In my women’s studies class last night, we were discussing negative stereotypes about feminists. I realized that a lot of men will say things like “feminists want to tear men down” or “they want to pull us down.” They realize that society places a premium on men (they’re above women in their metaphors) but still don’t see that as a problem.
That’s the real reason feminists are hated so much. Men don’t want to lose their privilege.
(Yeah, this is like the most basic thing possible, but it was such an interesting conversation last night I wanted to share it.)
The ugliness and ridiculousness of the army and their defenders’ arguments this week has been hard to countenance.
Much of the debate has centered on the shocking image of the young woman dragged, half undressed and mercilessly beaten in the street by soldiers. The denial, misogyny and hostility on display has been in direct proportion to the impossibility of defending this conduct.
A sheikh with the Gamaa Islamiya exemplified the worst of Islamist bigotry and hypocrisy by telling Al Ahram a few days ago that “real Egyptian men don’t follow April 6 women into the street” and if people are concerned for women’s honor they should worry about girls sleeping overnight in tents with boys and dancing.
The focus on women — their safety, their “honor,” their participation — has brought out the worst in the counter-revolutionaries. In the pro-army Abbasiya protest yesterday, people chanted: “From the ladies of Egypt to Ghada..” — addressing this brave young woman, beaten by the army — “Your end will be annihilation.” They also reiterated the perversely common argument that the woman in the blue bra entrapped soldiers into beating and stripping her in the street. The event was headlined by Tawfeeq Okasha, a weird populist TV station owner (and former Mubarak supporter) who judging by this video — in which he creepily tells activists Nawara Negm and Asmaa Mahfouz that he has guys all ready and lined up to marry them and teach them to calm down and love their country — is araving psychopath and misogynist. Just for good measure, the Abbaseya demo also reportedly featured posters of popular private TV channel presenters Mona Shazly, Reem Maged and others with nooses around their necks.
The loons in Abbaseya are an extreme end of popular opinion (albeit one that is being dangerously encouraged). Many other Egyptians are shamed, shocked and scared by the army’s violence towards citizens, and (although I think by now almost everyone knows that something terrible happened Downtown last week) would prefer to believe that it didn’t happen — or that those it happened to somehow deserved it. Egypt is still fighting the same battle, a year on: a battle over whether all its citizens deserve safety and dignity and whether those who are in power can be held accountable. The denial and incoherent rage being directed at protesters — and at those women who, according to these arguments, chose to embarrass themselves and their country by getting themselves nearly killed in the street by soldiers — shows how difficult and threatening this kind of change will be.
Sadly, these sentiments are not just present in fringe groups. There’s this pervasive idea that protesters are “asking for it,” that they should know their limits with regards to the army forces. Even people who agree with the protesters’ demands and who believe the protesters have a right to be there think it’s a matter of imprudence on the part of the protesters and that they should just go home.
There are also so many pointless analyses of this kind of violence. One I’ve commonly heard is “how come the woman [who bears the ridiculous title of the “blue bra woman”] was not wearing other layers? How was it that on a cold day, a niqabi woman wore only a bra under her ‘abaya [gown]?” followed by an implicit “this does not cohere with my most trivial conceptions of the world and therefore cannot be true.”
Such thinking is dangerous and is not conducive to building a society wherein people possess full human rights and can exercise them without being regarded with contempt by the rest of the population. I do not understand the inclination to relinquish any of the empowerment Egyptians have gained and can possibly continue to gain by deferring to vacuous notions of prudence.
Basically, all of the anti-choice groups have invited Republicans to hate on women for a few hours. Should be incredibly depressing. They’re already promising a Personhood law and overruling the Supreme Court if it denies it.