"As an Arab — an independent Arab woman — you can break as many glass ceilings as you like. But you can never break your hymen."
Amy Mowafi, author of a popular column and now best-selling book, "Fe-mail: The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Good Egyptian Girl"
The Egyptian virginity story sure has legs! It's been two weeks since I first heard about the controversy over something called the Artificial Hymen, and the stories are still coming.
In an NPR report, Egyptian author Amy Mowafi talks astutely about her own issues with virginity devices:
"The problem with a device like this is it makes it too easy for the woman to play by the rules of society instead of standing up and saying, 'No, you need to understand that I am a good person. And it should not all come down to this issue of a hymen.' "
Interestingly, the NPR story prompted some commenters to write that they were offended by the story, seeing it as pornographic and inappropriate. While any story about sex can certainly be titillating, the way much of the world treats women and their sexuality is worth serious discussion.
The control, testing and enforcement of virginity are something enacted upon women by men seeking to control women's lives. At worst, it is brutal and often lethal. At the very least (as it is in the USA) it is shaming, manipulative and often creates a public health hazard due to the lack of accurate sex education.
And it is by no means a purely Muslim practice although the Islamic world does an excellent job of drawing the world's attention to its special brand of misogyny.
The conversation continues.Here's the full NPR report on All Things Considered. The embeded audio is below: