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Gendered power: women, masculinism and the Arab spring Week 15 2013-4. Money, Sex and Power. Lecture outline. What is the Arab Spring? The case of the Egyptian Spring - Why the uprisings - Women in the uprisings in January and February 2011
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Gendered power: women, masculinism and the Arab spring Week 15 2013-4 Money, Sex and Power
Lecture outline • What is the Arab Spring? • The case of the Egyptian Spring - Why the uprisings - Women in the uprisings in January and February 2011 - The marginalisation of women: - International Women’s Day 2011 and after • Explaining women’s marginalisation: masculinism and the breakdown of connective patriarchy
What is/was the Arab Spring • ‘Arab Spring’ = series of anti-government uprisings and (sometimes armed) rebellions • Started in December 2010, in Tunisia • Spread across the Middle East and North African to countries such as Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain Yemen and Syria • Most uprisings were quashed either through force (Yemen, Bahrain) or through the offer of change/concessions (Morocco, Algeria). • In some places they led to a more dramatic turn of events (Libya, Syria) • Exceptionally they led to a more or less successful solution (Tunisia)
Why ‘Arab Spring’? • Reference to: • Czechoslovakia 1968 – ‘Prague Spring’ • Further back in history to French revolutionary uprisings of 1848 • Spring – reawakening – flowering of new thinking and action
The Egyptian ‘Revolution’: 25th January – 11th February 2011 Against the autocratic and repressive regime of President Hosni Mubarak Demands for political freedom + justice A movement of demonstrations, strikes, occupations, riots and non-violent civil disobedience Protesters = all social, religious and political backgrounds. Young people and old ; manual workers and doctors or university lecturers; anti-capitalist and feminist organisations but also nationalist ones; men and women Asmaa Mahfouz: the spark that lit the torch?
Women in the streets and squares • Women in their thousands went to Tahrir Square standing side by side with men, calling for the end of Mubarak’s rule • the freedom women experienced at Tahrir Square made them return again and again, bringing along their friends, sisters and mothers … • active in treating wounded protesters, speaking with the media, defending demonstrators from attacks by pro-regime thugs
What did women demand? Women’s demands in the uprisings, like men’s, were for: • political freedoms • social justice • not women’s rights though they believed that the demand for these rights were embedded in demands for political freedom and social justice • The key slogan of the 25 January Revolution was simple after all: • “The people want the downfall of the regime”.
Economic demands Demands for: • An end to high food prices • More jobs • Higher wages • No more cuts in welfare
Impact on families • Male unemployment/underemployment, low wages and rising cost of living coupled with humiliating and brutal police practices was a deeply emasculating experience for men • Traditional’ roles in families for men and women were undermined and this was experienced by many as humiliating and disempowering
Protesters and gender relations 25th January – 11th February 2011 Countless blogs, newspaper articles etc. which describe relations, during the 18-day uprising, between men and women as: • friendly, egalitarian, mutually respectful and supportive • given the millions of people out there, it is surprising but true that barely any incidents of violence or sexual harassment were perpetrated, amongst the protesting crowds, by men towards women • The only violence that occurred, came from the security forces - directed to both men and women
After 11th February 2011 After 18 days of people protest: • on 11th February, the President, Hosni Mubarak and his government forced to step down • in the political vacuum, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces – SCAF – took power • Dissolution of Egyptian constitution and parliament • Declaration that elections would take place in 6 months
Exclusion of women Although women had made up 20% - 50% of protesters, they were not being involved as part of the political deliberations and negotiations which took place between various contending parties and the Supreme Military Council (SMC) Across Egyptian and Middle Eastern histories, women have participated in national resistance, protest, and political action only to be excluded from newly formed governments. None of Egypt’s large feminist organisation (New Woman Movement or the Women for Democracy Movement) invited to participate in talks about how a new Egypt would be
And in the streets … • Levels of sexual harassment, violence, rape increased. Violence was perpetrated by protesters as well as armed forces who were supposedly there to protect people • The violence against women was mostly infamously symbolised and captured on the world’s TV cameras by what has come to be known as the attack on the blue-bra woman • Attack on women on 8th March 2011 IWD • Women told to go home and look after home and children
The political attack on women’s rights New parliament of November 2011 dominated by Muslim brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and Salafist Al-Nour Party Attack on women’s rights included lobbying to: • Repeal khul’ law allowing women to ask for a divorce in return for relinquishing their financial rights in marriage • Cancelling Penal code protectingwomen from sexual harassment • Cancelling women’s right to travel alone without consent of a male relative • Abolishing18 year legal age for marriage.
The patriarchal bargain Hafez (2013) Relationship between Egyptian people and rulers characterised by the “patriarchal bargain”. In classic middle-eastern patriarchy, older patriarch assumes responsibility for family members. The honour, prestige and power of the patriarch derive from his ability to provide for as well as control and ensure obedience of the members of the group. Abargain is struck—not simply one of reciprocal exchange (one of allegiance in return for sustenance) but also one in which inequality is maintained, internalised and ensured through methods of control Mubarak saw himself as father of Egyptian people
Breakdown of the patriarchal bargain • Mubarak had promised prosperity over 30 year rule • But Egyptians had suffered years of unemployment, food price rises, low wages and the inability to maintain their families • Mubarak had in fact failed to keep to his side of the patriarchal bargain of looking after the children • Consequently, the ‘children’ began to question and challenge his authority. But challenging the father’s authority brought repression and brutality, especially on men • Masculine identity of Egyptian men felt increasingly fractured
Impact on gender relations Hafez argues that where masculine identities are fractured, there is an impact on what she calls ‘connective patriarchy’ between men and women where normally there is accommodation, support and even love. She refers to Connells’ (1995) framework of 4 forms of masculinity which in Egypt exist along age, class and power lines : • Hegemonic • Complicitous • Marginalised • subordinated
Impact on gender relations In Connell’s framework, these forms of masculinity are related to degrees of access to patriarchal benefits. Menwho aremarginalized/subordinated,like young Egyptian men, have least access to patriarchal benefits. The more they are subordinated, denied patriarchal benefits, and associated with females, the more extreme their gender differentiation from females will be. Hence, women become easily targeted victims who compensate them for their loss of patriarchal benefits andtheir loss of masculinity. Violence towardsand abuse and harassmentof women are the outcome of masculinity built on deprivation and is therefore one of the factors underlying the marginalisation of women in Egypt following the initial period of the Arab Spring.
What is to be done? • The break-down of connective patriarchy between men and women at this level is also reflected by the undermining of women’s position and rights at the state level. • Given this situation, Egyptian feminist organisations are fighting the negative impact of the breakdown of connective patriarchy and arguing that other forms of connectiveness between women and men need to be constructed that are not framed within the terms of patriarchy and patriarchal relations.