Joyce Carol Oates sparks Twitter storm over Egypt remarks

Novelist links Islam with sex assault rates, prompting widespread criticism

Author Joyce Carol Oates has sparked a social media ruckus with a series of tweets linking rape culture to Islam, drawing a stream of responses from other writers and users of the site.

Oates is not the first high-profile writer to stumble into the political arena, but her choice of timing, topic and media were particularly incendiary.

Oates's 140-word political tweet-bombs began by remarking: "Something dispiriting about 'Brotherhood' political parties – wonder what it is."

And drove on with "Where 99.3% of women report having been sexually harassed & rape is epidemic – Egypt – natural to inquire: what's the predominant religion?"

The famously prolific Oates, who has won the National Book award and twice been nominated for the Pulitzer prize, was rounded upon by fellow writers and Twitter users.

Open City author Teju Cole (@tejucole) responded: "This makes me sad. Religion is a non sequitur here. You're being unfair, and presenting that unfairness as forthrightness."

Writer Edward Champion (@drmabuse) replied "80 sexual assaults in one day, @joycecaroloates? Try 720 in one day in the US…"

Journalist and novelist Lorraine Adams (@lorraineadams) added: "Violence against women is rampant across almost all cultures since time began. Why is that so hard to understand?"

Other Twitter users poked fun at Oates, with @cszabla saying "love your literary experiment tweeting in the voice of Oates tweeting in the voice of Fox News, @JoyceCarolOates!"

Oates later retreated, admitting "Blaming religion(s) for cruel behavior of believers may be a way of not wishing to acknowledge they'd be just as cruel if secular."

Many writers have dipped their toes in politics with more or less success.Harold Pinter chose poetry for his political proclamations, but was dismissed by Forward Prize-winning poet Don Paterson for his "big sweary outburst[s] about how crap the war in Iraq is", in a 2004 Eliot lecture.


Liz Bury

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Carthage by Joyce Carol Oates – review

The latest novel from America's foremost 'woman of letters' explores the complex damage done to society by war, writes Frances Perraudin

Frances Perraudin

12, Jan, 2014 @11:30 AM

Article image
Carthage by Joyce Carol Oates – review
This exploration of war and family achieves a profound and poignant vision of American guilt, writes John Burnside

John Burnside

31, Jan, 2014 @12:00 PM

Article image
Joyce Carol Oates webchat – as it happened
The celebrated American novelist answered your questions – and covered everything from Charlie Hebdo to Virginia Woolf

07, Sep, 2015 @3:05 PM

Article image
Joyce Carol Oates attacked for 'distasteful' portrayal of Robert Frost
Short story 'Lovely, Dark, Deep' paints the much-garlanded poet as a racist, sexist boor

Liz Bury

01, Nov, 2013 @3:45 PM

Article image
A Widow's Story: A Memoir by Joyce Carol Oates – review
Is Joyce Carol Oates's memoir of bereavement too raw?

Janet Todd

19, Mar, 2011 @12:06 AM

Article image
The Sacrifice by Joyce Carol Oates review – gripping and powerful
Joyce Carol Oates’s examination of racism has a powerful resonance given recent events in America, writes Rose Tremain

Rose Tremain

12, Jan, 2015 @9:00 AM

Book club: Joyce Carol Oates

The author discusses her The Falls, her family saga set in the 1950s around the Niagra Falls, with John Mullan.

15, Aug, 2007 @9:02 AM

Article image
Joyce Carol Oates: ‘It’s a fairytale nightmare to be rejected’
The acclaimed author on the power of familial love, ignoring advice to write only about domestic life, and the recent death of her husband

Anita Sethi

01, Jun, 2019 @5:00 PM

Article image
Joyce Carol Oates and that picture of Steven Spielberg with a 'dead' dinosaur
A photograph of the director with an animatronic dinosaur, posted online as a joke, prompted some choice comments from Oates. The internet is bamboozled

Alison Flood

10, Jun, 2015 @1:58 PM

Article image
The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares by Joyce Carol Oates – review

A virtuoso performance in a tale of teens gone bad impresses Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer

27, Dec, 2012 @5:59 AM