The relationship of women’s emancipation to liberation parties or movements raises a number of questions. The basic one is whether or not women are making their own revolution in their own name or being handed it by “another revolution.” [1]

Once women move to change their situation, they presumably move against the entire structure of exploitation and move towards the liberation of the entire society. This is not, however, an accepted adage of most left revolutionary movements. Instead, the position of the vanguard group is usually that the aim should be to liberate the society with the help of women, that the process is not possible without their help. This position brings into question the commitment of Western-oriented Marxist parties in the Third World (and beyond) to women’s emancipation and to gender egalitarianism.

This topic is a rich challenge for Western feminists who sometimes turn romantically to the experiences of Third World parties and movements, frequently hoping to see in those liberation movements the integration and full participation of men and women in the creation of new societies. On the surface of things, Third World women have played major roles in liberation struggles. In some rare cases — such as Guinea-Bissau [2] — they have seen their goals incorporated into the revolution during the course of the struggle. There is a great deal for Western feminists to learn from these movements.

But we need to be less romantic and to look at the fact that, with few exceptions, men and women in these struggles have failed to end patriarchal forms of domination, to reintegrate the public and private, to produce the self through sexuality, and to politicize the networks of everyday life. Except for their public roles in the military (in some cases), as wage earners in the labor pool, as members of women’s organizations (often serving as fronts or auxiliaries), or as members of agrarian cooperatives, most Third World women have far less autonomy than men. More precisely, they have limited autonomy in the personal, subjective spheres of their lives. Among other things, the sexual division of labor remains basically the same, with only token urban women moving into traditional male occupations in the official work force.

Sudan’s Example

Within the Middle East and African milieux, the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) and its relationship to the Sudanese Women’s Union typifies this dynamic. A description of Sudan’s political history, the SCP and the Union may be found elsewhere. [3] Here I intend to provoke questions and to offer suggestions emanating from my own inquiry concerning just how potentially revolutionary the SCP has been. My thesis is that the patriarchal ideology, structure, and organization of the Marxist-Leninist SCP may have diminished its role as as a truly dynamic force for socialist transformation. From what I have been able to observe and to glean from discussions with Party members, the organization did not have an adequate understanding of "the subjectivity of oppression, of the connections between personal relations and public political organization, or of the emotional components of consciousness." [4] It would follow, then, that even if the Party had succeeded in its various attempts to gain power, or even if it succeeds in the future, it may fail in the necessary tasks of reintegrating the public and private, or combining theory and practice in this task.

Until 1971, the Sudanese Communist Party was reputed to be one of the largest, strongest, best organized and promising of all the Communist parties of the Middle East and Africa. [5] That would be reason enough to test these issues with Sudan data. I also look at the Sudan example because it had one of the most numerically powerful women’s front organizations on the continent — the 15,000-strong Sudanese Women’s Union. [6] Many activists and observers thought that the Party had enormous revolutionary potential and that, for a Muslim area, Sudanese women seemed to be making great strides. The hope for a progressive society in Sudan appeared to rest with the SCP and its strong affiliates: the women’s organization and the highly organized labor unions (especially the railway workers).

Sudan in this century witnessed the early foundation of nationalist groups and then the eventual formation of strong sectarian-based conservative political parties, including the Muslim Brothers. These have competed, sometimes effectively, with Sudan’s military, which had been in power a total of 22 of Sudan’s 29 years of independence. [7]

In the late 1950s and 1960s, the SCP exhibited enormous potential for mass mobilization. Success in organizing women was recognized as one of the crowning achievements of the Party. Yet today there are only vestiges of the once powerful Women’s Union. Furthermore, despite greater numbers of women in the official work force, the sexual division of labor is more pronounced today than in the past. This is partially a result of the more sophisticated mechanisms and institutions of oppression which have grown out of twentieth-century colonialism and capitalism. Beyond this, I have been struck by the reluctance or inability on the part of any of the progressive organizations to address such issues as the increasingly rigid sexual division of labor, beyond encouraging more women to enter the increasingly capitalistic public sector and working on reforms within that context. [8]

Women’s League to Women’s Union

The SCP, which emerged officially in 1946, was the first political party in Sudan to open its membership to women and to establish women's emancipation as one of its goals. That same year, women members of the Party organized Rabitat al-Nisa’ al-Sudaniyyat (League of Sudanese Women). Founded in Omdurman by mainly urban educated middle-class women, the group aimed loosely at improving the quality of life of Sudanese women. The League founded a night school for training in literacy, sewing, home economics, health issues and the like. A nursery associated with the night school later became a primary school.

This nationalist period of the late 1940s and early 1950s saw the rise and fall of a number of women’s organizations and unions, with leadership struggles and factional disputes following the pattern of national politics during the last decade of the colonial regime. Organizations represented particular class interests and sectarian politics. For example, some of the members and leaders of the Women’s League left the organization and joined Jam‘iyyat Tarqiyat al-Mar’a (Society for the Prosperity of Women), also founded in Omdurman in 1947, and representing the class interests of feudal landowning aristocrats (the Mahdists). [9] The Women’s League was open only to educated women, so of course it remained small (literacy among women probably resting below 5 percent at that time). According to el-Bakri and Kameir,

the basis of these organizations lay largely in the urban middle classes, which meant a general lack of understanding of the real needs of rural women or even of poor urban women, let alone women in remote parts of the country such as the south. They were relatively isolated also from other political groups, such as trade unions, which represented different interests from those of traditional political associations, and which did have specific tactics for change. By the 1950s, and with the intensification of the nationalist movement, a need was once again felt for a new organization for women which would raise their standard and promote their participation. [10]

In 1952, as a response to this need for a broader membership, which was part of the articulated strategy of the SCP, a handful of women founded al-Ittihad al-Nisa’i (Women’s Union). Most of them were communists, and some had helped to form the League. Again, it was a group of educated women — mainly teachers, government officials, students, nurses and the like — and again literacy was made a condition of membership. Once it became clear that such a prerequisite would greatly inhibit mass recruitment, the literacy condition was dropped.

Thus a group of 500 middle-class women expanded into a large mass organization, with branches throughout the country. The Union campaigned for equal pay for equal work, longer maternity leave and other needs of urban workers. By 1955, the Union was publishing Sawt al-Mar’a (The Woman’s Voice), one of the most progressive publications in Sudan’s history. It was a relatively free forum for debating issues such as female genital mutilation (infibulation and cliterodectomy) and facial scarification. A constant contributor to the publication was and is the leading spirit behind the Union, Fatma Ahmed Ibrahim, one of the most progressive voices in Sudan in this century. Although a communist with close ties to the SCP and its leadership, she is also an independent thinker, and she struggled for what little autonomy the Union did achieve.

The SCP and its auxiliary organizations followed the structural pattern of most Soviet-oriented communist parties. That is, the SCP was not considered an integral body in and of itself, but an offshoot of the main (Moscow-line) party. The Women's Union was organized on the same principles: a central committee, local regional cells, and little autonomy. Initially even its leadership was chosen by the Central Committee of the SCP.

As for recruitment, initially the Union relied solely on the SCP for its members. A large portion of these women were the spouses, relatives and women friends of male SCP members, a weak base for any such organization. Also, such heavy reliance on the SCP for recruitment meant that few non-orthodox socialist ideas about women filtered in. Eventually the Union gained some strength on its own (in large share due to the highly skilled Fatma Ahmed Ibrahim). It began to recruit from the population at large, forming regional branches. Membership still reflected mainly low-level and some middle-level professional women (largely elementary and intermediate school teachers) who had some ties to the mainly urban male membership. [11]

Women and the Communist Party

Although this account is critical of the SCP in relation to the Women’s Union, one should bear in mind the overall achievements of the Party. Even Warburg, who attempts to minimize the potential of the Party at every turn, pays this tribute:

[W]hile communism never succeeded in becoming a major force in the Sudan, its impact on Sudanese politics was nonetheless considerable especially during periods of crisis. This was due to three main reasons: Firstly, the penetration of the SCP into the most important sectors of Sudanese society: the cotton growers, the railway workers and the intelligentsia, enabled the party to become an effective pressure group despite its relatively small numbers. Secondly, the SCP provided the only consistent alternative to the sectarian and factional divisions which harassed Sudanese politics ever since independence…. Lastly, the leadership of the SCP, since ‘Abd al-Khaliq Mahjub became secretary-general, was probably the most capable leadership of any communist party in the region. Its flexible attitude towards religion, nationalism, Arab unity, etc., enabled the party to retain its freedom of action…and was the only political force which advocated regional autonomy for the South ever since independence. [12]

Warburg ignores the women’s movement, subsuming it under various catchall categories. This was the first party to open its doors to women, to “teach” them the Marxist-Leninist concept of organization, and, by encouraging them to back public political issues, to politicize women in the pubic domain. Also, the Party brought women into the public arena; offered educated women an outlet for their more enlightened views; and opened its membership to a broad cross-section of the female population, creating a more socially heterogeneous environment for isolated and class-bound women. But none of this related to their private lives: their increasingly undervalued domestic labor, lack of control of their reproductive resources, repression under Islam, and such practices as female genital mutilation.

The integration of women into public political activity was an integral part of the SCP program. After all, a healthy, active Communist Party would not consider itself complete without the involvement of 50 percent of the population. Yet the Women’s Union was a stepchild in birth, formation and structure. And the “woman question” was a non-issue in the overall ideological development of the Party. The main function of the Women’s Union, as seen by the SCP, was to recruit members for the Party. This same process occurred elsewhere with the recruitment of women into military or paramilitary organizations. Algerian women, for instance, were assigned to be the terrorists and saboteurs of the revolution of the 1960s, as substitutes for the dead, imprisoned, exiled or constricted male revolutionaries. [13]

Among women members of the Party or the Union, there was very little consciousness-raising about their oppression as women, or even in terms of their special problems as workers. The issues the Party encouraged women to confront were usually not feminist issues (defined as self-consciousness about women’s special issues). When the Women’s Union did deal with women’s problems, their activities often reinforced traditional roles. The Party leadership held conventional ideas about structures which could be mobilized — unions, student groups and other formal organizations. When women of the Party or Union did address personal, private issues, such as violence against women in the domestic arena or equality in the household, they were either ignored or were accused of “bourgeois feminism” or “bourgeois individualism” — a charge that used to make all leftist women cringe. There were always more “important” issues at hand, such as the immediate goal of subverting or overthrowing the current regime. Like Palestinian or Algerian women, they were told to wait until after the revolution.

After an abortive leftist coup in Sudan in 1971, all political parties were banned except the government’s own Sudanese Socialist Union. The SCP and the Women’s Union went underground. Like most communist parties elsewhere, Sudan’s had always thrived underground and in crises. Not so the Women’s Union. Following the unsuccessful coup, the Numeiri regime eliminated or exiled the top Communist leadership. The beheaded Party was badly exposed and in disarray. The Union was even worse off. Muslim Sudanese women cannot really “go underground.” It is next to impossible for women from “respectable” families (Muslim or Christian) to go to clandestine meetings — usually held late at night and in dubious neighborhoods. And even if they brave these social problems, they are told by the males that their unusual presence in such locations arouses suspicion. For the most part, women were asked to stay away from crucial strategy and survival meetings after 1971.

There were even more profound and potentially long-lasting problems. The lack of politicization, splits among older conservative and younger liberal women, and the general social and political oppression in society contributed to the near demise of the once powerful Women’s Union. Most damaging, perhaps, was the fact that a number of second-rung members left the Union and joined the women’s wing of the Sudanese Socialist Union, taking with them organizational experience and internal information about the SCP and the Union. These women, because of the particular mode of politicization within the Union, had no firm ideological commitment to the SCP or the Union. They had been given few chances for leadership roles and saw women’s problems constantly being given short shrift. They saw the SSU affiliate as an attractive alternative.

In commenting on these defections, the Central Committee of the Party, in its report of the September-November 1971 session, reflected fairly typical male-centered attitudes by blaming the “victim”:

The women’s movement [Union] has been exposed to open subversion and corruption. And despite the facilities rendered by the state, yet the official women’s organization still depends mainly on the cheap propaganda provided by the official mass media and is capitalising on the weaknesses of the democratic women[’s] movement. [14]

True, the women’s branch of the Sudanese Socialist Union coopted the SCP’s women’s organization and manipulated many of its former secondary leaders, greatly affecting the future of the Women’s Union. Leftist critics have been harsh toward these women who, until the 1985 events, formed the “vanguard” of a large bourgeois women’s organization with branches throughout the country. For some time after the decline of the Women’s Union, recriminations from the SCP and self-recriminations dominated the mood of the communist left. Over the last few years, however, some members have begun to realize that the “weaknesses” of the Women’s Union may not have been of their own making. They were, in part, an inherent consequence of the structure and ideology of the SCP: male-centered dogma, ideological rigidity, inequality in the hierarchical party structure, and puritanical morals which had-not even kept abreast of the tone in the society at large. [15]

Culture and Mobilization

The potential for a mass movement emanating from women themselves, as a response to their own oppression, was never considered in the Sudan context. A progressive party should have been reflecting, in its institutions and practices, a vision of a new society. The post-revolutionary society should have been in process before the revolution. A progressive party or an effective Women’s Union should have built on existing socio-economic, consciousness-raising, self-help, experiential, occupational and neighborhood networks.

One sphere of revolutionary potential emanates from workers, peasants, students, intelligentsia and disaffected “minorities” or unequally developed regions. This is true in Sudan as elsewhere. What is overlooked is that “all classes of women understand what their society’s division of labor by sex requires of them: the bedrock of women’s consciousness is the need to preserve life.” [16] A second sphere of revolutionary potential emanates from indigenous structures: women’s popular culture, networks and struggles as workers in the home and in the neighborhood workplace. Collective actions to gain rights and to survive in these arenas may have profound revolutionary consequences in the sense of politicizing the networks of everyday life. Four spheres of female activity, which have been discussed by small groups of feminists in Khartoum, seem to have potential for mobilization.

First, although women are often not enumerated in censuses as workers if they are not "wage-earners" in the formal sector, they comprise a large portion of the labor force. Many of these economic activities are carried out at or near their residences. Not even including the large agrarian and pastoral labor force, where the United Nations claims women play the significant role, Sudanese women are brewers, street vendors, tailors, basketmakers, weavers, potters, needleworkers, domestic servants, midwives, wedding ritual/ceremonial specialists, spiritual experts, ritual mediators, musician/singers, beauticians, shopkeepers, bartenders, prostitutes, market merchants and so on. Many of these jobs are cottage industries, performed at home, in private, or in a closed neighborhood setting. Payment is often in kind or in goods, but many earn irregular wages. There has never been an attempt to organize (or even to recognize) these workers, to institutionalize the informal networks they form, or to incorporate them into a mass movement. Often these are women “outside” the traditional boundaries of Islamic decorum and are thus shunned by the Party. Organizing them or recognizing them would present the Party with a “cultural risk.”

Second, in the marketplace in Omdurman, a large bazaar city across the Nile from Khartoum, there is a special section of the market totally controlled and regulated by women. They are often economically autonomous, and they extend this autonomy into the domestic sphere (unlike the market women of Kumasi in Ghana). They are able to do this through the collective power they have built within their various kin networks as an extension of their workplace. Also, many of them live within walking distance of the market and are at their workplace most of the day, turning the work site into a temporary residence replete with a social network. The interface of kin, residential and occupational networks gives the collectivity of the women’s market the potential for mobilization.

A third area with potential is in the government schools throughout the country. There, thousands of women students reside in hostels, and various self-help, consciousness-raising and emotional support networks and collective economic activities are present. The same is true in the neighborhood collectives of women, some of which take the form of the sunduq (rotating credit ring) or the tawmin (consumer cooperative).

Perhaps it is in a fourth institution, the seemingly retrogressive zar where we see a suggestion of prefigurative political forms upon which to build. This clustering of women for the purpose of helping a possessed “sister” rid herself of her demons — and in the process make demands upon her husband or some other male relative — is a spontaneous occasion for consciousness-raising, self-help and emotional, collective solidarity. The extra-organizational function of the zar is to help women deal with their repressed state and oppressed status within the domestic sphere. It is a healing cult, one that is recognized as specializing in women’s “ailments,” but Pamela Constantinides reminds us that it is more than that: “It offers both the promise of cure and ongoing membership of a common interest, multi-ethnic group, and a widely ramifying network of zar-based contacts.” [17]

Behavior encouraged in the zar gives women a rare chance for uninhibited entertainment and drama. At the zar ceremonies I attended, the protangonists entered states of trance and the possessed exhibited bawdy or lewd behavior not acceptable in Sudanese society. These are often occasions for transvestism and sexual role-switching, with male homosexuals often acting as functionaries, and women playing male roles and being erotic toward other women. Those possessed by their spirits may also insult the males of their family and wear outlandish costumes. But the benefits are even more profound:

There is ample evidence that women actively use this network to form friendship and patron-client relationships, to promote economic transactions, and to offer and gain services. Moreover, once established, the network tends to extend well beyond the actual activities of the cult itself. The reciprocity principle is quite strongly institutionalized in the northern Sudan. [18]

Although we do not usually interpret supernatural rituals as prefigurative political forms, the zar opens our minds to the possibility that there are a number of existing forms upon which women may draw. It is not that the revolution can or should start from the zar! But these indigenous forms, especially one such as the zar, which is already based on protest, often contain qualities for spontaneous revolt. They are experiential, subjective, collective, egalitarian and affective. The zar is a mode of ending the self-subordination of women by forcing men, if only temporarily, to submit to women’s demands. More importantly, perhaps, it also represents subliminal attempts at emancipation of self through sexuality. Temma Kaplan’s case study of Barcelona, 1910-1918, reveals how closely social welfare and female consciousness are linked. “The capacity of local female networks to transcend the purposes for which they were originally formed appeared as women moved further and further away from their own neighborhoods and into the spaces occupied by the government and commercial groups.” [19] I am making the same argument here: that “conservative,” nurturing collective actions have potential for conversion into “public” political action.

Transforming Traditions

There is, of course, the need for a mass movement based on the principles implicit in some of these so-called “traditional” forms. Women in Third World and Western leftist parties and movements have been either the nurturers, the soldiers or the Greek choruses of the revolution. That does not build a revolution which will lead to a totally transformed society; it only perpetuates a bifurcated worldview and concrete reality.

Most imported leftist parties of the Third World paid lip service to adapting to local conditions and traditions. Often they violated these policies. One, however, was universally observed or even preserved — the role of women in such conservative societies as those adhering to Islam. The Sudanese Communist Party did very little tampering with shari‘a law or with the religious traditions as they affected women. Cadres exhibited a stubborn insistence on working within the kind of Islamic framework which divides the sexes in all spheres of life. They were too concerned that such issues as the eradication of female genital mutilation (which is not an Islamic dictate but has become closely associated with Muslim traditionalism) would create a backlash and impede the revolution. We see the same trepidation with regard to the relationship of revolutionary movements to the Catholic Church in Central America, for example.

There has always been a tendency in the SCP to avoid sex/gender conflicts (“sex antagonisms” as they are sometimes referred to in old leftist literature) and to relegate them to the realm of the cultural. And culture was not to be tampered with. This was quite an omission because, as we know very well, “much of the oppression of women takes place ‘in private,’ in areas of life considered ‘personal.’ The causes of that oppression might be social and economic, but these causes could only be revealed and confronted when women challenged the assumptions of their personal life.” [20] Because the Sudanese Communist Party saw politics as something separate from everyday life (as did the Russians, the Chinese, the Cubans and many other movements), and culture as separate from material conditions and political life, the women of the Party and the Union led separate lives from the men. While the theory of the Party stressed production, the “real” world, the economic base and so forth, the practice of men and women members widened the polarity between the private and public domains, between production and reproduction, between the personal and the political.

By the very nature of the relationship of the Women’s Union to its “parent” group, the SCP, progressives were reproducing the relationship of power domination we find in capitalism. By the very hierarchical and elitist nature of the Party itself, with its notion of training professional revolutionaries, an organization in which “theory” has primacy over experience, it is difficult to imagine that the subordination of women could be abolished.

A Sudanese women’s movement which was not established as a stepchild of its male counterpart could have been very effective “to resist an oppression which comes from inequalities of power and confidence in interpersonal relations, and from a hierarchical division of labour.” [21] We are assuming that such women are potentially “sensitive and self-conscious about inequality and hierarchy in the creating of [their]…organizational forms.” [22]

A Sudanese women’s movement which emanated from but radically transformed indigenous structures — women’s popular culture and networks and their struggles as workers in the home and neighborhood — would enable women “to make their own revolution in their own name.” [23] Once women build onto these prefigurative forms, and once they move to change their situation, they move against the entire structure of exploitation.

We in the West have a lot to learn from the forms which the struggles of Third World women may take. And they, in turn, can learn not only from our exported liberal ideas about equal pay for equal work and the like, but from our more profound ideas, such as the emancipation of self through sexuality. It goes without saying that we have different priorities. We have worked at developing our understanding of those differences. Now we need to work on developing our understanding of the overarching themes which would underlie a fully emancipated society.


[1] Judith Stacey, “When Patriarchy Kowtows: The Significance of the Chinese Family Revolution for Feminist Theory,” in Zillah Eisenstein, ed., Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979), p. 338.
[2] See, for example, Stephanie Urdang, Fighting Two Colonialisms: Women in Guinea-Bissau (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979).
[3] Between 1961-1981, I taught and researched in Sudan, living there a total of six years. My links with the Sudanese left are long and profound, and I must here state my clear support for the Sudanese Communist Party, oftentimes the only progressive voice in Sudan. My information is based on many conversations and interviews with party members and fellow travelers, whom I cannot name for obvious reasons. Consult footnotes 5 and 9 for references to information on the SCP and women’s organizations.
[4] Sheila Rowbotham, Lynne Segal and Hilary Wainwright, Beyond the Fragments: Feminism and the Making of Socialism (London: Merlin, 1979), p. 7.
[5] Many sources comment on the strength and influence of the SCP. Among them are: Gabriel Warburg, Islam, Nationalism and Communism in a Traditional Society: The Case of Sudan (London: Frank Cass, 1978). Warburg writes that “the accurate number of SCP members is not known. According to the World Today, London, January 1965, there were 10,000 party members at that time.” (p. 234) Fatima Babiker Mahmoud remarks that “the Communist Party of the Sudan is the most influential revolutionary organization in the country and one of the leading Communist Parties in Africa and the Middle East,” in The Sudanese Bourgeoisie: Vanguard of Development? (London and Khartoum: Khartoum University Press and Zed, 1984), p. 130. For descriptions of the SCP or leftist politics in general, consult J. M. A. Bakheit, Communist Activities in the Middle East Between 1919-1927, with Special Reference to Egypt and the Sudan (Khartoum: Sudan Research Unit, University of Khartoum, 1968); Salah el-Din el-Zain el-Tayeb, The Student Movement in Sudan, 1940-1970 (Khartoum: Khartoum University Press, 1971); Saad ed-Din Fawzi, The Labour Movement in the Sudan, 1946-1955 (London, 1957); Carole Collins, “Colonialism and Class Struggle in Sudan,” MERIP Reports 46 (1976); and various communist sources such as The African Communist (London); Mohamed Sulaiman, Ten Years of the Sudanese Left (in Arabic) (Wad Medani: al-Fajr Books, 1971) [Arabic]; SCP Publications, A People’s Marxism and Problems of the Sudanese Revolution (Khartoum: Socialist Publishing House, 1968) [Arabic]; ‘Abd al-Khaliq Mahjub, Lamahat min ta’rikh al-hizb al-shuyu‘i al-sudani (Dar al-Fikr al-Ishtiraki, 1960); and the Party organ, al-Midan.
[6] Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, “Women and Social Liberation: The Sudan Experience,” in Three Studies on National Integration in the Arab World (North Dartmouth, MA: Association of Arab-American University Graduates, Information Paper 12, 1974). She relies on Fatima Babiker Mahmoud’s unpublished thesis, “The Role of the Sudanese Women’s Union in Sudanese Politics” (Khartoum: University of Khartoum, 1971) and on a booklet by Nafisa Ahmed el-Amin, The Sudanese Woman Throughout the History of Her Struggle (Khartoum: Government Press, 1972).
[7] See “Sudan’s Revolutionary Spring,” MERIP Reports 135 (September 1985) for information on the military. Also, one of the best progressive pieces written on Sudan is Carole Collins’ earlier article in MERIP Reports in 1976. Much valuable material on Sudan’s military is in Ruth First’s Power in Africa (London: Pantheon, 1970).
[8] I carried out fieldwork on the alienated Sudanese woman worker in the summer of 1981, supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship.
[9] For details on Sudanese women’s organizations I have relied on Fatima Babiker Mahmoud, Nafisa Ahmed al-Amin and some of the summaries of these two by Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban. Another major work is by Fatma Ahmed Ibrahim, Tariqna ila al-Tahasur (Khartoum, n.d.). One of the best recent works which has a section on women’s organizations is Z. B. el-Bakri and E. M. Kameir, “Aspects of Women’s Political Participation in Sudan,” International Social Science Journal 35/4 (1983), pp. 605-623.
[10] El-Bakri and Kameir, p. 619.
[11] Information from confidential interviews with women communists and/or sister travelers.
[12] Warburg, p. 166.
[13] Juliette Minces, “Women in Algeria,” in Lois Beck and Nikki Keddie, eds., Women in the Muslim World (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978).
[14] Warburg, p. 211.
[15] Potential new members, especially women, are screened for moral behavior. Members of ill repute would reflect negatively on a Party struggling within an Islamic framework. In short, women of the SCP and Women’s Union must have acceptable social reputations, supposedly to appease male Muslims in the society at large.
[16] Temma Kaplan, “Female Consciousness and Collective Action: The Case of Barcelona, 1910-1918,” in Nannerl Keohane, Michelle Rosaldo and Barbara Gelpi, eds., Feminist Theory: A Critique of Ideology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 56.
[17] Pamela Constantinides, “Women’s Spirit Possession and Urban Adaptation,” in Patricia Caplan and Janet Bujra, eds., Women United, Women Divided: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Female Solidarity (London: Tavistock, 1978), p. 195.
[18] Ibid., p. 198.
[19] Kaplan, p. 74.
[20] Rowbotham et al, p. 13.
[21] Ibid., p. 12.
[22] Ibid., p. 13.
[23] Stacey, p. 338.

How to cite this article:

Sondra Hale "The Wing of the Patriarch," Middle East Report 138 (January/February 1986).

For 50 years, MERIP has published critical analysis of Middle Eastern politics, history, and social justice not available in other publications. Our articles have debunked pernicious myths, exposed the human costs of war and conflict, and highlighted the suppression of basic human rights. After many years behind a paywall, our content is now open-access and free to anyone, anywhere in the world. Your donation ensures that MERIP can continue to remain an invaluable resource for everyone.


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