awful and the roots of that go squarely back to the global patriarchy we all exist under, because the pushes to limit civil rights and freedoms – particularly of LGBTQ folk – are the ways patriarchy attempts to control. Patriarchy harms everyone, and as Eltahawy rightly points out, it harms some more than others. With that in mind, and with her own incandescent rage firmly lit, Eltahawy wrote The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls as a manifesto for throwing over the patriarchy in seven actions.
While I found the sins themselves instructive (and not unexpected) what I was really struck with in this book is Eltahawy’s insistence on bringing as many intersectional and often underreported examples as possible to the forefront in order to illuminate examples of how each sin was needed to fight back against the harm patriarchy inflicts. It reminded me of Our Women on the Ground in that it told me stories I should have already known from a voice on the inside. Seven Necessary Sins is the call to arms twin to Anne Helen Petersen’s Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud as Eltahawy calls us to defy, disobey, and disrupt in order to harness our power against that which denies us freedom – not to survive it, but to dismantle it.
To the sins themselves they are the things women, and Eltahawy points out many times throughout the book that it is inclusive of trans women and non-binary and genderqueer folk as well, are not supposed to do according to the patriarchs (government, faith, family, etc.). Be angry, ambitious, profane, violent, attention-seeking, powerful, and lustful. Most of these I have no trouble with and spent my time nodding along, Anger especially as I had just last week had an argument with one of my bosses about how I would not be accepting extra work because my male colleagues weren’t being held to the same expectations – they are grown ass adults they can handle doing some recordkeeping and filing, dammit. Violent, though, was the tough one to mentally wrap my mind around, but Eltahawy frames much of the chapter around the legal argument that women’s violence is punished to a far greater degree than men’s, and I can accept more easily the need to defend women’s right to justifiable violence more than I can think of a time where I’d feel comfortable using justifiable violence purposefully. The other that I went in skeptical about was Lust, having done a lot of thinking about compulsive sexuality and compulsive hetero-monogamy specifically over the past year (thanks in no small part to Ace and Queer: a Graphic History) and while I wish that Eltahawy had given more than just a sentence in the chapter to asexual folks, I can appreciate that the chapter spends a bit more time pulling apart the compulsives in order to make a broader point about bodily autonomy and choice.