Arwa Mahdawi

(Another Angry Oxbridge Eng Lit Feminist in the Media)

In another post, I have commented on the over-representation of English Literature graduates from Oxford and Cambridge in the UK media. Many of these journalists have pronounced feminist leanings – see post The Feminist Glass Escalator. These include Katherine Viner (Guardian editor) Gabby Hinsliff (Guardian), Marina Hyde (Guardian), Emma Brockes (Guardian), Hadley Freeman (Guardian, Sirin Kale (Guardian), Alison Flood (Guardian), Laura Bates (freelance), Cerri Radford (Independent), Mary Harrington (freelance), Helen Lewis (freelance) and Cathy Newman (C4 News.) See post Lit Crit Femsplainers for a more complete but still growing list of names.

The most recent of these to catch my attention is Arwa Mahdawi who, amongst other things, writes the ‘This Week in Patriarchy Column’ for the Guardian. You might as well write about this week in Narnia; the patriarchy is a myth.

I have no personal animus against Arwa. It seems to me, that she is the product of an unhealthy intellectual climate. This post is about and only about her journalistic output. It is also perhaps a little hypocritical of me to write anonymously about Arwa when she ‘fronts up’ with her name and photograph and I am sure she gets some abuse for her pains (please don’t even think about adding to that problem). However, we are operating in an asymmetric climate and expressing views that are sceptical of mainstream feminism can cost you your job and is seen as de-facto evidence of being a right wing extremist. For those reasons and others, I conceal my identity.

Below is a small selection of her banal and poorly argued articles.

These two mutually contradictory columns were written by Arwa. The first suggests that men are less likely to wear masks. No evidence for this claim, other than Donald Trump not wearing a mask and ’the journal of Arwa’s opinions’ is presented. Naturally, this supposed reticence about waring masks is attributed to that old stand-in for all of society’s ills – toxic masculinity. Subsequently, Arwa argues that we shouldn’t be shaming people for not wearing a mask – make up your mind!

Again, Arwa manages to contradict herself. A common complaint among feminists is that people comment on the appearance of female leaders and opinion formers in a way they wouldn’t apply to their male counterparts. This isn’t true of course, you only have to look at some of the feminist attacks on Jordan Peterson, for example. Arwa thinks media comments on Alexandria Occasio-Cortez’s hair are a manifestation of her imaginary enemy – the patriarchy. On the other hand, she is quite prepared to criticise Ivanka Trump’s change of hairstyle as an indication of her political ambitions.

A big part of feminist writing in the media has been about keeping the healthiest sector of the population in the foreground during the COVID pandemic. By emphasising Long Covid for example. The same applies to complications related to mRNA vaccines where myocarditis that primarily affects boys is among the most serious. The most important thing to Arwa is irregular menstrual cycles and to think otherwise is evidence of the patriarchy (even though the ‘medical establishment’ is predominantly female).

Yet more monstrous conceit from Arwa who dismisses masculinity in its entirety as a ‘trap’ and the solution she proposes is wearing women’s clothes. Suppose men were to dismiss femininity as a trap and suggest women don high vis jackets and work in construction- guess what the response would be?

Interesting to hear a Guardian journalist advocating violence. The context of the piece was the aftermath of the George Floyd killing and the establishment of lawless autonomous zones in Portland, Washington and Seattle. In these zones, lives were lost through violence and Asian shopkeepers amongst others lost their livelihoods. All perfectly acceptable, it seems, to Arwa.

Another piece lacking hard data. Men’s bodies run at a slightly higher temperature and that results in different temperature preferences. But who actually gets their way more or who moans more is not established in this pathetic piece ‘journalism’.

Much of Arwa’s output is beyond parody and she could certainly give Titania McGrath a run for her money. I have speculated elsewhere in this blog on why there are so many dyspeptic failures with Oxbridge English Literature degrees cluttering up the media. The first and most obvious reason is that they don’t have any useful skills. They can’t deliver a baby, drive an HGV or write code. Instead, they produce asinine misandrist dreck for newspapers such as The Guardian.

Another problem may be the nature of their education which is known for its stifling uniformity. Literature is analysed according to a-priori beliefs about victim/oppressor relationships and invisible societal structures supporting those relationships such as ‘the patriarchy’ (see table below).

ApproachOppressorsOppressedStructure
MarxistBourgeoisieProletariatCapitalism
Feminist MenWomenPatriarchy
Post colonial theoryColoniserColonisedPower
Race TheoryWhite peoplePeople of colourWhite supremacy
Queer theoryStraight peopleGay peopleHeteronormativity
Types of Literary Theory

It should be obvious that this is not scholarship at all but an exercise in confirmation bias and it seems to me that Arwa brings this cognitive bias into her writing to an unusual extent.

There is also evidence emerging that education leads to greater ideological prejudice (full reference cited below and see link here). Education appears to reduce unfavourable attitudes towards people of different ethnic/racial groups and general non-conformists. However, it increases prejudice towards people with different political/ideological points of view.

I make no claims to be free of cognitive biases although I suspect my biases are different to Arwa’s. The best defence against the kind of shortcomings we all have is work in ideologically and cognitively diverse groups. The Guardian and I suspect publishing in general is hardly ideologically or cognitively diverse.

 Henry, P.J. & Napier, J.L. (2017). Education is related to greater ideological prejudice. Public Opinion Quarterly, 81, 930-942

By femgoggles

I was abandoned by my parents in the black mountains and raised by timberwolves. On my return to the 'civilised world' with questionable table manners, I became a detached observer of human behaviour in general and gender relations in particular. This blog is the product of those observations.

6 comments

  1. Arwa Mahdawi is one of many feminist bigots with an axe to grind. Not all feminists are bigots, but she is definitely on that side of the spectrum. The pendulum swung too far in the opposite dimension. The sooner the guardian ditch her, the better for press freedom and credibility.

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    1. Thank you. I agree that the Guardian should ditch Arwa Mahdawi. The paper does still sometimes cover important stories such as the recent revelations about Swiss banking secrecy. Unfortunately, because of journalists such as Arwa, too few people take the Guardian sufficiently seriously for these stories to make an impression. That is a loss to us all.

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  2. if you search around you’ll find a recent edition of the Wadham college gazette in which mahdawi happily tells us that her education taught her to “blag”. She doesn’t see a problem with that. To be fair, it’s not entirely true, or at least I don’t remember it that way.

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    1. Thank you for this. I located the piece by Arwa Mahdawi to March 20121 but I wasn’t able to download it. Useful to see the Wadham College Gazette – with so many brilliant people you would think they would want to keep quiet about Arwa.

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      1. Things went wrong for the humanities in the 90’s. I hated it so I dropped out and came back to Oxford later as a scientist. With that said, I was still taught to think pretty well studying history at Oxford in the 90’s. Postmodernism was only part of the syllabus, not the whole thing, and there was still an ethic of intellectual seriousness and open mindedness. I can’t speak for English literature students but it seemed about the same for them. It’s definitely lost now, I’ll grant you that. Mahadawi is surprisingly old, it seems like she graduated early 2000s. Honestly I don’t know how much responsibility Oxford has for this. Some, for sure.

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