Egyptian riot grrls: Finding the feminine face of fury
For Egyptian women, the decision to fully participate in the mass demonstrations that toppled Mubarak was also a decision to take back their streets - the very streets where sexual harassment and stalking were rampant.
MUCH has been
aflutter on Twitter about the very visible presence of women among the
protests that have taken
within these frames does not necessarily paint a full picture, since
as Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights activist Ghada Shahbandar
claims, the crowd in downtown
Although they are less prevalent, some efforts have been made to depict the role of women in this popular uprising. The Global Post put together a slideshow on the 'Women of Egypt' among the March of Millions in Tahrir Square, and a compilation of photographs from various sources can be found on sawt al niswa, a self-described 'feminist webspace'.
A quick look through the reels of these images reveals the feminine side of fury and eliminates any remaining shred of doubt that the issues of unemployment and corruption that are widely cited as the primary causes for this unrest affect only men.
Whether the faces of these women are framed by tightly wrapped black scarves pinned neatly to billowing abayas, or by an unruly sweep of curls, it is striking that these women have found the very streets where sexual harassment and relentless stalking once ran rampant suddenly transformed into safe havens, even amid the recent violence that has broken out.
cry against riot police, a young Egyptian woman in a bright pink headscarf
puts Nancy Sinatra to shame* by leading a call and response that booms,
'What does Mubarak want anyways? All Egyptians to kiss his feet? No
Mubarak! We will not! Tomorrow we'll trample you with our shoes!' And
although 'the bravest girl in
Aside from making a push strictly for political reform, these protests appear to bode well for the future of women within Egyptian civil society. To be sure, it was 27-year-old human resource specialist Esraa Abdel Fattah who was largely credited with organising the April 6 Movement in 2008 which quickly developed into a 70,000-strong strike that spanned the nation. Catalysed by textile workers in state-owned factories in El-Mahalla El-Kubra around the issues of low wages and rising food costs, the effective use of social media technologies by Abdel Fattah to promote the cause earned her the nickname 'the Facebook Girl' - as well as three weeks in Cairo's Al Kanater prison.
While some might write off their efforts as the exception or else aestheticise them beyond any real import, the fact remains that Egyptian women˙have decided to take back their streets - proving they are as much a part of the protests as the men who once made them wary to step out into them.
Ahmed recently received an MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies while
studying at the
* In her 1966 hit 'These boots are made for walkin'', American pop music artiste Nancy Sinatra sang, 'These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do/one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.'
*Third World Resurgence No. 245/246, January/February 2011, p 58