|Photo courtesy of Foreign Policy|
After watching a short interview with Mona Eltahawy on CNN International and having a friend recommend her article, I was compelled to head over to the Foreign Policy website myself to read Eltahawy’s article on the Middle East’s War on Women. I highly recommend the article as it provides a viewpoint of the situation Arab women currently face from someone who has lived on both sides of the fence (Eltahawy is Egyptian-American, having spent her younger years in Saudi Arabia.)
There are consistent reports on the injustices against women in UN and NGO papers and publications, and once in a while the Western media chooses to report on these. There are countless other voices of abused, disenfranchised women that go unheard. Generally speaking, the coverage in the USA is more “tsk tsk” than outrage, after all you can’t expect those backwards Muslims to do any better.
And so much for the “Arab Spring” which seems to be only a spring for Arab Men. Egypt is such a country, which rose up from decades of autocratic oppression last year, only to find that Muslim Brotherhood would fill the seats of government. Note that it’s the Islamic Brotherhood - not the Islamic Alliance - the name tells you everything you need to know. Perhaps this is a victory for Egyptian men, but Egyptian women will be sorely disappointed as it is likely they will continue to be oppressed. Here’s Ms. Eltahawy’s report on that one:
“Then there's Egypt, where less than a month after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, the military junta that replaced him, ostensibly to "protect the revolution," inadvertently reminded us of the two revolutions we women need. After it cleared Tahrir Square of protesters, the military detained dozens of male and female activists. Tyrants oppress, beat, and torture all. We know. But these officers reserved "virginity tests" for female activists: rape disguised as a medical doctor inserting his fingers into their vaginal opening in search of hymens. (The doctor was sued and eventually acquitted in March.)”
Isn’t that charmingly progressive?
It’s awful the way the Western world so easily vilifies one country and yet whitewashes another. There’s been some media attention to the plight of women in Yemen, and yet they rank way down there on the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report with our erstwhile ally, Saudi Arabia; here in the USA we only hear about that country when there is talk of oil or strategic partnerships.
In my Media Law class, we briefly discussed some interpretations of how media fits into society, the Self-Realization Model being one. This sets forth that one acts to the betterment of oneself, to fully develop a notion of one’s identity. In one of my short essays in the class, I proposed that the Middle Eastern region followed such a model for not only media, but governance. Islamism is a lifestyle, not just a religion. One does all actions for the sake of piety. But it’s obvious that piety has not been realized. Look at the mess the region has on its hands with several congruent revolutions, flagrant human rights abuses, third world conditions. How will anything close to biblical or “Qu’ranical” paradise be seen with the current situation? Do men see better futures over the horizon. I think women just see a sun setting on their dreams.
Though it’s not parallel, I think often of the struggles American women are currently facing in what is also being called a “war on women”. While we have many of the freedoms Arab women in the Middle Eastern region lack, I can’t help but feel that certain groups would prefer that all those rights be taken away. Restrictions placed on birth control, abortion, when these matters have already been decided...All while men refuse to perform similar tasks to ensure equality of the sexes...It’s obvious that women must still fight. It’s even more undermining when, like in the Middle East, the US has women advocating for rights to be taken away as Governor Nikki Haley did recently.
Even if we can drive, wear miniskirts, and work, we still don’t have it all.