A week ago today, after 18 days or rallying and protesting, Egyptians successfully won “liberation” and forced Mubarak to resign. The world saw both men and women on the front lines. In a country where women are marginalized, harassed and openly discriminated against, it was hugely empowering to see women– veiled and unveiled– walk side by side their husbands, brothers, sons and fellow countrymen demanding change and reform. It was truly a revolution of the people!
Revolution, particularly in the US, is rare in our modern day supersize-me, high-def, Starbucks era, but the idea of women and revolution is not. If it weren’t for women like Angela Davis, Assata Shakur and Kiilu Nyasha there probably would not have been a Black Panther Party. And Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer & Ruby Dee were pivotal in the success of the Civil Rights Movement.
So during those 18 days of protests I tried to get as informed as I could about modern-day politics in Egypt and how they informed and/ or challenged the women there. The first piece I read “Let Me, a Muslim Feminist, Confuse You” was this brilliant essay by activist Mona Eltahawy. It started with the title as the first sentence and ended with: “I’m a bumble bee who carries ideas– pollen– from one place to another in the hope that they will blossom into a wild and challenging orchard. The pollen might be sweet, but I ‘sting like a bee’ because like the great Muhammad Ali, I will not hesitate to knock you out. Confusion is both my right and left hook.” Mona got me. I was hooked. The women fighting for equality in Egypt were outspoken, brave and unapolegetic… kinda sounded like me. And unlike the media who wants to say they are Middle Eastern, I think of Egyptians as Africans and therefore as kindred souls from the same root.
In reading Rebecca Walker’s interview with activist Nawal El Saadawi– an Egyptian physician, novelist, and activist, I could feel her excitement and urgency surge through every single word uttered: “Women and men are in the streets as equals now. We are in the revolution completely… This revolution has unified us. We are not men and women, Christian and Muslim, professional and nonprofessional; we are all Egyptians, and we will not let Egypt burn.”
The 79-year old feminist who was thrown in prison for her activism in 1981 by then President Anwar Sadat penned her memoirs on a roll of toilet paper. No doubt she knows the costs of struggle and is clear that democracy doesn’t come overnight let alone 18 days:
Of course if you know the history of revolutions, you find that after the revolution, often men take over and women’s rights are ignored. In order to keep our rights after the revolution, women must be unified. We must have our women’s union again. We cannot fight individually.
But it seems that not even a week after Mubarak’s resignation and the brutal sexual assault on Lara Logan that the women are fighting individually to be heard and recognized. I was forwarded this story by Dina Zayed and it seems that after only six days of proclaimed freedom, women are already being marginalized and silenced in shaping Egypt’s new democracy: “The lack of women on a committee charged with amending Egypt’s constitution for elections post-Mubarak casts doubt over whether the country can develop into a true democracy,” states the article.
My grrrl Nae told me and others last Friday on Facebook not to dance for joy quite yet because she had a feeling that a military-run country like Egypt saddled with not only sexism, but ethnic racism as well was far from true freedom. Clearly the news of women’s exclusion from the newly reformation party is a sign that she was unfortunately right in her move to not break out the hooka and hummus quite yet.