Women

“This Is Our Square”

In June 2013 popular anger, excitement and apprehension rippled through Cairo. Lines at gas stations snaked into major roadways, paralyzing traffic. Artists occupied the Ministry of Culture to oppose a new minister from the Muslim Brothers’ Freedom and Justice Party who had fired respected cultural leaders. Artists, including the Cairo Opera ballet troupe, performed in solidarity in front of the Ministry, in a pointed retort to a member of the salafi Nour Party who said that ballet “provoke[ed] people to immorality.” Determined to oust then-president Muhammad Mursi, citizens signed the Tamarrud (Rebellion) petition calling for early presidential elections and planned to attend anti-Mursi demonstrations on June 30.

Gender and Counterrevolution in Egypt

The 18 days of revolution beginning on January 25, 2011 united Egypt. A wide range of citizens, men and women, veiled and unveiled, young and old, middle-class and working-class, stood behind the goals of ending the 30-year rule of Husni Mubarak and stopping the planned succession of his son to the presidency, as well as winning bread, freedom, social justice and dignity. The military supported this national consensus and pushed its aims forward.

Gender and the Revolutions

How is gender related to revolutions? What is the connection between “gender” and women or, for that matter, between gender and women and men? If gender is generally understood to be the social construction of sexual difference, what explains the differences in gendered identities across cultures or over time? And in thinking about gender, how can observers avoid the naturalization of the familiar, or the demonization of gender relations that seem foreign?

Football Matters in Jordan

Curtis Ryan 06.24.2013

Celebrations rocked Gaza and the West Bank when Muhammad ‘Assaf, who grew up in the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza, won the region-wide singing competition known as “Arab Idol.” But spontaneous street parties also broke out in many other parts of the Arab world, including in neighborhoods across Jordan.

The Challenges for Women Working at Iraqi Universities

Ten years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, Iraqi women suffer from pervasive hardships — the overall lack of security, gender-based violence, the feminization of poverty and poor access to basic services. Women working at universities face all these challenges, as well as others particular to higher education.

Permanent Transients

“We do not know our destiny. The Jordanian government might ask us to leave at any moment,” said Hana, a widow in her fifties. “There is no rest for a guest.”

A Separation at Iranian Universities

On August 6, with the new academic year approaching, the government-backed Mehr News Agency in Iran posted a bulletin that 36 universities in the country had excluded women from 77 fields of study. The reported restrictions aroused something of an international uproar.

Tie a Pink Ribbon

Obligatory displays of Komen pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month continue their spread beyond women’s accessories and yogurt containers into the masculine redoubts of the NFL and even the US military. While NFL players and coaches will spend the month sporting pink accessories, sailors in the South China Sea created a human ribbon to promote awareness of the disease.

The Struggle of Devout Turkish Women for Full Citizenship

In the spring of 2011, amidst vociferous debates over the prospect of a third term in office for the “Islam-friendly” Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, a group of devout women launched an initiative called “No Headscarves, No Vote.” The activists demanded that all Turkish political parties include women wearing headscarves on their electoral lists. No fewer than 60 percent of Turkish women cover their heads in public, and the activists believed it was time these women had a place in formal politics. At the time, in fact, 50 of Parliament’s 550 members were women, and 30 of the women represented the AKP, but none of them wore a headscarf.

Tawakkul Karman as Cause and Effect

Political activist Tawakkul Karman has brought Yemen’s revolution to New York, speaking directly on October 20 with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and organizing rallies at the United Nations headquarters in lower Manhattan, the largest of which is slated for the afternoon of October 21. The purpose of her visit is to keep pressure on the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution that reflects the aspirations of the overwhelming numbers of Yemenis who have sustained peaceful calls for change for the nine long months since protests began in late January. Arriving newly anointed by the Nobel Committee, which named her as one of three recipients of the 2011 Peace Prize, Karman fears — as does much of the Yemeni opposition, in its many forms — that the UN will merely reiterate the approximate parameters of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative put forth in April. That plan, which has enjoyed support from the United States, as well as Yemen’s GCC neighbors, would allow legal immunity for President ‘Ali ‘Abdallah Salih, whose crimes against Yemeni protesters have multiplied in the months since the spring. For this reason, Karman will end her week in New York as she has ended so many weeks in Sanaa in recent months — at the head of a protest.  

Kholoussy, For Better, For Worse

Hanan Kholoussy, For Better, For Worse: The Marriage Crisis That Made Modern Egypt (Stanford, 2010).

The Fiction (and Non-Fiction) of Egypt’s Marriage Crisis

Hanan Kholoussy 12.13.2010

In August 2006, a 27-year old pharmacist started blogging anonymously about her futile hunt for a husband in Mahalla al-Kubra, an industrial city 60 miles north of Cairo in the Nile Delta. Steeped in satirical humor, the blog of this “wannabe bride” turned into a powerful critique of everything that is wrong with how middle-class Egyptians meet and marry. The author poked fun at every aspect of arranged marriage — from the split-second decisions couples are expected to make after hour-long meetings about their lifetime compatibility to the meddling relatives and nosy neighbors who introduce them to each other. She joked about her desperation to marry in a society that stigmatizes single women over the age of 30. She ridiculed bachelors for their unrealistic expectations and inflated self-images while sympathizing with the exorbitant financial demands placed on would-be husbands. Thirty suitors and four years later, the pharmacist remains proudly single at 32, refusing to settle for just any man.

Behind Egypt’s Deep Red Lines

Mariz Tadros 10.14.2010

For six weeks, Egypt has been sitting on top of a sectarian volcano. Protesters, men and women, have been exiting mosques following prayers almost every single Friday since the beginning of September to demand the “release” of Camillia Shehata, a Coptic priest’s wife who they believe has converted to Islam and is now incarcerated by the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Enloe, Nimo’s War, Emma’s War

Cynthia Enloe, Nimo’s War, Emma’s War: Making Feminist Sense of the Iraq War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010).

War is usually presented as all about hard power and weaponry. In school, students are taught about generals, battlefields, advances in armaments and innovations in military strategy. The historical figures associated with wars whose pictures are featured in textbooks are overwhelmingly male. Women’s experiences are considered to be of secondary importance in understanding armed conflict.

The Day After “Victory”: Kuwait’s 2009 Election and the Contentious Present

The May 2009 parliamentary election in Kuwait produced a number of surprising results. Occurring on the fourth anniversary of the achievement of full political rights for Kuwaiti women, the outcome attracting the most commentary was the victory of four female candidates. But there were other happenings of note. Doctrinaire religious candidates ran behind women in several districts. In fact, all of the “political groups” that function as Kuwait’s substitute for political parties did poorly on May 16, whether their orientation is center-left or religious. Even more telling is the fact that so many candidates, including several who had run as group representatives in previous elections, chose to run as independents.

Cosmetic Surgery and the Beauty Regime in Lebanon

In May 2007, the First National Bank of Lebanon embarked on a unique media campaign. Some 900 billboards in Arabic and English sprouted up offering loans, not to buy a home or to pay tuition, but to “get the makeover of your dreams.” The corresponding magazine advertisement featured a blond-haired, blue-eyed woman beckoning readers to “have the life you’ve always wanted.” Why would the bank think it would find takers? Answers marketing director George Nasr, “Plastic surgery is a cultural issue. We have been raised on always looking our best.”

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