Saturday, March 8

V-day.... stop the violence (part 2)

The interesting thing about our society is that it mixes between emotional and physical abuse. As if all the emotional abuse was not enough! Men are encouraged to beat their wives. Religious authorities tell men it is okay to beat their wives, just not on the face. Then they say "hit her with a toothpick"!.. which makes no sense at all. What does poking someone with a toothpick do?? And if it doesn't do anything, why is it encouraged? So a punch in the stomach is okay? A kick to the leg? A punch in the shoulders? Hitting with a big wooden stick on her back is fine??

These won't leave visible bruises, so technically they are allowed..... But why do religious figures keep repeating that men need to hit women?? Why not look at religion a little differently? Even if beating is in religion, and religious figures translate it into very mild hitting with a toothpick, "sewak," why encourage it?? It was never a religious order. If a man does not hit his wife, he will not go to hell. Why not say that its purpose is just to let the wife know you are angry and you cannot take it anymore... so dont hit your wife or abuse her, just communicate your unhappiness, no need to be violent.

They all see how society currently thinks... so maybe it isnt a good idea now to tell men, go hit your wives... because the result is injury, humiliation, abuse, and breaking a relationship which can never be fixed. Maybe in this day and age, religious authorities need to come out and say no to violence all together... dont allow just a little violence... ban it completely. Is it okay to hit a colleague who disagrees with you at work?? If it isnt, then can you communicate your displeasure without using physical force?? If you can do it at work, I guarantee you can do it at home!! Now we all know that God is fair, and he would in no way mandate abusing human beings, so it would be reasonable if religious figures, seeing the kind of abuse happening today, actually forbid men from using force with women they share a life with.

The problem with physical abuse is that it not only encompasses beating women, but it also involves other forms of abuse, such as female genital mutilation (FGM) , otherwise called female circumcision.

As you can see , the incidence of FGM in Egypt is one of the highest in the world. Female circumcision is in no way related to religion. It is an ancient African tradition, designed to subdue women and deprive them of sexual pleasure, so women will not be tempted to cheat. In short it is the easy way out for males who do not care how much they damage a woman physically and emotionally, as long as their pride in front of other men is intact, to be comfortable knowing they can rest easy at night, and abuse their wives, without worrying that their wives will look for other men to provide them with the love and compassion they are lacking in their lives.. This kind of primitive culture involves a life threatening procedure by which parents cause damage to their own daughters' self esteem. so be it!.. infections septicemia, urinary tract infections and ultimate death are a mear smidgen in comparison to their super inflated ego. Add to all of that the psychological trauma and humiliation the poor girls suffer in full view of their families and friends... They are even taught that this is the norm, and that when they are older they need to enforce the same form of savagry onto younger girls without batting an eye lash since this is the way things are, and no one can ever change them.

It amazes me how this ideology exists in Egypt to this very day. The fact that it was adapted at one point of time is incomprehensible, since Egypt had a well known civilization that should not have been influenced by lesser civilizations. The fact that it still exists does not make any sense.. and the most astounding fact is that they actually attribute this abuse to God, stating it is mandated by him. It is just unacceptable how every time there is a way to oppress women that men would like to use, they just blame it on God and state that it is God's order, thus preventing women from fighting back. The statistics for FGM are frightening. 97% of Egyptian women have undergone the procedure. Mainly in Rural areas, but the practice is a little less common in larger cities. Demographic and health surveys have been conducted by USAID , and their results showed that there is no doctrinal basis for this practice in either Islam or Christianity. Although high officials in both the Muslim and Christian religious establishments have voiced opposition to the practice, it is still supported by some local religious authorities. Moreover, many Egyptians believe that this is an important part of maintaining female chastity, which is part of the religious tradition.

The historical roots of the practice date back thousands of years. According to the 1995 DHS findings, the most commonly given reason (58 percent) for supporting the practice was the belief that this was a "good tradition." Almost three-quarters of Egyptian women felt that husbands would prefer their wives to undergo the procedure. More than one-third cited cleanliness as a reason, while a smaller number saw it as a way to prevent promiscuity before marriage and unfaithfulness within the marriage.
The 2000 DHS also found that the majority of women think this practice should continue, though there was some decline in support for the practice (75 percent of women surveyed in 2000 versus 82 percent in 1995). There is spreading recognition of the many potential adverse health consequences of the practice, which has resulted in increasing resort to doctors rather than traditional birth attendants (TBAs) to perform the procedure.
One of the main factors behind the persistence of the practice is its social significance for females. In communities where it is practiced, a woman achieves recognition mainly through marriage and child bearing and many families refuse to accept as a marriage partner, a woman who has not undergone the procedure.

So you can see that women who promote this practice do so because they believe it will please men, and they are more likely to get married, which to them holds more significance than any trauma a young girl may suffer. On the positive side, In 2007 after many many deaths of young innocent girls, the Egyptian government finally stepped up and banned FGM for good....banning it unless it was medically necessary was the most absurd law in the world... it is like saying we ban cutting a girls arm, unless the doctor feels that it is medically necessary, then parents would get their girls to see the doctor, so we can decide if we should cut off all of her arm or half of it... but with the new law, I finally see some light at the end of the tunnel. There is even a very nice ad campaign to go along with it.

On a lighter note, fighting violence against women is a world wide phenomenon. A show called "The Vagina Monologues" celebrated it's 10th anniversary this February 14th.... V-Day!! It promotes women identifying with themselves and their bodies, and being comfortable with who they are, the way God made them. It promotes healthy sexuality, and women not fearing men, and not mutilating their bodies to please men. This show has been translated into many languages, including arabic.An arabic version played for some time in Lebanon, of course with some modifications to suit Arabic culture. I especially like the following segment, because it opposes everything patriarchal cultures resemble... In our culture they try to shame women about their periods... they tell them they are not clean, they cannot perform certain jobs, they accuse them of being crazy or irrational, so unable to function in life... in short they make women feel bad for something that is natural and healthy and in no way shameful. This segment is the complete opposite!! Enjoy!


Y. Amin said...

The Shia have recently issues a fatwa allowing abused women to hit back, naturally that went down like a lead Balloon and wont really solve anything, because then it will be a totally unfair fight, and wont end, but at least it is an acknowledgement that hitting women is not right.

Check it out:

As for FGM, the strangest thing ever is that it is more the women who promote it than the men. I recently did a study on that and spoke to a few people involved in a recent campaign (and mutual workshops with the UN) in Lower Egypt and the Delta, and while the mothers were more receptive to the idea of not circumcising their daughters, it was the grandmothers and (shock, horror, gasp) the girls themselves who said they will not allow it and prefer to be circumcised like everyone else. The segment 13 – 15 year olds was the most adamant. They should have been happy that they luckily got away without it – but no, they are demanding to have it done. So you can’t really help people unless they want to help themselves!

Arabic ID said...

starting from the end line from the previous comment

"So you can’t really help people unless they want to help themselves!"

for the abusing thing , I am talking about what I saw yesterday in the underground station at el-tahrir

I heard a loud slap and when I looked I found in the opposite direction a man and woman actually they weren't that old they were about twenties , he grew a small beard and she was wearing the Iranian costume , I kept looking to see what is happening , they were talking trying to keep their sound low, apparently he was threatening her or blaming and she was begging him, he kept moving his hand and fingers in front of her face threatening and then he gave her a push in her shoulder, I said loudly "eh dah?" so people looked what is happening, and I decided to go and have a fight with him, but when I started to move I found she talking to him and then they changed their place , they were sitting and went standing in another place, so I guessed that I don't need to go because she accepts what happens .

micheal said...

I do agree wz u , fantasia
I always wonder why we always use religion 2 acheive any purpose whether violence against women or even crimes and briberies!!
we always interfere religion in every issue
I appreciate ur blog although I didnt read more than 3 posts including tht one
by the way, um michael who added u on facebook and sent u greeting on the women's day

DantY ElMasrY said...

أنا قريت أول فقرة
بس مقدرش اكمل للآخر علشان ماى انجلش از نوت فرى ول
بس لو تكتبى بالعربى فى موضوع زى دا يكون احسن
لأن كلامك بيمس قاعدة عريضة بتقرا بالعربى
وماظنكيش خايفة
بس الكلام الموجه للنخبة مابيجيبش فايدة
العوام محتاجينه اكتر

Egyptian Feminist Chic said...


thanks for the link, I looked at the article... you are right, itis good.. but not very practical,since like you mentioned men are physically stronger than women... Rather than encourage combat wihin a marriage, i was hoping they would ban hitting all together.. but , it's a start right??

regarding FGM, this is exactly what I mean... they brainwash women... the grandothers are probably old, and very unlikely to change their ways. The mothers know the harm that comes withFGM, so are morelikey toagree. The girls have no idea what it is and what it means and how it will affect theirlives, especially since they are not sexually active, and all they know is that society says it is good and they will get married and live happily ever after if they get the procedure.

Like I said before... Education is the key.For some reason sex education is considered taboo, and people believe that if they aprove of it, they are approving porn... wich is an ignorant approach, not related to the truth in any way. It needs to be included in school curricula, and kids need to know how their body works, because parents are doing a lousy job educationg them, especially since the parents themselves dont know lot of the scientific parts.

In that curriculum, they can include FGM, andthey can tell kids what it is and howit harms them and what side effects and diseases they will get, and that there is absoloutly no benefit from the procedure. If this is accomplished, I assure you that these 13-15 yearolds will not insist on getting aprocedure they know only harms them.

Egyptian Feminist Chic said...

arabic id,

oh my goodness!!! this i a typical example of a man anda woanwho fee that they are obeying god by being in thi kind of abusive relationship. He beieves he needs to discipline he because she disappointed him somehow, and she believes it is her duty to tand there in public and tolerate his abuse and being umiliated infront of everyone, since her husband is superior to her and this is how god ntended things to be!!!

It may also be that this is nothing compared to what goes on at home... This man may beat her much harder in private since he has he guts to slap her and push her around in public... so maybe if someone in public interferes, he will blame he when they get home, and he will beat her even more than what he did in public. I think you did the right thing by not interfering... I hink th epeople who need to interfere are local police who can arrest this man, and her famly who can help her out of this bad marriage.

On the other hand , I actually feel sorry for this poor woman, she maybe one of those people who has no way out. Family will not support her, she has no job to support herself, and her only option is to remain in this abusive relationship. In my responses to my last post, I talked about women's shelters... and this story convinces me even more that this is one thing we need to have in Egypt. It needs to be widely publicized, available for all and acceptable. And for heaven's sake, people have to stop associating religion with spouse abuse... This is obviously a factor in this case... the man is overdoing everything related to religion.. his dress, his wife's dress and his abusive conduct. he is the reason sheikhs shoulsd come out and condemn this behavior.

Egyptian Feminist Chic said...

hi micheal,

thanks for commenting on my post. I hope to see more of your comments on future posts.

I would just like to point out that I am not Fantasia, but I have been contributing to this blog for a few months now. So you will find that since January of 08, there are some posts by me and some by her. The discussions that go on in this blog are amazing, and it is so refreshing to see so many intelligent open minded egyptians engaging in very informative discussions. I am very happy to be part of all of this, and I hope to continue to contribute in the future :)

Egyptian Feminist Chic said...

Hi Danty,

Motashakera en enta 3agbak elmawdoo3. Lel2asaf ana ma3andeesh 3araby 3ala el computer, fa heya dee eltaree2a elwa7eeda elly 2a2dar aktab 3araby beeha ( bel7oroof engeleezy) LAken law baseet 3ala gamb, 7atla2y Fanta 3amla Blog tany bel3araby beytargem elmawadee3 elly betetkatab hena , we feeh " discussions" b3d kol mawdoo3 akeed 7ate3gebak. Elfar2 bas enno beytargem mawadee3 etkatabet hena men kam shahr, fa feeh ta2kheer baseet.

Tab3an enta leek 7a2 akeed Feeh nas keteer 7ayatafa3lo aktar ma3a elmawdoo3 law kan bel3araby.. We ana fe3lan mesh khayfa 3alashan ana 7assa en kalamy dah 7a2ee2a, we kolo elhadaf menno masala7et masr we elmasreyeen. Ya reet fe3lan yekon loh sada we ye2assar betaree2a egabeya 3and elnas.

kaman 7aga.. howa sa7ee7 elmawdoo3 maktoob bel english ,bas mesh elhadaf enno bas lelnokhba...

we bardo, ya reet terga3 tany, we tesama3na ra2yak.

and feel free to comment either in english or in arabic...


MerMaid said...

Dear EFC

Thanks for the post, thats first of all.
secondly,It is not the religion,any religion fault or responsibility if the followers of this religion are applicating it in a wrong,bad,aggressive,violent and oppressive way.
Its mainly the fault of those who understood it wrong and spreaded this culture in a whole society till it became a tradition to beat your wife if she said No..or If she objected to do something or if she made a mistake,wheather she ment this mistake or not.
Ofcourse God Is all Fair and would never mandate Human being abuse or hitting as you mentioned previously.
The Culture of the society MUST be changed ,,but its our destiny to live here in this area of the world where evrything is permissible,especially if u said That this is a religious oreder and God gave me the permission to do this to my recalcitrant wife.
They never gave thier mind a break to think if that what was ment by the Aya in the book,and how should it be.Maybe the Hitting with a toothpick is just a way of expressing the anger and the annoying the husband gets from his wife,,not to beat her till death or till bruises appear on her body and not to pull her from her hair and not to go and marry a second,third and fourth wife and say that it is a permission.No
everything has conditions.
but as long as Men and women in the society are both ignorant of what they should do and ignorant as well of their rights,,then this Chaos will continue forever and we will find no one to blame but the original Text which we understood wrong.
Ur drawing is really Awesome!
and the way u wrote the post is very delightful.

Thanks to you &

Best Regards.

raaasa said...

Dear EFC,

Most interesting and relevant thoughts on both topics.

I read your essay several days ago and it seems that every day my response to these two topics varies.

With the issue of FGM in Egypt, Nawal al-Sadaawi has done some amazing work in the field. It comes up on the first few pages of the Hidden Face of Eve where she describes her own experience as a little girl. Appalling, really.

Obviously, the minds of the people--here particularily women who are perpetuating it--have to change. Yes, education, absolutely. But in addition to education, women have to understand that their daughters and granddaughters have other choices. Why is FGM perpetuated?--to preserve chastity by erasing the female sex drive, thereby preserving family honour, before and after marriage. Maybe if women had value and importance beyond their sexual and reproductive functions? (Yes, I know, I know.)

About physical and emotional abuse of women, well--what can I say that hasn't already been said? In my opinion, it starts with the very very little things in Egyptian society--for eg, expressions like "Never believe the tears of a woman" and moves progressively in the negative direction from there--because, really, when it comes to men disciplining women, everything is allowed. I think each one of us has to consider what we say--such expressions pass by without us even realizing the meaning embedded in them---children hear this, internalize it, and the violence begins for a new generation.

I have a lot to say on all this, but will try to keep it to my final closing point. If as much attention and effort as is expended on women and what they wear and where and what time they go and who they look at and how they look at the person and on and on and on was spent on addressing the issues of the country, maybe Egypt would not be in such a mess today--in terms of poverty, corruption, and the rest.

This week, there is publicity about people selling their organs:

And what is THAT?! haram, wallah, that it has come to this. And still, so much of the discussion in society is about women. Unbelievable!

Anonymous said...

last of the Mohican's,
Dear EG chic, will done really, i feel just saddened by those people who are nothing short of idiots who practice such behavior and the try to justify it by religion.
and i think their time is over..! they have done so much damage to religion that is beyond the pale making people like me who really love their religion and culture have a hard time and seemingly fighting the windmills.
i just can't imagine beating the one i love in any way or shape or form needless to say discipline her, and that is a big problem that faces Egyptian in general living under the pretense of marrying a clay that they will shape at a later date.
furthermore by doing this kind of abuse and mutilation it does not end up pleasing anyone in fact it makes it more difficult to have a Vagina Monologues as will so man ends up paying anyways.
it's just frustrating and i like the way you put your subject and even more frustrating that i find myself agreeing with you more and more lately, please find a subject where i can differ with you because i have had it wit you being right..!!
keep up the good work

Fantasia said...

i was blessed to read this post before anybody else.. yet, i was so busy and this kept from commenting on such a great article. what a great job and what a wonderful effort you invest in writing your posts dear EFC!

i believe that once you start to write under a topic like "violence against women" there are hundreds of things that come to mind.. and this is a global phenomenon. however, what is unique about our societies is that they give those different forms of violence a religious cover! which is in fact adding insult to injury.

what you said about wives' beating and FGM and how in some way they were linked to islamic interpretations rings the alarm that something very wrong is going on. protecting a crime by giving it a religious excuse does not make the crime cease from being ugly or condemned.. it does not make it any better.. it does not wash the hands of the criminal.. but it rather causes those stains of blood to blemish whatever is claimed to legalize those crimes.

let's say that 20% of the world's population are muslims.. now what about the 80%? what will they think when they hear that muslims beat their wives because their religion allows it? they won't investigate the matter to see whether this is true or not.. if the followers of this religion say so, then what do you expect from others? do you expect them to respect you or respect where you are coming from?

i really hope that more attention would be given to this issue. thanks for this excellent read.

raaasa said...

For those of you who are in Cairo, there is a most interesting conference coming up in Zamalek. The Third International Meeting of the Subaltern-Popular Multi-campus
Research Group, (University of California Santa Barbara)

Cairo, March 24-27, 2008

Venue: Golden Tulip Flamenco Hotel, Zamalek

The lecture topics, most of which are relevant to women, are fascinating. The ones which caught my eye were on paternity and the law and the current influences, ie. results of, Islamic feminism. Anyway, please let me know if you would like me to post the list of talks and lectures--I didn't want to take up space if no one was interested.

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micheal said...

I replied 2 ur vcomment on my post of essam el haday..I wish 2 c ur comment in my new post about why there is no church in KSA?
have a nice day

Egyptian Feminist Chic said...

Hi micheal,

Sorry for not responding earlier... I had an overwhelming amount of work i needed to take care of!!! I read your post on churches and I will reply. Thanks for coming by :)

Egyptian Feminist Chic said...

Last of the mohicans, I agree wth you comletely. Thanks for coming by!! I actually have an interesting article about the egyptian version of the vgina monologues that will talk about in a later post. IT is actually quite interesting... more on that later:)

Egyptian Feminist Chic said...

Dear Raaasa,

I always enjoy reading your comments and your points of view. I am glad you took the time to write your own input. I actually read the Nawal Saadawi book where she talked about circumcision several months ago... and I was shocked to say the least about what she had gone through, and about how motherscan do this to their own children!!

You know what realy confuses m in all of this??? The parts of the Body responsible for sexual behavior is not the reproductive system, but the nervous system...

And in the nervous system the sexual response is through the Brain.... mainly in the hypothalamus and th limbic system.... (which also control blood pressure, heart rate,thirst , metabolim, wakefulness and energy levels, sleep cycles...etc.)

So the science behind it is that sexual desire is something god placed in all humans, regardless of being men or women... and it cannot be removed...

Nw just becaus a human has a certain desire does not mean that he or sh will immediatly act on it... for example if you see somethin nice in a store and you dont have the money, you will no go buy it... because we have voluntarycontrol over all of ou action... the same goes for sex... we all hve the innate desire, but we also have control over which desires we choose to fulfill.

Now the function of the female genitalia is not sexual control , but it is a receptor just like the skin.. so removing the skin does not remove the sensation of touch from the brain... similarily removing the sexual organs will not remove sexual desire, but will make the woman not feel anything... like being hungry but never feeling full even though you continue to eat!! In my own opinion if someone has no self control and can never be satisfied.. chances are womn who undergo FGM are more likly to sleep around with every person n site .... according to the theory people use to argue that FGM promotes chastity!!!

I know this sounds rediculous... but this is just my countr argument to a very unrealistic theorythey use to opress and damage women.... now back to being serious again.... if people feel that women needto "preserve family honor" by not engaging in extra maritl sex .... then women nead to learn and be educated, rather than physically assaulted!!

About your comment of "never beleave a woman's tears"...there are so many negative perceptions out there.... and they are taken very lightly by everyone.... some egyptian writers.. who are famous and have been writng for years mke comments that are derogatory to women and no one seems to notice...... an example is Anis MAnsour... He is an excellent writer, and I love reading his books and newspper rticles... but have you ever notice he aways describes women as liers and people who shold not be trusted...and how this is totally okay with everyone, and no one gives it a second look??? no one ever complained of his negativ vews... whereas ifa woman wrote the sae things about men, she would be a man hater.. and an exaple of why feminist movements promote family instability... and all the horrible things they attribute to any woman who dares ask for any right she deserves!!

all in all i just want to say I agree with you , and thanks for your wonderful input!

Egyptian Feminist Chic said...

My dearest Fanta,
Thanks for your wonderful comment! you asked about what the world will think of us... and arespone to your question just popped up in the media!!! in Hassan's posts he talkedabout theanti islamic video that just popped up.. and all i can say is... what did moslems expect?? if moderate teachings are threatened ith violence, and wahabi extremism is all the rage... this will be the new reality, this is how the world sees moslems, and this is what egyptians will be if they dont wake up and go back to normal! I have said it once and i will say t again.... watch this video, and take it with a grain of salt... it may seem horrible now... but our country will be like that if we dont stop the wahabi invasion!!

Womens opression and violence, FGM...etc. are all just the beginning! I dont know how we will survive in a world were the norm is violence and opression is praised. I hate to think of the day this might happen... and I pray this stops before things get any worse!

raaasa said...

Dear EFC,

Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

I also very much enjoy your spin on things. There are times when I find myself thinking, "yeah, that's exactly my perspective" and then, other times when our separate backgrounds contribute to the thread from a different angles. It's all good. Love the interaction. Keep doing what you're doing.

Thanks for the biological/medical approach on this topic. I do not think your ideas about sexual urges and acting on them are at all outrageous. It makes sense.

Which brings me to another point--this post had me going in three different directions(maybe that's why it took me so long to respond?)--maybe it's just me--physical/ emotional abuse, ie the Rania el-Bas story, then FGM, then the Vagina Monologues which I see as women taking back ownership of their sexuality. This last point is about rejecting the extremist-patriarchal version of our bodies and re-thinking it, putting our own spin on what we are and our experience of it.

Here, obviously, this is contrary to the mentality of the psychos who would like to put all women in black body bags and bring them to life only in the kitchen or in the bedroom. The extremist mentality goes even further and begins way earlier. They don't want ANYONE to think, especially women, just accept and be quiet.

That is the danger that leads to all the other eveils we are witnessing--no thinking allowed.

Ok, I am ranting. As usual, I have lot more to say about the ideas you presented in your note, but will end for now.

raaasa said...

Dear Fanta,

I'd like to commend you for tackling this issue so well on your other blog.

I am sad to say that when I speak of the beauty of Islam and how it is meant to be, how it COULD be, people unfamiliar with Islam and even at times Muslims either shut down and don't want to hear it or attack me viciously. Frankly, I am tired of this. The time for moderates/liberals/secularists to step up is NOW.

How is it that any opposing viewpoint is eliminated through violence, threats, and intimidation?

raaasa said...

Well worth reading this article. It makes the connection btwn permissable violence against women and permissable violence in society:

"When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid" - Audre Lorde