Noha Wagih: Screw Equality
Published in 2010 by
Evolution Publishers, Screw Equality is the debut novel by Noha Wagih
and the latest addition to Egypt’s growing number of female authors and feminist-themed
books. At first glance, it’s quasi-impossible to miss the point of Wagih’s book;
its cover (an attractive female with a cigarette between her lips, languidly
lying next to a pair of hairy male legs in a tartan mini-skirt) and title are
enough to predict that the next 200 pages will debate the issue of gender
Or at least this reviewer thought so. Screw Equality is a cluttered and confusing collection
of personal anecdotes, essays and short stories that read exactly as if the
author were speaking: in fact, at several points, you may feel that the
author is yelling at you, what with the excessive use of block capitals and triple
Wagih makes an
argument that has long been debated on the issue of feminism and equality: women
should not strive to be equal to men, as both genders are different. The author points out that women who strive to be like men will
fail miserably, citing the example of a successful businesswoman who tries to
have a no-strings-attached affair and ends up broken-hearted.
In her chapter titled
‘Games’, Wagih cites her playful monthly column that listed the lines men use
to flirt, the lies they tell their girlfriends, and her tough
love lecture to any woman that has recently suffered a breakup. Again, this chapter is
written so conversationally, it’s pretty much like having that no-nonsense
friend of yours telling you blatantly and brutally to get over yourself. While
this formula may work for some, this reviewer found it condescending.
The following chapter
‘Social Keratotomy’ takes the book on a weird turn, where the author explains
the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and reprints an email from
a friend suffering from the disorder. What follows is an unstructured rambling
of self-deprecating observations, random shouts and questions. The aim of
publishing this email may have been to explain the struggles of her friend with
the disorder. It does succeed in completely perplexing the reader; to the point
that one is unsure where the BPD friend’s writing ends and the author’s begins.
The author ends the chapter with seven pages worth of a list of what she
likes and doesn’t like, leaving this reader completely baffled by its point and purpose.
In two chapters, the
author shows her vulnerable side by discussing her upbringing and her family in
one chapter, and advice that she would give to a friend going through a divorce
in the other.
Other than those two
instances, the author seems intent on coming across as fierce, unapologetic,
rash, confident and admired. It takes a lot of gusto to devote pages in your
own book to quotes from friends praising you and predicting that you will
change the world with your revolutionary theories; and some of these statements
teeter close to self aggrandizement.
Screw Equality left this reviewer confused as to the point of
the book, other than, well, screwing equality. Wagih’s theories and
perspectives on feminism are not new, and her observations on gender roles in
Egyptian society are not enlightening. What you get is a book that reads like a monologue or like an informal and chatty email forward; except there’s no delete button.