Jan 312011

In order to fully understand what is happening in both Tunisia and Egypt, it is crucial to understand both the role  of women in the uprisings and how the political turmoil in both countries is impacting women’s lives.

Several pieces have been written about Tunisia, here and here that shed some light.  Iranian women activists have also  published a very inspiring letter of support for women in Tunisia, which reads in part,

We are particularly interested and concerned with the impact of these developments on women’s rights and women’s equality. We recognize that Tunisian women’s rights activists have not forgotten their struggle and their major achievements for women’s rights. Tunisian women’s rights activists should know that what they manage to accomplish in their quest for democracy and the equality of women will significantly impact the region and serve as a model for us all. Today, a gain for the women of Tunisia is a gain for all the nations in the region and for all women in Islamic countries. So today, like the people of Tunisia, we harbor much hope.

We hope that key actors will not compromise on women’s rights, and that women are involved fully in the process of defining the future of a democratic Tunisia. We hope that Tunisian citizens will not only safeguard their achievements with respect to women’s rights, but take steps to ensure the full equality of women under the law, and their equal participation in civic and political life. We hope that the achievements of the Tunisian people will work to inspire all the nations and peoples of our region to take concrete steps toward ensuring the rule of the people by the people, the protection of the rights of women and the equality of all citizens.

Regarding Egypt, Echidne of the Snakes has a thought provoking essay reminding us that not everyone fairs equally well in the aftermath of revolutions and that it is not yet known whether the changes will be beneficial to women and Amy Goodman has this excellent interview with Egyptian feminist Nawal El Saadawi:


See also this earlier piece on FPN.  I will update this post as further analysis and information becomes available regarding women and the changes taking place in Egypt as well as Tunisia.

 January 31, 2011  Posted by on January 31, 2011 1 Response »
Jan 302011

For the last several days, I’ve been keeping an eye out for information about the role women are playing in the uprising in Egypt.  There is very little information available about this yet.  In one of the few pieces that have come out, Double XX tells us that women have in fact had a very strong presence in what has been happening,

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.

One of the protest organizers is a woman: Political activist Esraa Abdel Fattah, whose 15-day detention in 2008 for her activism made her a symbol of resistance. But Abdel Fattah’s position at the helm of the movement did not previously mean a large female presence.

As things get more violent however, women are being urged not to attend because of the safety risks,

Now organizers urged women to keep their distance. Wednesday’s demonstrations were much smaller, and much more male-dominated.

And indeed, when you see pictures on the news, they mostly show men.

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.

This second picture however is a revolution won- it’s a screenshot from a video of a news report–Martha Radditz and Christiane Amanpour talking about Egypt with Diane Sawyer on ABC–three women talking about a serious international news story, no men in the room–ten years ago that wouldn’t have happened.

Hopefully we will learn more about the role of women in the events that are taking place in Egypt during the coming days.

One last point that I think is critical–it is important to note that unrest of this kind is a significant risk to women because what protections they would normally have  against sexual assault and other crimes, while significantly lacking to begin with, is seriously compromised and access to medical services, particularly for maternal care is in all likelihood severely hampered right now.

 January 30, 2011  Posted by on January 30, 2011 3 Responses »
Jan 272011

For those of you wondering why so little blogging of late, the answer is that I am bogged down in several large projects, most notably getting ready to move and in March I will have a number of pieces related to Women’s History Month which I’m working on now, although I will not be able to do as many IWD posts as I’ve done in the past.  For now, I do want to share some links to stories that I think will be of interest even though I don’t have time to write about them:

 January 27, 2011  Posted by on January 27, 2011 Comments Off on Where’s The Blog?
Jan 202011

Forgive my for not standing up and clapping, but pledging support now  for Aung San Suu Kyi isn’t all that impressive. Imagine support, real support, during all the years she was imprisoned.   We could have, should have done more, much more if we truly cared about human rights instead of worrying about our relationship with the Myanmar regime. In this case, a phone call is an inadequate measure of support.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton telephoned Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday, marking the first U.S. Cabinet-level conversation with the Nobel Peace laureate in more than 15 years, according to U.S. officials and Burma experts…

…Clinton wrote to Suu Kyi after the Burmese leader was released from house arrest in November and followed up with Wednesday’s call, in which she “pledged to support [Suu Kyi] in her efforts to strengthen civil society and democracy in Burma.”

This comment at the end of the article by Tom Malinowski, director of Human Rights Watch’s Washington office has it right:

“I’m very glad that Secretary Clinton reached out to Aung San Suu Kyi. It’s a good way of showing American solidarity with her. But ultimately, what Suu Kyi needs from the U.S. is action.”

 January 20, 2011  Posted by on January 20, 2011 Comments Off on Sec. Clinton Calls Aung San Suu Kyi And Pledges Support–Don’t Hold Your Breath
Jan 172011

Last week I raised the question of whether misogyny was involved in Jared Loughner’s targeting of Cong. Giffords.  An excerpt from a lengthy New York Times profile of Loughner suggests that he definitely had some deeply misogynist beliefs,

At a small local branch of a major bank, for example, the tellers would have their fingers on the alarm button whenever they saw him approaching.

It was not just his appearance — the pale shaved head and eyebrows — that unnerved them. It was also the aggressive, often sexist things that he said, including asserting that women should not be allowed to hold positions of power or authority.

One individual with knowledge of the situation said Mr. Loughner once got into a dispute with a female branch employee after she told him that a request of his would violate bank policy. He brusquely challenged the woman, telling her that she should not have any power.

From what has been reported, misogyny was not the only factor in why Loughner went after Giffords, but it is pretty clear that indeed he did harbor a deep disregard for women, so it is not only reasonable but necessary to fully examine that aspect of his motivation in our efforts to understand this horrific event.

(h/t to Ariel Dougherty of the Media Equity Collaborative for bringing this to my attention.)


Addenda:  And then there is this,

Federal investigators found the words “Die Cops” and “Die Bitch” scrawled on a letter from U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’s office in the home of the shooting suspect, a sheriff’s department official said Tuesday night.

Notably, the above was in the Wall Street Journal last week, and on 60 Minutes last night. So even though these indications that there was an element of misogyny involved have been reported, the documented woman-hatred is being almost entirely ignored in the analysis that has, for the most part focused on mental health and the damaging impact of violent rhetoric. Both are valid parts of this story, but the misogyny that is clearly a part of what happened is being left in large measure unexamined.

Again h/t to Ariel Dougherty for pointing this out as well, I was not able to spend much time on this last week and would not have seen these reports otherwise, always grateful for the assist.

 January 17, 2011  Posted by on January 17, 2011 9 Responses »