Checking in with the Women of Egypt
I was happy to open the latest issue of The New Yorker to find more about women in Egypt. As the world continues to add more countries to the list of those currently embroiled in democratic protest, we cannot let the latest headlines make us forget about places like Egypt, where many foreign observers probably assume an end to its daily presence in the headlines means the revolution was a success. End of story.
However, as Egypt negotiates its transition to democracy, there are many issues still at play, especially for traditionally-marginalized populations like women. The New Yorker piece, entitled “Postcard from Egypt: Rebellion” by Jenna Krajeski, is an important reminder that the very women who took part in the protests that brought down the Mubarak regime are still at work.
“The post-revolution committee to revise the constitution is all male, and [Nawal] El Saadawi, who has been called the godmother of Egyptian feminism, was angry. “The blood of the women killed in the revolution was still wet, and we were being betrayed,” she said. It was time to form a union.”
It is significant that these women are organizing across generations. Elsewhere in Africa, like Ghana, women have had difficulties bridging age divisions to form a cohesive collective identity stable enough to mount political action. This problem is not confined to places like Africa, where age cohorts are often a significant social cleavage, however. For example, older generations who took part in the feminist movement complain that young women are not grateful enough for the doors they’ve opened for their younger counterparts, while young women often have the (misguided) perception that the word “feminist” is the mark of an irrational, complaining “bra-burner.”
Women are following Ed Saadawi because of her experience being an activist for women, but she also acknowledges how younger generations have contributed to the recent movement:
“I love the new social networking,” El Saadawi said. “Things happen so fast!”
We all have something to learn from one another: the younger from the older, the older from the younger, and Western women from Egyptian women.