Sunday, March 23

Women Rights in Egypt: When the Wheel Has to Be Reinvented

I've said before that the huge steps taken by Egyptian women on their road to liberation in a previous era have now been reduced to a few centimeters. We're heading back to square one, thanks to the deterioration that Egypt is witnessing in the cultural, educational and social fields. And today I am saying it once more. Sorry to break the news.. but unfortunately there seems no hope in improving women conditions in Egypt unless we reinvent the wheel.
Why so?

1- Egyptians are revisiting the old libraries of the gulf, digging up the history of a different culture and trying to apply it to their present lives. In the process, they totally forgot their own identity and neglected their own history and culture. Books of Muhammed Abdu, Qassim Amin and Huda Shaarawy are now fit for the Egyptian museum. Nobody knows the titles of those books.. and that is in the most optimistic scenario.. as there is another scenario in which people do not know that such books exist in first place. Therefore, displaying them at the museum may do them good.. at least young people would know that we once had a women's liberation movement.

2- Everything that women struggled for in the past, until they were finally successful in attaining some of their rights is being threatened. We are nowadays arguing basic human rights issues related to women.. like women's work! Even sexual harrassment has got its supporters based on the idea that women should not leave their homes!

3- Whatever rights women seem to be enjoying in Egypt have lost their essence to become a mere image and a fake appearance of equal opportunities between males and females. Take education as an example.. How many girls get their college degrees and then never join the workforce? How many female students apply for graduate studies? How many females are interested in research? Education for females is still looked upon as an extra.. a luxury.. a means to have a better chance in marriage. I'm sorry to say that a lot of money is being wasted on educating females in Egypt.

4- Currently, women themselves are the biggest obstacle in our way to development. A large percentage of them is not only a burden on Egypt's economy, but also a major hindering factor that prevents society from moving forward. We must face it.. Those women have moved from being merely self-destructive into becoming weapons of mass destruction. Therefore, helping them to improve their conditions is no more a humanitarian mission.. Forget the big talk about humanity and values and all this charity.. We need to help them in order to stop our country from going downhill. We're talking about protecting our existence and saving generations to come.

5- Women's health in Egypt is a major issue. As EFC has pointed earlier, women are the ones responsible for the wellbeing of their families.. So, these self-hating women who refuse to look after themselves are also risking the wellbeing of their families. Billions are being wasted on medical care for women who are only being careless about their health and general hygiene. Obesity is a growing epidemic threatening the human resources of this country. Women suffer from many diseases because of their ignorance and their dissatisfaction with their lives. They suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases, malnutrition, bacterial and fungal infections, late discovery of cancers (esp. breast cancer and endometrial cancer), bone and joint disorders, ...etc. Psychological illnesses are very common among women.. from depression to serious conditions like hysteria and schizophrenia. Of course poverty contributes a lot to this problem.. but the self-destructive element can not be overlooked.

6-If you talk to an average Egyptian girl for 10 mins, you will discover that she thinks of herself as an excess.. an intruder into a man's world. She views herself as a second class citizen and she defends the patriarchal excuses given to justify this humiliating existence and absence of equality.. What a disgrace! Girls actually think that they are doing humanity a "huge favor" by accepting this kind of reality. Yeah.. and they believe that is their gate to heaven too! Acceptance and submissiveness is our women's number one virtue nowadays. Hurray!

If we continue to deceive ourselves by saying that our job is simply to continue what our ancestors have started decades ago then there is no hope. The situation is dangerous, and the writing is on the wall.. All we gotta do is read it, no matter how shocking it is. We gotta start a women's liberation movement from scratch. We gotta convince girls that they are not inferiors, that they are full humans, that they have a role to play on the social scene... bla bla bla. I know it sounds like ABC.. But, do we have a choice?


micheal said...

really..I have nothing 2 add...I agree wz u in ur point of view towards the feminism issue in egypt
have a nice day, fantasia

Greta said...

Hello Fantasia! :) I LOVE your blog! I have to say that I agree with you on this entry. Egyptian girls seem to accept things and don't seem to question whether they have rights or not. There are other countries that are like this as well. Anyhow, Feminists Unite! ♥

Egyptian Feminist Chic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Egyptian Feminist Chic said...

Dear Fanta,
truly an excellent post!!! I totally agree with you. and you know what?? it is heart wrenching and sad.... and I just cant imagine how all of this will end!!!

These women wth these rediculous ideas were raised by liberated mothers..... who believed in themselves and in their ability to be a contributing part of society.... so how did this all happen??

is the influence of the spoken word so great that it cancels out everything you have ever learned just by repeating all the BS lies of the bribed media and the bribed religious figures??have they all realy lost their minds??? i realy wonder how should mothers raise their daughters nowadays?? what kind of enviornment are we putting them in, and how much will this influence our children???

we all know kids are influenced by their peers, so if all the peers are destroyed fragments of what was once a full human being..what will this do to our children?? will our children be outcasts??

We need to get through to people and we need to do it fast before things get any worse... sometimes i realy wonder if it is too late now.... but the fighter part in me refuses to accept defeat... i am sure that every one of these broken down girls that feel they are subhuman and are an excess part of society have a small inner voice that they try to keep quiet and never share... that voice will tell them that they are not stupid, they are not an extra unnecessary burden, they are not useless.... We need to find this part of every woman and reach out to it and help it come out... before it dies forever and then realy there will be no turning back.

Our biggest obstacle is people wh atach all of this to religion... and this is how they get women to submit to this self destructive behavior.... how do we counteract wahabi ideology?? how do we overcome religious opression that is realy not a part of religon???

I was watching television yesterday and they had a "sheikh" one ofthe new guys... (who keeps mentioning he hates amr khaled) a middle aged man dressed in a suit and without a beard.... my impression was he looks like a moderate fellow...

they had people call in and ask for "fatawy" and one woman called her complaint was that he was married with several children, and that her husband is cheating on her.... with several women, including all of her friends... and cousins and neighbors... she confronted him and he yelled at he and tod her it was none of her business... now she was calling saying that she felt stuck and hurt and betrayed... and does not know what to do should she leave her husband or will god punish her for her grevious sin against the man who takes care ofher and the kids!!!!

you will not believe the response of that guy!!! he started quoting koran, and went on and on about "alregal qawamoon 3ala alnesaa2". HE kept sympathizing with THE HUSBAND!!!! and told the poor woman that she needs to go pray to god and ask for his forgiveness for even considering leaving her husband... he said that as long as the husband is providing for her financially, then she should be happy.... him sleeping around with every woman in sight is not her problem... this is between him and god,and she should not interfere.... then he went on to say, that this poor husband " shayel la7m add keda 3ala ketafoh" and advised her to love him and pamper him and to not bother him with her constant whining!!!! because the husband is a good man taking care of his family!!!

Would you like to know the womans response??? it was gratitude!!!! she thanked him... i repeat THANKED HIM and told him he is a wise sheikh and she " bet7ebo fi allah" ( again a meaningless term that has been introduced into our language to signify extreme goodness and religiosity!)

I swear I was yelling at the television!!! I just cannot believe what I am seeing... I wanted to tell her wake up!!! get some dignity!! why do you tolerate being a doormat? whatever happene to make you think so low of yourself?? where is your self esteem??? My dear Fanta that is a terriffic example of emotional abuse if I've ever seen one..
This was a coule of days ago, and I have ben thnking about it since then and now more thanever I feel like we need to be heard... everything going on now is wrong!!! we need to correct this, and I just want to salute you for the great effort you are putting into all your blogs and facebook groups... I wish there were more people like you!! and thank you for giving me the opportunity to help just a little with your amazing blog :)

raaasa said...

There are times that I think that Egypt could do with several Lorena Bobbitts to shake things up a bit.

Dr. Eyad Harfoush said...

Dear Fantasia,

What a lovely post, as lovely and mindful as usual :)

Re-inventing the wheel is becoming our daily bread. It is not only about women liberation. Every nation has an independance hero, who became regarded from the nation apart from its streams as a symbol for freedom, we argue about Nasser, the only presiendt who did not make fortunes from our own blood, which makes us ungrateful nation.

Once upon time we were committed to a pan-arab cooperation as a broad strategy, because simply the arab league is where we do live and the possible alliance sphere around us, together with an Afro-Asian secondery horizon and now we defaulted on this all!!! Talking this conflicts with Islam, as if I can not be a Muslim, an Arab, an African all in one!!

This is what I can call real REDDAH, or apostasy. Apostasy happens when the man takes steps backward in his life, you know what? I will right about this ,, the real REDDAH

Regards and thanks for the inspiration

Amre El-Abyad said...

Dear Fantasia,

That is a good post; you have actually grasped the core of our intractable plethora of problems.

It seems that we are too fond of moving in circles, we have been talking about these issues ever since the 19th century, yet, still, the same questions of modernity vis a vis cultural specificity , uptill now have not been resolved. The debate regarding Arab women’s role in society is as vibrant as ever- set against two extremes either a cut and slash mimicking of the west or a set back to beautiful era of Arabic dignity and glory where the cultural underpinnings, historical contexts and social forces governing our civilisation in that specific point in time are monopolised by a retrograde religious institution.

That can be attributed to a severe case of lack of confidence that has stemmed out of centuries of Mongol ( Turkish) occupation and western orientalist e dogmas. There is no way we can move forward, unless the starting point is confidence in our thousands of years old Arab heritage which have been very dynamic and evolving maybe until the 13th century. Alas, no other civilisation has been subjected to such brutal attacks from almost the entire globe like ours- Crusaders and Turks!

So in light of the current situation, any talk on women rights and empowerment to be successful in society with diverse social conditions like ours, must be blended with some power linked to the nation’s sub-consciousness, a power that bestows on people sufficient energy on to defy the prevalent retrograde religious ideologies “super structures” which only serve our western oppressors and their vessels. From my own experience with Egyptians, where I claim to have known all sorts of them from all over Egypt, Arab nationalism is the only power that could restore confidence to the people and grounds them to their reality and identity- while, in the meantime, since Arabism is progressive force by definition it mandates progress and the assimilation of successful cultural codes and practices from all over the world. Hence I suggest blending Feminism with nationalism to form what might be called “ Arab feminism” as distinct from the Iranian Islamic feminism. Simply because Arab nationalism is secular enough to absorb the religious and sectarian multiplicity within the Muslim Arab societies, which is not the case in Pakistan, Iran and Turkey.

More importantly, it is capable of inter-injecting modernity smoothly among the masses without provoking their cultural self defence mechanisms. There is no need to worry about Islam here, Muslim thought would definitely evolve as result of these proposed grass root reforms. Also one must always remember that, whether some like it or not, Islam is ultimately an indispensible part of Arabism.

Fantasia said...


thanks a lot for your support. i can't say that feminism exists in egypt.. but we must all work on introducing feminist theory into the egyptian cultural arena.

Fantasia said...


so glad that you visted my blog. i am a fan of yours, and i hope we would continue to exchange ideas.
i gotta agree with you that most egyptian girls accept things as they are.. not only so, but they also reject attempts made by others to retreive their usurped rights. can be very frustrating at times.. yet we gotta do what we gotta do. we can't sit back and watch them destroy us all.
feminists unite! yaaay :)

Fantasia said...

dear EFC,

i don't want to share my absolute frustration after reading about this TV programme you saw. i don't wanna reflect on the thousands of things that are enough reason to cause us to lose hope or recoil in depression. i don't wanna remember all the stuff i deal with on my blogs or over facebook, and the silly arugments of some people who actually have the guts to spit their nonesense into my face while it is clear that all what i say is based on strong logic and serious research.

let's throw all that behind our backs for a moment, and try to concentrate on establishing new tools to face this neo-wahhabism, if we can call it so.

what you said is so true.. and frankly, i don't know what the hell those people are thinking! why do they insist that all their retarded and biased practices have their origins in religion, while most of them do not even care to check that what they are saying is true???

i mean, if i tell you that it is stated in religion that camels can fly, would you believe me? would you be ready to defend it blindly just cause i told you so? is this the only way to make people shut up nowadays? do they really expect us to stand there, arms folded, and watch all the injustices and victimizing practices going on?

what i faced with the issue of equal testimonies in court made my hair raise.. seeing all those misled people attacking me in the worst, most insulting way, in order to defend something which does not exist! and when you show them the truth, they don't even say thanks! they either disappear or exhibit their cursing abilities. it is as if they prefer it the other way, even if it is not what God wants.

i don't understand what is happening. we are clearly fighting a human tradition, and a beduin culture. yet they stick the word religion into anything and everything only to make us shut up. they don't wanna know.. they don't care to know.. they are now worshipping the status quo! so sad, but it is damn true

we are blessed to find a few who still use their brains.. who refuse all kinds of bias and human rights violation.

which brings me to the brilliant job you're making on this blog, and on others too via your comments. i should be the one to thank you for investing lots of time and effort, and agreeing to join hands with me through this tough journey on the road less taken.

raaasa said...

Dear Fanta,

I am sorry to hear that you are getting so much grief simply by explaining and showing that women, just as men, are people too with rights, dreams, and aspirations.
Keep fighting the good fight. So very many appreciate what you and EFC are doing.
There are men throughout the world who want to keep their women either in the kitchen or the bedroom.
Below I am pasting a passage from the Broadsides blogger in Canada who has been getting similar grief for her ideas about women:

March 26, 2008
Dispatches from L-World
You should see some of my email. You cannot believe the people who totally believe that women should be second-class citizens, hostages to biology, property of men, barefoot and pregnant, seen and not heard ... I've been called names I can't reprint here, and parts of me have been pasted with the most ridiculous and hateful labels.

Since I took on this job last June -- writing about women's issues instead of the media -- my eyes have been opened and breath taken away by the misogyny that exists even in the Great Pink North. I mean, I have always known about this stuff in other places, where women are treated as chattel, where bride-napping is common, where women are not allowed to work, learn to read, leave the house without a male escort ...

But right here in Canada there are men -- and even some women -- who insist that I should be chained to a stove instead of a desk, popping out plump white babies to counteract our changing demographic complexion. This from the same people who put down our incoming cultures for the very same things they would impose on women like me.

Anyway, one word ''they'' use a lot is lesbian, as if a feminist is, by definition, gay because -- at least in their deranged minds -- lesbians hate men. To them, there can be nothing worse than a woman who not only doesn't need men but who rejects them as intimate partners.

Ergo, a feminist, who is already a feminazi, is, by definition, a lesbian.

Raaasa, back again. This link below will take you to a Christian blog that argues against the sin of feminism. Very sad. My point is that the manipulation of religion to excuse and even encourage female oppression is everywhere. The only solution is to get your message out there, argue, fight, organize, educate, work, change the present and the future.

Fantasia said...

dear raaasa,

can't thank you enough for your support and motivation. and all i can say is that i won't let you down.. i will never give up calling for what is just and what is right.

believe me, i don't regret getting myself into this. it can be very frustrating at time, can't deny it.. but the more i am exposed to those kinds of mentalities, and the more i hear their fake claims, the more i become certain that i am doing exactly what i was meant to do

thanks for all the insights and sharing those links with us. this Canadian blogger has all the reason to be shocked and disappointed.. yet, i can't help saying that she is in a much much better situation than feminists in the arab world. at least she is talking from a position of power.. knowing that the majority would support her and denounce those backwarded views. unfortunately, it is not the same in our case.

back to Lorena Bobbitt, i recall watching her on TV years ago while she was trying to re-act the "crime" she committed. i swear i can never forget that day.. i was so young, and i was trying understand what this woman had done and why.. and once i got it.. i felt so happy.. didn't know why back then.. but later, i discovered that i admired the example of a woman standing up for herself.

i remember when i was watching a TV show years later with my father, and they were discussing what a woman should do if she found out her husband was cheating. i found myself saying, "i will finish him".. and my dad was like "will you ruin your whole life for the sake of a pig who is not worth it?".. and i said, "no, not for him.. for millions of men who give themselves the right to cheat, thinking they'll get away with it."

Fantasia said...

dear dr. eyad,

i so much liked your view of this issue and the way you made it fit within the big picture. that's a bitter reality that we have to live with nowadays in the middle east. it needs a lot of work by generations to come to cure this distrubance.

and as for pan-arabism (which was also mentioned by our friend Amre), i wish there was hope in walking down that road at the current time. yet, i say again, the problem is with the other arab countries who already walked away, finding other affiliates, being contended that they are looking under their feet.

so glad that you still find inspiration over here. thanks for your endless support and intellectual presence.

Fantasia said...

dear amre,

so grateful for your valuable comment and unique outlook.

the idea you laid out here is so appealing.. in fact, i myself admire it and salute you on the wonderful way in which you expressed it.. but let us examine this view from different angles

as a theory, i absolutely have nothing say or to add.. you did an excellent job there.. yet, in practice, i believe this would be very difficult to achieve.. don't wanna say extemely difficult.

let me first tell you that this idea you proposed, had already been adopted and carried out by Dr. Nawal El Saadawi in 1982, when she founded the Arab Women's Solidarity Association. and what you said was exactly what she had in mind.. but what has happened?

from the year 82 to present, we are still reinventing the wheel.. because this initiative never received any real support from arab regimes. neither will any other movement of association that would work under the same goal. why?

because there are only two possible methods to work on a project like that.. the first is through the goverments or the arab league, and this will never achieve anything, as we failed to establish any political or economic unity.

the second is through NGOs.. and those receive their funding from foreign countries which will never allow such a thing to be activated.. only so, but you will find that every single regime in the arab world will not allow such a thing to grow.. because such a movement would create a threat to any regime.. it is bigger than what they can contain, and it revives the hope in a pan-arab structure that is not under the control of those regimes. such a risk will not be taken anywhere in the arab world.

nevertheless, the theory should continue to be there. and we should keep it alive for other generations to work on it.

micheal said...
VIP...check this link fantasia
it is speaking about one of ur most vip campaigns

Hassan El Helali said...

sara said...

u no i dnt thnk yr being really fair bec nt all egyption girls r like that and i thnk u rely dont c girls as a need in the world i think u c them as a terrible thing and i dnt think thats right

Anonymous said...

Useful idea

"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