Under the Black Blanket

02/28/12

Egypt's Men and their Counter-Revolution

The messages on Tahrir Square

Image via Wikipedia

Feminist scholars are starting to weigh in on the fate of women in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. A particularly good article is this one by Sherine Hafez in the American Ethnologist, out today.  Hafez interviewed women in Egypt, describes their deep involvement in the revolution and their systematic, and sometimes violently imposed, exclusion from involvement since. Her explanation, classical women's studies, is that men, long dominated and "emasculated" by the kleptocratic dictatorship, need to differentiate themselves from women, and need for those women to be weaker than they are, in order to feel empowered themselves.


From the article:

It was the strength of conviction in this rebirth that made the events that took place in Tahrir on International Women's Day so incredible. Whereas rates of street harassment of women are close to 90 percent in Egypt, not a single known case of harassment was reported from Tahrir Square during the days of the uprising. Yet, only a few days after the revolution, women were being harassed in Tahrir, the scene of liberation.

Despite the rebirth of the idea of "ibn al balad," one alarming fact after another pointed to the marginalization of women from political participation. The exclusion of women from the "Egyptian Spring" after Mubarak's resignation led many to question the uprising itself. As one woman activist succinctly put it, "It is simple, this revolution means nothing to me if women's rights are not honored!" One indicator of women's exclusion was the name of the very first people's group to take initiative for opening negotiations with the SMC: the Council of Wise Men.10 Although this name raised a red flag for various observers with feminist inclinations, many argued that the council did not represent youth either. In fact, the name implied that the council was a level-headed group that arose in response to chaos that, perhaps, less-than-sage personalities had initiated. The speed with which events unfolded the first few weeks of the uprising and in the weeks that followed it seemed to catch women off-guard; before they knew it, they found that they were out of the running. Women were excluded from the committee on constitutional reform and were left out of the constitutional changes that were put in place by the committee.
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