In a region where patriarchy rules, a handful of fierce Arab women are fighting for gender equality and sexual freedom. 

As a conglomerate of societies with variant approaches and cultures, we proudly embrace the badass feminists who are helping women transcend societal pressures. 

Meet the Arab heroines making it happen:

1. Joumana Haddad

Joumana Haddad
Source: Fit'n Style

Joumana Haddad is a Lebanese author, poet, journalist, and women rights activist. She is one of the most sexually expressive writers in the Arab world, pushing the boundaries of Arab patriarchy one publication at a time. 

Her first non-poetry book, "I Killed Scheherazade: Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman," challenges the widespread image of Arab women in the West by attacking Scheherazade - the virgin protagonist of the famous Middle Eastern folktale: "One Thousand and One Nights."

She then published a sequel called "Superman is an Arab" in which she scrutinizes the dominant patriarchal system of the Arab world, stressing the need for a different type of masculinity. 

In 2008, she launched the magazine Jasad - the first Arabic erotica magazine - which was later stopped for what critics called "pornographic assets."

2. Mona Eltahawy

Mona Eltahawy 2011
Source: Flickr

Mona Eltahawy is an Egyptian journalist and commentator who made major headlines after she was sexually assaulted by security forces during the 2011 Egyptian revolution. 

She published an article in Foreign Policy magazine in 2012, titled "Why Do They Hate Us?" - referring to Muslim men as they and women as us - which sparked controversy and outrage in the region. 

Her book, "Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution," offers a look at how patriarchy in the Middle East permeates every aspect of women's lives. The book highlights the importance of both social and sexual revolutions if advances in political revolutions are to be made. 

Without the former, the latter will fail. 

Eltahawy divides her time between Cairo and New York. 

3. Leila Slimani

Leïla Slimani is a Franco-Moroccan author, journalist, and the first Moroccan woman to be awarded "Le Prix Goncourt" - a prestigious French literary award - in 2016. 

Her latest book published this year, "Sex and Lies: sexual life In Morocco," aims to expose the private sexual life of Moroccans, where sex - whether the act or the topic - remains a major taboo. 

The book reveals several real-life stories and is accompanied by an explicit graphic novel on sexual awakening, "Words of Honour" - illustrated by Laëtitia Coryn.

4. Samar Yazbek

Samar Yazbek is a Syrian writer, journalist, and activist who had her first novel "Cinnamon" published in 2007, portraying life in pre-war Syria. 

The book exposes the privileged lives of Damascus’ upper-class residents and the socio-economic tensions that later led to the Syrian revolution. 

It also portrays the lives of women, their struggles, and experiences especially in terms of assault, extramarital affairs, homosexuality, and underage sex.

5. Rajaa al-Sanea

Rajaa al-Sanea is a Saudi writer who gained fame through her 2005 debut novel "Girls of Riyadh." The book gives readers an unprecedented look into life behind the veil. 

She tells the stories of four privileged young women, homosexuality, illegal drinking, posing as men to drive cars, illicit sex, and secret dating. 

"Girls of Riyadh" was banned in the kingdom, as al-Sanea showed the struggles faced by Saudi girls trying to balance between tradition and global modernity in a society full of contradictions.  

6. Shereen El Feki

Shereen El Feki
Source: TED

Shereen El Feki is a British-Egyptian academic, journalist, and author, best known for her 2013 book "Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World." 

El Feki toured the Arab world, talking to people about sex and documenting her findings in said book. It reveals the widespread ignorance on reproductive organs, sexuality, and sexual health, in addition to the oppression faced by the LGBTQI+ community.

She believes sex gives insight into a society's main driving forces, such as economics, sociology, political climate, gender, religion, etc. 

"If you really want to know a people, start by looking inside their bedrooms," El Feki writes in Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World.

7. Nawal Saadawi

Nawal El Saadawi is an Egyptian writer, activist, physician, psychiatrist, and one of the region's leading feminists. She has published several books on feminism and sexual freedom, such as "Women and Sex."  

The book attacks female genital mutilation, which is the ritual of cutting a girl’s external genitalia to prevent her from sexual pleasure - a practice extremely common in Egypt. Saadawi is herself a victim of the practice. 

The release of this book cost El Saadawi her job at the Egyptian Ministry of Health where she was the director general of public health. Her outspoken views led to her imprisonment in 1981 for two months. After her release, she published her highly-acclaimed book, "Memoirs From The Women’s Prison."

"For me feminism includes everything. It is social justice, political justice, sexual justice ... It is the link between medicine, literature, politics, economics, psychology and history. Feminism is all that. You cannot understand the oppression of women without this," Nawal El Saadawi said in an interview with The Guardian.

8. Noor Talbi

Noor Talibi
Source: DailyMail

Noor Talbi is perhaps Morocco's most famous belly dancer. Talbi, who was born a male in the conservative country, underwent gender reassignment surgery to become a belly dancer and a model.

Her outspoken nature not only gained her acceptance but turned her into a celebrity.

Her role as a transgender activist and her ability to surpass restrictive cultural norms is signaling openness and giving hope for sexual minorities in the Arab region.

9. Alanoud Al Sharekh

Alanoud Al Sharekh
Source: YouTube

Alanoud Al Sharekh is a Kuwaiti women's rights activist as well as a regional politics and security researcher. She has published several books focusing on gender and kinship including, "Challenging Limitations: The Redefinition of Roles for Women in the GCC". 

Al Sharekh was granted an honorary knighthood by the French Government (National Order of Merit) for her efforts in promoting women's rights in the Gulf and Middle East. 

She also won the Arab Prize for best publication in a foreign journal (2013-2014) by the Doha Institute in 2014, and the Voices of Success Kuwait award in 2012.

10. Jamila Hammami

Jamila Hammami is a Tunisian-American queer, community organizer, social worker, and founding Executive Director of the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project (QDEP).

The initiative supports and advocates for LGBTQIA* GNC TS /HIV+ detainees/undocumented/immigrant people all over the United States. 

Hammami is a Muslim activist fighting for women's rights, especially trans and queer. She contributed to a few books such as "Profit/Protest Asylum".