Archives for posts with tag: nawal el saadawi

Canoneers: spring is here! In with the new! Etc! In that spirit, we’ve come to you, dear readers, to ask, “What are we reading now?” List your favorite feminist/womanist/social justice books and blogs in the comments, and help everyone update their spring reading lists. Specifically we’re looking for hidden gems. Maybe your awesome — but oddly, not famous — friend writes an awesome blog? Maybe you’re reading an under-celebrated feminist essayist? Let us know! Oh and self-promote, self-promote, self-promote!

Mia: As for books, I’m currently reading Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, just like everybody else around here. (I read somewhere that it’s the first book that really talks about women’s lives, which is horrifying, considering it wasn’t published until 1962.) I just finished Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero, which is a brutal little book — that is to say, you’ll finish it in one sitting and you’ll cry several times. I’m working on Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, which is a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, and tells the story of Mr. Rochester’s Creole wife before she was locked in the attic. Oh and I finished Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton a few weeks ago; it’s noteworthy for honestly depicting the hard lives of the Victorian working class. Speaking of Gaskell and Bronte, I’m also halfheartedly attempting (because there’s too much on my plate already) the former’s The Life of Charlotte Bronte, which is the first biography of a female writer written by another female writer.

Blog-wise, I’m naturally reading everything. But a few blogs I’ve recently started following regularly are What Tami Said (she writes really smartly about gender, race and sometimes books, which of course we love), Lady Journos (it aggregates news stories, old and new, by women) and the Pursuit of Harpyness (I’ve actually been following these ladies for a while, but I have to give them a shout-out for regularly featuring poets).

Lindsay: I will admit that, after reading her Canonball post earlier this week, I spent much of Tuesday afternoon reading and rereading all of my dear friend Laura Z.’s blog and stifling giggles at my desk. Required reading for all. I’d also like to put in a plug for Alyx Vesey’s blog Feminist Music Geek, which is dependably amazing but I will give out an extra special shout-out to her recent post about Odd Future. And, like many other a Canonball writer, I have recently become enamored with Molly Lambert’s pieces on This Recording, although with news of her recent departure from the site I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

As far as dead trees go, right now I am reading Eileen Myles’s totally delectable Inferno (A Poet’s Novel). It’s one of those books that I like so much that I feel I have to give the sanctity of proper reading conditions: never on the subway, never when somebody else has the TV on, only in complete and total silence because then and only then can you become properly enmeshed in Myles’s language. It has been slow-going because I’m treating this way, but that’s a good thing because I don’t want it to end. I also just finished up Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider; I’ll save most of my thoughts for when we discuss it as our next book club selection, but suffice to say (spoilers) I loved it. And, aside from all this lady business, I have been reading a collection of journal entries and letters written by Yves Klein, upon whom I have such a humongous brain-crush. For a pick-me-up, I have been revisiting a letter he wrote in 1958 to the President of the International Conference for the Detection of Nuclear Explosions, suggesting that all A- and H-bombs be painted the particular shade of blue that he used in his famous monochrome paintings. The bombs’ disintegration, he says in this letter (which is cheekily CC’ed to “His Holiness the Dalai Lama” and “Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Science Monitor;” again: brain-and-all-other-kinds-of-crush), will “allow for the most spectacular monochrome realizations that humanity, and dare I say, the cosmos itself will have known.”

Max Strasser is a journalist based in Istanbul and a former associate editor at Al-Masry Al-Youm English Edition in Cairo.

I have not been on the streets of Cairo with my friends and colleagues over the last week, but to make up for it I have been obsessively monitoring Al Jazeera International’s livestream, my Twitter feed and – when the Mubarak regime’s restrictions on technology allow – talking to people I know on the ground in Cairo. The recurring point that I hear, see and read is that this is a genuine popular uprising that includes Egyptians of all religious, social and economic backgrounds. That in itself is an amazing feat and an inspiring one in a country where the government has systematically impeded organizing and fostered sectarianism and class conflict.

Part of this inspiring trend is seeing the number of women who are being represented in the demonstrations. It is inherently complicated for me, an American, non-Muslim man to discuss the status of women in the Arab world. There are too many familiar neo-Orientalist tropes about Arab and Muslim women as abused and cloistered, and I realize that I may be treading dangerously close to that territory. But I have spent enough time in Egypt to be familiar with the country and to notice when something seems different.

It is no secret that Egypt is a conservative country when it comes to gender relations. Men and women generally, though not exclusively, adhere to traditional gender roles where women stay at home. As a result, many public spaces are heavily male dominated. Moreover, sexual harassment is frustratingly common and affects woman regardless of their religion or social class. This further helps to keep women off the streets. Big crowds, like soccer rallies, are usually the least hospitable for women.

Since this uprising began, the typical gender dynamic in Egypt’s public space seems to have been thrown out with the regime. Some have said that as many as half of the protesters are women. Moreover, as I have watched Al Jazeera it seems clear that women of all walks of life, from young girls in jeans to older women wearing niqab, are taking part.  All are chanting, pumping their fists and, at times, battling with the riot police. Last Wednesday, after the initial day of demonstrations that triggered the current uprising, I had a G-chat conversation with a (religious and conservative) friend in Cairo. “You can find cooperation between youth with beards and girls wearing foreign clothes,” he told me of the solidarity he had witnessed the day before. Other people I have talked to report that sexual harassment, an extremely common problem in Cairo, especially when crowded, has barely existed during the demonstrations, a result, I believe, of people taking a sense of ownership over public space that couldn’t exist under the Mubarak regime.

Nawal El Saadawi, an octogenarian legendary Egyptian feminist, has been out in the streets protesting along side everyone else. “Women and girls are beside boys in the streets,” she said while speaking to Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now!. Even she seems impressed by the gender equality in the streets of Cairo today, which she hopes will continue.

Much of the U.S. media’s coverage of the ongoing uprising in Egypt has been pretty alarmist and ignorant, in particular with regard to the “Islamist threat” posed by the Muslim Brotherhood. (See, for example, this astoundingly tone-deaf article in Slate by someone I suspect has little experience in Egypt.) But it has pleased me to see that the role of women has not gone completely ignored. While CNN may be focused on the Muslim Brotherhood (an issue for another day), even Newsweek has noted the important role that women that women are playing in the uprising, as has PBS.

In new media, too, we are seeing women represented. A powerful Facebook album of photographs of Egyptian women protesters has been widely circulated. Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian feminist and dissident, has been one of the most active and visible people on Twitter. People are posting audio clips of women and girls leading protest chants.

There is a danger in making too much of the role of women in the uprising, a threat of turning it into a spectacle that – imagine! – Arab women, too, can be powerful advocates for change. (We saw a bit of this in Tunisia, to a certain extent.) Furthermore, we should remember that seeing women take to the streets in Cairo, Suez and elsewhere does not represent some kind of fundamental restructuring of gender relations in Egypt. What it demonstrates, though, is the depth and breadth of this movement in which all people, galvanized by the promise of a better life, are taking part, rich and poor, Muslims and Christians, liberals, leftists and Islamists, and, yes, men and women.