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Egypt’s revolution and the new feminism « The Immanent Frame
The youth-driven Revolution of 2011, with its call for freedom and justice, is inscribing a new feminism, with a fresh lexicon and syntax. The new feminism—which does not go by the name “feminism,” but by its spirit—redefines the words freedom, liberation, justice, dignity, democracy, equality, and rights. It creates its own syntax, which, the dictionary reminds us, is the “arrangement of words to show their connection and relation.” It announces itself from deep within the Revolution, which aims to resurrect the fundamental principles and rights of citizens and human beings that were wantonly trampled down by the Mubarak government. The new feminism might be called, simply, “freedom, equality and justice for all.” It asserts itself in actions, straight-forwardness, and courage.
WASHINGTON: In Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Tunisia and elsewhere, women have stood with men pushing for change. In Libya, Iman and Salwa Bagaighif are helping lead, shape and support protesters. And in Egypt, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, one of the oldest and most well-known non-governmental organizations in Egypt, estimated that at least 20 per cent of the protesters were women.
“The bodies of women, so often used as ideological battlegrounds, have withstood all kinds of police violence, from tear gas to live bullets,” organizers of Egypt’s Million Woman March are quoted by CNN as saying. “The real battleground did not differentiate between women and men.”
Take a look at women involved in the protests in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and other nations here:
When 26-year-old Asmaa Mahfouz wrote on Facebook that she was going to Cairo’s Tahrir Square and urged all those who wanted to save the country to join her, the founding member of the April 6 Youth Movement was hoping to seize the moment as Tunisians showed that it was possible for a popular uprising to defeat a dictator.
The French Revolution is the example which should most warn women, in particular, not to put too much trust in the power of revolutions. Women participated in it in large numbers. But what they got out of it, ultimately, was Napoleon Bonaparte and the Napoleonic Code which established the husband’s supremacy over the wife.
This is not intended to discount the importance of what’s happening in Egypt or in Tunisia, just to point out that we shouldn’t automatically assume that revolutions against a tyrant are going to benefit everyone in the society equally.
When the dust of Egypt’s revolution began to settle and the country struggled toward a democratic government, many of the women who stood side-by-side with men in Cairo’s Tahrir Square were struck that not one woman was named to the committee to reform the constitution.
The wave of change sweeping across the Arab world has finally given women a voice. Everywhere I went in the region, I was impressed and surprised by the women I saw. Something changed; a barrier was broken, and they felt empowered and determined to bring down regimes that had denied them their freedom for too long.
I wonder then, based on the current revolutions occurring across the North African belt, if we will see a step forward or backwards in the education and position of women, or if this revolution will be used by the new leaders as an opportunity to regain a tighter hand of control by ‘dumbing down’ and disallowing the education of women to the levels currently encouraged.
But as the dust settles on Tunisia and Egypt’s unusually peaceful revolutions, women inside and outside of those countries are asking what’s next for them.
Among the most prevalent Western stereotypes about Muslim countries are those concerning Muslim women: doe-eyed, veiled, and submissive, exotically silent, gauzy inhabitants of imagined harems, closeted behind rigid gender roles. So where were these women in Tunisia and Egypt?
Of course a democratic Egypt would benefit women. The government recently passed a law restricting the work of civil society organizations, many of them led by women. The current regime is responsible for widespread human rights violations, including intense forms of harassment and violence against women, which many organizations such as Nazra for Feminist Studies, the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, and the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement, have well-documented.
So rather than asking, “where are the women,” we might ask:
Why does much of U.S. public discourse frame the revolution through Islamophobia logics and why has the corporate media focused mostly on images of Egyptian men?
Across the Middle East, women have taken to the streets. In Egypt and Tunisia, women carried banners and placards, demanding an end to dictatorships. In photographs of protests in Bahrain and Yemen, you see numerous female faces in the crowds, demanding a better life. Across the region, both men and women shielded their eyes from teargas, dodged rubber bullets, and hid behind walls.
Who can now ever forget the sight of the brave mothers in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, cooking through the long nights, building barricades and bringing their children along so they too could witness history? Young women unafraid to stand shoulder to shoulder with young men in public – perhaps for the first time in their lives – and articulating so calmly and courageously why they were there and what they wanted from their revolution?
When she heads to Egypt and Tunisia next week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vows to “stand firmly for the proposition that women [in the region] deserve a voice and a vote,” she told an audience Friday night at Newsweek and The Daily Beast’s Women in the World summit at New York’s Hudson Theater. “More than that, they deserve to be able to run for office, to serve as leaders and legislators, even president.” At “president” the secretary received a standing ovation. With her smile, Clinton acknowledged the subtext: The women in the room—for they were mostly women—were egging the secretary on to another presidential run.
Throughout history, men have led all revolutions in the Middle East. Be it against the Romans, Ottomans, Crusaders or the French – men have always been the leaders in the change or fight for freedom. I think that has changed. Today – 2011 – men still play an active part in any revolution, but they are not alone. Arab women have been taking on excessive and demanding roles in the revolutions of the Middle East – not only in action, but also in preparation and organization.
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has a message for the would-be democratic reformers of the Middle East: It’s time to let women make decisions, too.
Arab women have been crucial midwives in the revolutions that have shattered the status quo in the Middle East.
Jane Martinson reports from the Women in the World summit, where campaigners are drawing attention to the internet as a tool to aid women in the Middle East.
Zainab made the point that women have been part of protests in the Middle East since the 1960s in Algiers – yet, not once have women made gains from revolutions. The oppression of women will sadly continue.
Sussan made the point that women need to show virtual support for women in other countries. Her organization has done so by starting petitions. Governments do listen to dissent from the outside.
Zainab and Sussan mentioned that men in their countries are concerned about equality for mothers, wives or sisters – but they are concerned for their daughters and this creates an opening for dialogue.
All stressed the necessity of unity of women across borders.
Google executive Wael Ghonim became one of the faces of the Egyptian revolution through the Facebook page “We are all Khalid Said,” which was a vital spark to the revolution. But another important spark was a video posted by 26-year-old Asmaa Mahfouz from the April 6 Youth Movement, where she declared that she was going out to Tahrir Square and urged people to join her in saving Egypt.
On Monday, February 21, Fadwa Laroui set herself on fire in the small Moroccan town of Souk Sebt. Amid the dramatic news coming from other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, this story has largely been lost in the shuffle. Yet to ignore what happened to Fadwa Laroui would be a mistake. Although Morocco is consistently cited as a stable beacon of modernity and progress in North Africa, Laroui’s story exemplifies some very serious issues that Morocco has been unable to resolve, namely corruption, the plight of single mothers, and the increasing disparities between the poor and the rich.
Moroccan women, like their counterparts across the world, have been celebrating the 100th anniversary of the International Women’s Day today. They have long been at the forefront of the civil society’s struggle for a better and more dignified life. And as the freedom “fever”, inspired by the “Arab Revolutions” continues to sweep across the Middle East and North Africa, Moroccan feminists are also taking to the streets, making sure gender equality and emancipation of women are part of the agenda for change.
According to one blog, Laroui’s last words before committing suicide were “Stop injustice, corruption and tyranny!” Though many say she was not of any particular political bent, Laroui’s actions and words have nonetheless inspired a new wave of protest in Morocco. One blogger, Mouad, laments the society that engendered such actions:
On December 17, when he set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid, Mohamed Bouazizi could not have guessed that his act would prompt a series of copycat self-immolations or that it would launch the revolutions we are currently witnessing in the Arab world. It is two months later now, and yet the connection between deep personal despair and meaningful political change is being made evident once again, this time in Morocco.
Last week, Fadoua Laroui, a 25-year old woman, doused herself with gasoline in front of the town hall in Souq Sebt, and lit a match. According to newspaper reports, the local government destroyed the shack in which she lived with her children and later denied her access to replacement social housing because she was a single mother. She died in a Casablanca hospital two days later.
Women’s roles in the ongoing Egyptian anti-government uprising have captured the attention of bloggers and citizens spreading information on social networking sites. The massive number of protesters taking to the streets demanding government reforms has created a tipping point for women’s civic participation in a country where it is risky and dangerous to demonstrate against the authorities. Their efforts have had limited coverage in the mainstream media.
Egyptian women are staging a ‘Million Woman March’ today after the new prime minister appointed only one woman to his cabinet, raising fears that women will be shut out of building a new Egypt.
The world watched older women, wearing traditional Muslim garb, leading chants. Younger women appeared on YouTube asking others to join the protests at Tahrir Square. “We don’t want the (Mubarak) regime,” a T-shirt and blue jean clad woman told the English speaking media, “The next president of Egypt will be chosen by the people.”
They had felt the environment change already. The protests calling for Mubarak’s ouster, which had unified men and women, were quickly retreating from people’s minds as their demands grew more specific and fragmented. Rana’s friend, Hoda, said that she had been harassed that day on her walk to the protest. “The men are back to their old habits,” she said.
As opposed to the idea the photo somehow missed yesterday’s story, however, I think the picture tells the story perfectly. Given that the Mid-East democracy uprising has also been identified by some as a feminist revolution, what we’re seeing in action here (hence, the smile, too) is consciousness-raising — painful and slow as it may be — in full-throated real time.
The pictures are so exclusively male that it prompted someone to compile what pictures could be found of women and post them to Facebook. I did find two pictures that I thought were notable in terms of what we see in the U.S. regarding what is happening in Egypt. First, there is this picture of President Obama talking to advisers about Egypt, note the lack of women in the room, particularly Secretary of State Clinton.
An unprecedented number of Egyptian women participated in Tuesday’s anti-government protests. Ghada Shahbandar, an activist with the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, estimated the crowd downtown to be 20 percent female. Other estimates were as high as 50 percent. In past protests, the female presence would rarely rise to 10 percent. Protests have a reputation for being dangerous for Egyptian women, whose common struggle as objects of sexual harassment is exacerbated in the congested, male-dominated crowd. Police hasten to fence in the demonstrators, and fleeing leads to violence. And women, whose needs are not reflected in the policies of official opposition groups who normally organize protests, have little reason to take the risk.
I find myself intermittently infuriated and nauseated by the news coverage of the sexual assault on a female CBS reporter in Tahrir Square during the celebrations the day that Husni Mubarak resigned. This coverage has ranged from the disappointing silence of Al-Jazeera to the blatant racism of Fox News. What actually happened that day to Lara Logan, chief foreign correspondent for 60 Minutes, is not yet known and I have no interest in speculating over the lurid details of a sexual and physical assault, particularly while the victim remains in recovery. In this post, I want to focus on how much of the coverage of this “affair” has revealed the ways in which female bodies are a site that marries Islamophobia to Sexism. This marriage, in turn, reproduces one of the most enduring colonial tropes; the native (and in this case, foreign) woman who needs to be rescued from uncivilized and misogynist men. Cue the- oh so civilized and feminist military invasions and/or occupations of British controlled India, and US controlled Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition to being a discourse that is used to legitimate war, this use of female bodies (and increasingly, gay bodies) as a mark of civilizational status has also been cynically mobilized to continue colonial projects in apartheid South Africa and contemporary Israel.
Yemeni women take to the streets against the unpopular ruler as the country continues to witness massive anti-government protests.
London – With two presidents unseated in Tunisia and Egypt and highly publicised protests across Libya, the recent demonstrations in Yemen are catching the world’s attention. The escalating violence is worrying and only time will tell if it will lead to a quick overthrow of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh or whether change will take much longer in Yemen. But one thing is different in Yemen: the international face of the Yemeni pro-change movement is a woman.
The Attorney General’s Office in Benghazi is the centre of the revolution against 42 years of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s rule in Libya. A sit-in here by lawyers and judges was the first serious boost to the uprising led by the country’s youth. Salwa Bugaigis, a lawyer in her mid-40s, led that first sit-in.
MANAMA — Outside a blue tent in Manama’s Pearl Square, Fatima Abdullah hands her 18-month-old daughter to her husband and rejoins her friends in the “Women Only” section, where they brainstorm ahead of the next anti-regime rally.
Female voices rang out loud and clear during massive protests that brought down the authoritarian rule of Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.
The political upheaval has thrown into sharp relief some social tensions that might help to shape the country’s future political landscape.
The BBC’s Arab affairs analyst, Magdi Abdelhadi, reports on women’s role in Tunisian society.
This year, March 8th marks the 100th anniversary of the International Women’s Day. In my homeland, Iran, women have continued to stand up to tyranny, rejecting discrimination and dictatorship with a resounding NO.
Iraqi women hoped that last year’s election would cement a larger role for them in the government. But they have less political influence today than at any time since the American invasion.
YouTube – Women & Youth of the Arab Revolutions (Suheir Hammad, Carlos Latuff, DUBSTEP reMIX)
Inspired by the actions of young, Egyptian women whose voices are weapons! Videos by Asma Mahfouz which she posted before January 25…was her video the seed?A compelling spoken word performance by Palestinian Poet Suheir Hammad mixed with original DUBSTEP/ BASS score by DJ Lucxke guides this remix. …in awe of the women of the revolution. Peace, VJ Um Amel. http://vjumamel.com
While Dalia Ziada, Egyptian author and activist, may just be a and Muslim housewife to outsiders, the online realm is different. “I write on my blog, no one cares if I am a man or a women, if I look good or look bad,” she said. “They only care for my mind.”
Will the Middle East revolutions spread to Saudi Arabia? In a panel titled “Firebrands: Pioneers in the New Age of Dissent,” Wajeha H. Al-Huwaider, Saudi Arabian journalist and activist, said that a revolution is already happening in her country. The only problem is that no one is listening
The formal recognition by the state of my full Citizenship in my community with the same civil, political, social, and legal duties & rights that are granted for male members; and to have an institutionalized means for the development, implementation and evaluation of plans and acts that would assure women’s full citizenship; It will include but not be limited to the following:
Renowned feminist and human rights activist Nawal El Saadawi was a political prisoner and exiled from Egypt for years. Now she has returned to Cairo, and she joins us to discuss the role of women during the last seven days of unprecedented protests. “Women and girls are beside boys in the streets,” El Saadawi says. “We are calling for justice, freedom and equality, and real democracy and a new constitution, no discrimination between men and women, no discrimination between Muslims and Christians, to change the system… and to have a real democracy.” [includes rush transcript]
Three weeks ago today, 26-year-old Egyptian activist Asmaa Mahfouz posted a video online urging people to protest the “corrupt government” of Hosni Mubarak by rallying in Tahrir Square on January 25. Her moving call ultimately helped inspire Egypt’s uprising. “I, a girl, am going down to Tahrir Square, and I will stand alone. And I’ll hold up a banner. Perhaps people will show some honor,” Mahfouz said. “Don’t think you can be safe anymore. None of us are. Come down with us and demand your rights, my rights, your family’s rights. I am going down on January 25th and will say no to corruption, no to this regime.” [includes rush transcript]
Lama Hasan examines the role of women in the uprisings in the Middle East.
Nawal el-Saadawi has been fighting for change in Egypt for more than half a century. As Egypt prepares to herald in a new era, what role will women play in the emerging political landscape?
Mona Eltahawy discusses the treatment of women in Egypt and the assault of CBS journalist Lara Logan.
Interview with Hanna – Women Activists at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt
What role have Arab women played in the popular uprisings around the Middle East and what stake do they really have in their countries’ political future?
Yemeni women in the protests
Why have I chosen the term “asecular,” and not, say, “non-secular” or “post-secular,” to describe the power manifested by these protests? The term “non-secular” is too easily confused with the notion of the religious. And unlike post-secularity, asecularity is not a temporal marker. It allows for the possibility that asecularity has, in different forms, always been with us, even from within the traditions from which state secularity arises. Explorations of post-secularity typically try to identify the emergence of new norms. Such attempts fail to recognize that the process of identifying and distinguishing secular from non-secular norms is part of what secularism is, and that this process is integral to its power. In contrast, the term asecularity specifies a situation not where norms are no longer secular, but where the questions against which such norms are adduced and contested as answers are no longer seen as necessary. It is a situation where we can be genuinely indifferent to those questions, the ways that particular stakes are attached to them, and their seeming indispensability to our ways of life. As a result, such moments open up spaces for us to think beyond our current predicaments. Here, it is worth noting that the condition of asecularity manifested by these protests was also associated with a genuine ethos of democratic sensibility.
We should ask ourselves why it is that actions that have been taken against the Gaddafi regime were never even voiced as a possibility against the Mubarak regime in Egypt, with its own history of decades of torture, murder, imprisonment of dissidents, and the use of thugs and paramilitaries to injure and in numerous cases kill unarmed protesters. In Egypt’s case, there were no sanctions, no assets freeze, no arms embargo, and no call for the international criminal prosecution of the dictator and his henchmen. What kind of calculation is at work, where effectively one despot is treated as “good dictator” and the other one as a “bad dictator”? What makes the difference? Is it the level and nature of the violence used against protesters? If so, and it is a matter of a body count, then what is the “magic number” of protesters killed that causes us to invoke the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) doctrine? (Just look at how people think of the violence as “genocide”–which by definition it is not–when speaking of Gaddafi’s violence.)
The key text here is Michael Walzer’s Exodus and Revolution (New York: Basic Books, 1985), from which all of the following quotes are derived. (Footnote: relevant to current debates, Michael Walzer is also a “humanitarian interventionist” and a “just war” theorist—in no simplistic sense either, as he criticizes air campaigns and no fly zones.) All the emphases in the quotes that follow were added.
EXODUS“I have found the Exodus almost everywhere,” Walzer writes (p. 4), and indeed it is everywhere in the Western language of progress and liberation.
What has coalesced as a powerful, unstoppable force on the streets of Egypt is resonance: the assertive collective empathy created by multitudes fighting for the control of space. Resonance is an intensely bodily, spatial, political affair, materialized in the masses of bodies coming together in the streets of Egyptian cities in the past thirteen days, clashing with the police, temporarily dispersed by teargas and bullets, and regrouping again like an relentless swarm to reclaim the streets, push the police back, and saturate space with a collective effervescence. Resonance is what gives life to this human rhizome and the source of its power.
As we are watching the fall of dictators and the wind of liberty sweeping in the Arab world, we may not have noticed another victim of this “springtime of Arab people”, namely the individualistic/collectivistic divide. In psychology, many scientists have adopted a kind of culturalism according to which the reason people behave differently across culture because of the “culture” in which they have grown up: People are raised in a particular culture and they come to adopt the particular attitudes and beliefs of their parents, teachers and elders. This explains why people behave differently in different places. For instance, psychologists have often emphasized that some cultures are more individualistic while others are more collectivist and other similar dichotomies have been put forward: sociocentric vs. egocentric, independent vs. interdependent, bounded vs. unbounded.
I’m pessimistic that social and political changes going on in some Arab Muslim countries will have much of an effect on global Salafist-jihadism. Understood in the West (if at all) as al-Qaeda and its affiliates, Salafist-jihadism is far more ideologically diverse than Bin Laden and Zawahiri, and far more theologically nuanced than most analysts and policy makers give it credit. Unfortunately, it will endure this glorious revolution, because it has always been outside the mainstream of Islamic religious practice, and there it will remain. I’m more pessimistic about the future of political Islam, Salafist-jihadism’s theological antagonist and ideological counterweight.
De revolutie in het Midden-Oosten is niet alleen ontstaan uit een roep om meer vrijheid. De stijgende voedselprijzen als gevolg van een groeiend tekort aan water spelen ook een belangrijke rol. Volgens een nieuw rapport “Blue Peace” kan het tekort aan water echter een belangrijke stimulans zijn voor meer vrede.
[Revolutie in het Midden-Oosten] Na de revoluties in Tunesie en Egypte is het nu ook in veel andere Arabische landen onrustig. Daarbij wordt geweld door de verschillende regeringen niet geschuwd. Hoe loopt dit af? Hoeveel doden zullen er nog vallen? Welke dictators worden nog meer verjaagd? Via deze live blog houdt FunX je met interessante video’s, audio’s, tweets, foto’s en links op de hoogte van de laatste ontwikkelingen in het Midden-Oosten.
De recente onlusten in Egypte en Tunesië hebben een (tijdelijk?) dramatische uitwerking op het toerisme. Na de aanscherping van het reisadvies van het Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken is de interesse in Egypte met 75% en in Tunesië met 85 tot 90% gezakt, zo laat Zoover weten. Het kan niet anders dan dat de revolutie in het Midden-Oosten meerdere partijen zwaar geld gaat kosten. Anderzijds bestaat er de mogelijkheid dat de revolutie een positieve keerzijde heeft. De branche reageert verdeelt, zo is te merken na de reacties die Reisburo Actueel binnen kreeg op de vraag wat de Midden-Oosten revolutie voor gevolgen heeft voor de reisbranche.
Alle aandacht is de laatste tijd opgeëist door de revoluties in Tunesië, Egypte en Libië en de onrust in andere landen in de regio. Vanuit een menselijk gezichtspunt is het verheugend dat corrupte, autocratische bewinden aan de kant worden geschoven. Hoe raakt het onze economie en onze financiële markten?
Dit komt helemaal overeen met de bevindingen in mijn eigen onderzoek naar vrouwen in de islamitische wereld. De ‘reëel bestaande islam’ moet, schrijf ik in mijn boek ‘Baas in eigen boerka‘, weinig hebben van ongehoorzame vrouwen. ‘Tegelijk vindt er een gestage, historische ontwikkeling in de onderbouw van de samenleving plaats die onherroepelijk leidt tot de sociaal- economische emancipatie van de seksuele onderklasse – de vrouw. Binnende islam, ondanks de islam. Overal laten vrouwen de mannen een beetje sidderen. Vrouwen gaan naar school,melden zich op de arbeidsmarkt, zitten op Facebook en vertikken het nog langer meer dan twee of drie kinderen te nemen. Veel beter dan hun moeders weten ze wat er te koop is in de wereld, en wat te winnen. Ze hebben niets te verliezen dan hun boerka.’
De Saoedische staat voert, gelegitimeerd door dat Wahabisme, een extreem rigide conservatisme door. De achterstelling van vrouwen is welhaast spreekwoordelijk verregaand. Vrouwen mogen in feite niet zonder mannelijke ‘voogd’ aan het openbare leven deelnemen. Vrouwen en mannen zijn zoveel mogelijk gescheiden. Vrouwen mogen niet auto rijden. Vrouwen mogen niet zonder s toestemming van een mannelijke ‘voogd’ naar het buitenland reizen. Vrouwen mogen niet naar binnen in een voetbalstadion. Dat zijn de officiële regels. Pas sinds vrij kort mogen ze wel zelf een hotelkamer boeken en gebruiken. Daar bovenop komt dan nog eens het conservatisme dat vaders ertoe brengt echtgenoten op te dringen aan hun dio ochters, uit te maken wat dochters wel en niet voor studie mogen volgen. Dit alles betreft de positie van vrouwen die economisch tot de ‘beter gesitueerden’ behoren. Het laat zich raden hoe de positie van vrouwen in armere bevolkingslagen is, vrouwen voor wie een auto sowieso buiten bereik is maar op nog veel grovere wijze seksisme te verduren hebben.