The global patriarchal market and violence against women

Being a woman today is marked by violence.

On New Year’s Eve in Cologne, on a square between the cathedral and the train station, about 200 women were sexually assaulted and robbed after about thousand men circled them to isolate them from the rest of the crowd. This type of assault has been reported else where in Europe: Helsinki, Zurich, and others. It has also occurred in Cairo and Tunis.

On Tahrir Square in Egypt, in 2013, during demonstrations against the government, women who were present wielding their right to be in public spaces would be circled by hundreds of men and then undressed and raped. These attacks were constant. Women and men organized and formed groups wearing fluorescent yellow jackets and helmets, to liberate the women under attack. They knew that they could not rely on the authorities or the police. The military government also used violence against women.

The same occurred in Tunisia when women took to the streets of Tunis in support of a positive transformation of the society. Since then, they have been organizing and fighting to defend their rights to public spaces.

This violence belongs to a trend that has been ignored for too long. In Cologne, the police did not intervene right away despite the system of video surveillance that is part of the globalized economies with their security market. The assaults were publicly reported only five or six days after the fact.

The fact that in Cologne most of the aggressors were North Africans and/or asylum seekers blurred the big picture and fueled resentment against immigrants and refugees, thereby encouraging racist violence. German feminists have responded: no excuse for sexual predators or for racists. Other European feminists have simplistically associated this event with the rise of fundamentalist Islam.

That presentation is limited and ignores the globalized neoliberal economy’s reliance on various strains of neo-conservatism and religious fundamentalism including Islamic fundamentalism to increase its hold on society.

One could remember, how in 1936, the phalanges, Franco supporters, whose slogan was “viva la muerte” dispersed their cruelty against women and men. They violently commanded women to stay away from public spaces, to reproduce and take care of the household. All of that was supported and encouraged by capitalists.

Clearly, women’s emancipation is one of the biggest stakes of an oppressive society.

Today, the European militarization of its borders along with austerity measures within the context of fear of “terrorism” opens the temptation of a constant state of emergency. The ordeal of women in migration facing infinite sexual violence and death during their journey is rendered invisible. What is left is the growing rhetoric for more policing and more appearance-based prejudices, which allow security markets to develop. The current paradoxical protective and aggressive discourse of the authorities puts some women under surveillance, hidden behind security forces and at the same time normalizes the position of other women as victims of sexual violence, according to race and geographical locations and conflicts.

Similarly women’s reproductive bodies, again racially defined, are under surveillance in the United States, with the incarceration of women for miscarrying or having an abortion where it is more and more difficult to get one. These signs of patriarchal essence that justifies violence against women correlate with the expansion of the neoliberal economic order that disadvantages women and minorities and throws them into precarious situations, again rendered largely invisible.

The code of silence that covers the attacks against women in Europe is troubling. In France, a recent study on sexual harassment in public transportation revealed that 100% of the women’s answers indicated various levels of harassment. Generally in Europe sexual assaults have been reported around football games, and other public events. In Cologne few days ago, a journalist of the Belgian RTBF was reporting on the beginning of Carnival and the security measures to protect women participants, when a group of white men sexually assaulted her, all this in front of the cameras.

Without a broader transnational understanding of the causes for the regression of women’s social and political right to be in public spaces, the prospect for better women’s social and political equality with men are slim.

A large transnational solidarity movement, beyond judgment, must be the force against the current trend of violence against women, the basis of all violence that is fueled by the devastating unfettered market forces that consume bodies.

 

(Image Credit 1: Osez le féminisme 69) (Image Credit 2: Osez le féminisme)

The feminist future of #FeesMustFall is now! Viva!

 

The #RhodesMustFall, #FeesMustFall and #EndOutsourcing movements are noteworthy for having “a fairly well-defined ideology and view of history, which could be described as Black Consciousness combined with anti-imperialism, feminism and, to a lesser degree, socialism.” Of particular interest to many is the feminist leadership and core of these movements. When Africa Is a Country compiled an eleven minute video on #FeesMustFall, whom did they interview? Women: Malaika wa Azania, Khanyisa Nomoyi, Ntombikizhona Valela, Julie Nxadi, Siyamthanda Nyulu, Lithle Asante Ngcobozi. For the entire film, the discussion of #FeesMustFall and of the national shut down is conducted and led by women. This has been a feminist uprising, from leadership personnel to strategy to implementation.

One sign of this feminist impulse is the insistence of women within the movement to challenge the decision making and discursive practices of the movement itself, and to do so openly, publically and positively. Daily Vox reporter Pontsho Pilane wrote about what she saw at Wits, “The way female student leaders were systematically ignored, sidelined and silenced during the #FeesMustFall movement suggests that once fees have fallen, the next big issue that needs attention is our attitude towards women … I don’t know what is worse, experiencing overt sexism or just being systematically sidelined by the already patriarchal political environment. Either way, I think it is time that we seriously talk about the erasure and silencing of black women in this student movement and many others like it. Those who believe that black women will put their womanhood at the altar of sacrifice in the name of the “collective struggle” are blinded by their male privilege and will indeed feel like this is an attack on their person. Black women calling out the patriarchy and misogyny within the movement is not an attack, it is a protection of their humanity – including their blackness and womanhood – in its entirety.”

Kagure Mugo, a recent UCT alum, saw the same: “We are living in a South Africa that tried to build itself without young people, without women and too a large extent without the so-called `previously disadvantaged people’, because of the nature of hierarchy within the struggle system, and now we are here. This grading of the suitability of leaders based on age and gender within movements is what has landed us in this position where #FeesMustFall is a national issue, #Marikana is a part of reality, and we still desperately need #16DaysOfAcitvism all year round. We forgot about young people, the worker and women once certain men reached the top. Intersectionality is not an expensive word, it is integral to building up a people because no-one is simply one thing.”

The names of women leaders in this movement keep on keeping on: student leaders like Shaeera Kalla, Nompendulo Mkatshwa, Jodi Williams, Alex Hotz; outsourced workers like Moedie Motlanke, Cathy Sepahela, Zelda Mohamed; and reporters like Pontsho Pilani and Ra’eesa Pather all attest to the centrality of intersectionality in this movement.

As Camalita Naicker, a student at the University called Rhodes, wrote, “There has been an insistence from the beginning that any struggle for decolonisation must be intersectional and recognise not only the role played by women, but that transformation must have gender relations as central tenet. The constant feminist backlash has kept many movements from collapsing into reliance on patriarchal or misogynist leaders and leadership styles even if this is an on-going battle. Perhaps even more inspiring has been the fidelity to principles and values that foreground the collective spirit and decision-making practices of these movements. Rejecting and resisting co-optation or the tendency of management to divide and rule by attempting to single out student leaders and have private meetings, while remaining disciplined has proved their maturity and intellect time and time again.”

#FeesMustFall #FeesHaveFallen #RhodesMustFall #RhodesHasFallen #PatriarchyMustFall The feminist future of #PatriarchyMustFall is now! Viva!

 

(Photo Credit: zelamartin.com)

Can Violence Against Women be “Cultural”?

Recently, I was discussing with a colleague some of the current rape cases in India and in the U.S., when she said that rape and other violence against women in countries like India is a cultural problem, whereas rape in the U.S. is not. What did she mean by “culture?” Culture, as most anthropologists define it, is a set of mores and customs that human beings follow within institutions, such as family, religion, and so on. So, the U.S. would not be exempt from “culture,” as it is glue that holds humans together socially. Perhaps my colleague meant that outside the U.S., cultural norms find violence against women to be acceptable, even normal, whereas, in the U.S. there are definite proscriptions against it, both in our laws and in the social system. She is not alone in thinking that women are easy prey elsewhere; whereas, in the U.S. violence against women, especially rape, is an aberration, as a result of inebriation or drug abuse.

This kind of binary drawn between the U.S. and not-U.S. is problematic, for it sets up the former as an exemplar of superior humans who have somehow conquered “culture”! Since this conversation rose out of talking about the rape cases in two different countries, how is a gang rape in New Delhi different from one in New York? According to Uma Narayan, sensationalism surrounds violence against women outside the U.S. She cites examples, such as “honor killing” and “dowry death,” both of which, according to her, are domestic violence cases. In the U.S. we call death at the hands of a lover / husband domestic violence, whereas the same kind of murder when it pertains to Indian women is called “sati” or “wife burning” or “dowry death.” Such nomenclature immediately makes the same kind of violence in two countries “seem” very different. To call a homicide “honor killing” exoticizes it, and explains it away as something expected out of the religious tradition, when in fact the phenomenon may have nothing to do with the religion. Narayan questions the “cultural explanation” that alludes to Sita or sati or the Laws of Manu, none of which add any illumination to the violence under examination. Narayan calls these shorthand explanations “death by culture.” She remarks that when we see huge statistics on American women dying as a result of gun violence, we don’t tar this with the cultural brush.

I wonder why my colleague did not see the obvious: the role played by patriarchal culture that sees the woman as inferior in society. Any rape in any geographical area shows power and control that the victimizer has over the victim.

Even if we allow that some societies condone violence against women, and further victimize women through ostracism, there are forces at play that demand justice and make communities and the government recognize the violence. No society uniformly accepts oppression.

 

(Photo Credit: STR / AFP / Getty Image / Slate)

But hey! How about boys bragging less?

19-year-old Tal Fortgang’s defensive response to those who reminded him to check his (male, white) privilege stirred quite the ‘dialogue’ this past week. Some chose to unpack Tal’s right-wing wunderkind syndrome, while others seized the opportunity to explain how privilege spawns the type of blindness that produces such letters. Proudly. Unapologetic. Defensive. Hurt.

But Tal’s letter also speaks to another critical social justice issue: the problem of gendered inequalities in adolescent self-esteem. This topic is on the minds of many who work for global youth development and gender equality in D.C and New York based headquarters. It has generated a huge discourse of its own these past years, but for some reason failed to make it into the discussion this past week. Despite the fact that Tal could be a poster child for how gendered inequalities in adolescent self-esteem play out in the U.S. context.

Sadly, this silence is typical. Perhaps it’s due to the breadth of the self-esteem and adolescence discourse that has grown exponentially in the last decade. This is due partly to the idea that adolescence is a crucial phase in which young people develop their identities and partly thanks to Nike’s girls-are-powerhouses-let’s-treat-them-as-data-to-validate-our-theory take on adolescence. Most of those involved with this issue, and eager to equalize the distribution of positive self-concepts, know very well that self-esteem goes hand in hand with gender, class and race. The fact that boys tend to have so much more self-esteem represents, in fact, the essence of the problem.

The silence is probably best explained by the fact that privilege is discussed at one table and global adolescent self-esteem at another. The latter is increasingly driven by Nike and the World Bank’s post-feminist neoliberal discourse that essentializes girls into development machines and reinforces harmful stereotypes.

More crucial to this disconnect is that adolescent self-esteem discourse treats the problem as a girls’ issue. It’s her problem to solve rather than a systemic issue or a problem of patriarchy. The underlying logic is that this form of inequality is best addressed by urging girls to spend time and energy on changing their behavior through ‘empowerment’ programs. Meanwhile, the engine of entitlement keeps spitting out boys like Tal left, right and center.

Boys’ higher levels of self-esteem are thus seen as the norm, from which girls deviate. And rather than the boys or the norm itself, it’s the girls who must be corrected for their difference. For example, a few days back, NBC posted a video about a program that professes that teaching girls to brag builds self-esteem. You can see where they’re coming from, but hey! How about boys bragging less? What about no longer condoning and rewarding entitlement and instilling the individualistic meritocratic illusion of ‘I deserved my place’ into kids who are at a clear advantage and who, from that position, are likely to develop wrong ideas about the merit of those who are not at their ‘level’?

Adolescence seems like a great stage in which to tackle the different dimensions of the self-esteem problem and burst the meritocratic myth that lies at the heart of privilege and was the ink to Tal’s epistle. Since schools are central spaces in which the myth of merit is cultivated, this is where change has to come from.

To begin to understand better how elite boys make sense of themselves and their privilege at one elite school in America, check out Shamus Khan’s book, Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School.

 

(Photo Credit: sunkingfencing.com)

Perception matters. Ask Australia’s women asylum seekers.

Recently, Geena Davis noted, “We just heard a fascinating and disturbing study where they looked at the ratio of men and women in groups. And they found that if there’s 17 percent women, the men in the group think it’s 50-50. And if there’s 33 percent women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men.”

Perceptions matter, and perceptions of those in control are typically sexist and racist, especially when the `tipping point’ is involved, when those in power feel the threat of a `new majority’. That’s why perception can’t be the motor for public policy and, even less, for the pursuit of justice, Take Australia … please.

A key plank of Australia’s asylum policy has been deterrence. This has resulted in brutality, torture, horror, despair … and big profits for the private security corporations, most infamously Serco, who run the immigrant `detention’ and `transfer’ installations. With the shift in government over the past week, some wonder if anything will change in terms of Australia’s racist and sexist asylum policies.

If anything, it looks like they will get worse. Within hours of the new government’s installation, the new “de facto Immigration Minister” declared that most refugee applicants are “economic refugees”. There’s no evidence for that statement, but who needs evidence when `perception’ is on your side?

And what is the perception? The boats. The boats keep coming, and sinking. The refugees keep `swarming’. It’s a human tsunami bearing down on Australia. These images are merely part of the `ferocity’ of the anti-refugee anti-asylum-seeker discourse. Meanwhile, the women and children pile up in the `detention centers’. They’re prisons. Detention is too fine a word. Ask the children who go on hunger strike. Ask the 16-year-old Afghan boy who ended a five-day hunger strike yesterday. Why was he barreling towards his own death? He’s an unaccompanied child, in prison, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by every form of hostility, with no visible end in sight to his torment. Perhaps that’s the reason.

The treatment of asylum seekers, and in particular of women and children asylum seekers, has been a mounting succession of cruel jokes. Each step of the way, the asylum seeker’s vulnerability and precariousness are intensified.

But here’s the thing: Australia is not drowning in asylum-seekers. Pesky numbers keep denying the `perception’. Yes, the numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers are rising. Yes, the numbers coming by boat are, for the first time, exceeding those coming by plane. BUT Australia takes a very small percentage of the world’s refugees, around 3 percent. Officially, there are 30,083 refugees currently living in Australia. That means, if you consider the size of the country, Australia has one of the lowest rates in the industrialized world. Australia has 1.4 refugees per 1,000 people. Germany has 7.3; Canada has 4.7; the United Kingdom has 2.4. (The United States has .8.)

There is no flood. Australia can stop building sea walls, prison colonies, and worse. It can. But it won’t. Rather, the new government will opt to continue, and probably fortify, the “`hard bastard’ approach.” Perception matters, as does patriarchy.

 

(Photo Credit: AAP / Julian Smith)

La République et la jupe

Les français se pensent-ils libérés avec ce nouveau couple présidentiel hors des institutions du mariage?  La république permissive a pourtant une vue particulière sur les tenues vestimentaires des résidentes de ce pays. Nous avons tous suivi les débats sur le foulard, le hijab, puis le jilbab, mais qu’en est il de la jupe ? Autrefois seule tenue autorisée dans les lieux d’études, elle est devenue taboue.

Lors de la journée de la femme, le 8 mars dernier, le scandale est apparu dans un collège d’une petite bourgade de l’Ain. Le magazine Marianne a même été saisi de l’affaire. Les faits : une trentaine de filles décident d’enfiler une jupe pour, comme elles dirent : « honorer la féminité ».  Le film la journée de la jupe avec Isabelle Adjani avait été leur inspiration. Puis, dès leur arrivée au collège, elles ont été remarquées par des professeurs et par voie de conséquence par le principal adjoint présent au collège ce jour-là. Aussitôt les gamines sont les cibles de quelques insultes : « journée de la jupe, journée de la pute » et surtout la cible des autorités. Elles doivent être mises à l’écart, car elles ont enfreint la loi, mais quelle loi ? Car comme l’affirme le principal, la jupe n’est pas interdite au collège. De même, ce collège est loin des banlieues des grandes villes où, comme le dit la journaliste de Marianne, Marie Huret: « la jupe est réputée échauffer les hormones », ce qui peut être interprété comme une bonne raison pour se couvrir des pieds a la tête si la jeune fille ne veut pas d’ennuis. En effet, comme l’avait signalé Simone de Beauvoir, les filles grandissent dans une autorité virile qui décide, entre autres, de leur apparence acceptable pour la république comme pour la religion, c’est à dire pour l’autorité patriarcale. Il faudra donc qu’elles se soumettent.

Revenons à notre affaire de jupes, après cette journée fatale, il y a eu réunion entre les parents et le principal de l’établissement. Celui-ci n’a pas voulu revenir sur les décisions prises ce jour là. Quand les parents ont demandé des excuses, il n’en était pas question, car il ne faut pas remettre en cause l’autorité.  En cause, un nouveau pouvoir ou bien devrait-on parler du pouvoir qui s’inscrit dans la biopolitique décrite par Michel Foucault qui ne demande pas seulement une domination hiérarchisée, centralisée, et fondée sur la discipline, mais une abnégation et une acceptation au plus profond de soi qui mimique la liberté du choix. Michel Foucault avait omis de rapporter cette description, fort juste par ailleurs, au control du corps de la femme.

Heureusement, les jeunes filles ont trouvé soutien parmi les enseignants, car leur seule demande de reconnaissance et de droit n’aurait pas suffit. L’un d’entre eux explique à la journaliste de Marianne que « cette affaire doit nous permettre d’ouvrir une réflexion collective. Pour l’heure, la priorité c’est de remettre les enfants au travail. » Voilà qui est dit, revenons aux bonnes valeurs, de travail, et pourquoi pas de servitude et celle ci se doit volontaire comme le décrivait déjà La Boétie dans son ouvrage rédigé en 1549.

Effectivement il y a du chemin a faire ou a refaire, car malgré les efforts  comme la parité gouvernementale pour montrer que la condition des femmes est prise en compte, les actes qui touchent de la vie quotidienne des filles, jeunes filles et femmes leur rappellent qu’elles sont a la merci de l’autorité masculine.

 

Cellar Wild: The Banquet

If you think that the definition of the word WIFE means something a woman becomes after she gets married, well think again.

I am sure that every mother who holds a job, self employed or otherwise, has asked or been asked the question: “How do you juggle family life with a career”? I am also pretty sure that every father who holds a job, self employed or otherwise, has never been asked the same question.

No one would dream of asking a guy this question because everyone automatically knows that his home affairs are safely in the “back office” department; in other words his home affairs are the terrain of the Wife.

Having been brought up by some one’s wife and seen and known a good number of wives in the course of my 36 years- (hell, I’ve even been a wife myself on occasion); I have had ample opportunity to discover the true meaning of the word wife.

A wife is any individual m/f who is prepared in exchange for payment, (assumed)security, symbiotic dependency, material comfort, all of the above, (and/or even more obscure reasons known only to the individual involved) to place ones interests on a secondary level and assume a subservient position for a given amount of time (usually a life-time) so that ones significant other can go out into the world, have achievements and discover ones’ genius.

As a teenager in boarding school; we had to attend mass on Sundays and there was this hymn, a favourite amongst other students, which I hated with a passion. This ultra-patriarchal song (like every thing else that reeks of church) was symbolically about a banquet, to which God intermittently invites man to attend in the course his lifetime. The refrain, the most awful part, is about the excuses that man, wallowing in his pathetic little world of self importance and materialism, gives as a response to God’s call. It goes like this:

The Banquet

Refrain:

“ I cannot come to the banquet,
Don’t trouble me now!
I have married a WIFE, I have bought me a cow.
I have fields and commitments, that cost a pretty sum,
Pray, hold me excused.
I cannot come”.

The question that always popped into my mind was whether the wife and the cow were one and the same. For some inexplicable reason I assumed this was the case. Thus assumed, my armpits would prickle and burn with outrage every time I heard this song and I always kept my mouth stubbornly shut at the refrain.

Life has taught me that in the grown up world, there are only 2 kinds of individuals: Husbands and Wives. Husbands are the Einsteins, the Picassos, Galileos, the Mandelas, the Stephen Hawkings and the Colombuses. Individuals who go out the there to conquer and shape the world.

Wives, on the other hand, are the back office of the former. They are the faceless, anonymous ones who stay at home, to hold the fort, raise the kids and the keep the fires burning so that the husbands out there can become heroes.

One can safely conclude that the key to the success of every genius lies in the having of a good wife. I have tried on both shoes and discovered that I am a born husband. (I swear I am!)

Having known both shoes, I have also learned to deeply and most humbly appreciate the wife.

So whenever anyone asks me again in the future, how I do the home-career spastic juggle I will look them in the eye with my best poker face and say that I rent me a good  PA (nervous cough) wife every now and then.

For behind every career, every success, every hero, every dictator, every genius, behind it all, is a damn good Back-office, or PA, or Cow,…. or a Wife.

Chinello Ifebigh chinello8149@live.nl

(This was first published at The wild woman in the cellar, here: http://chinellos.blogspot.com/2012/02/banquet.html. Thanks to Chinello Ifebigh for the collaboration!)

Sawt Al Niswa: Collectively Pushing the Patriarchal Elephant Through the Door

 

Sometimes it takes a collective of feminists to spot the patriarchal elephant in the room (and to show it to the door).

Battling patriarchy is difficult, particularly when you try to do it alone. If anything was learned from the Jan 14 March, solidarity is both empowering and inspiring. Change will only come if we work together to identify problems and construct positive solutions.

On Thursday 19 January 2012, Nasawiya member Sarah Abou Raad posted an image. It was of the ‘Parental Consent Sheet’ for the Beit el-Taibat (women’s dorms) at the University of Balamand. On this form the parent’s were asked what ‘level of freedom they would like to grant their daughter’. The options were ‘Full Freedom’, ‘Partial Freedom’, or ‘No Freedom’. Outraged, Sarah posted an image of the form with the caption ‘That’s how education is supposed to free our minds!! Im indignant!! I cant believe it!!’

Roughly an hour later, another Nasawiya member, Christine Lindner, saw Sarah’s post. Being an Assistant Professor at the University of Balamand, Christine was immediately frustrated by the image that she saw. During the past few months, Christine, with the help of many dedicated students, has helped start the debate about gender discrimination on campus. Farah from the Adventures of Salwa led a great discussion, while the student newspaper covered a number of important topics related to sexual harassment. Christine met with the Dean of Students to revise sexual harassment policies and felt a general interest for change. However, this form, it is language of ‘no freedom’ for female students was a huge step in the wrong direction.

An interesting exchange took place between Sarah and Christine that night, over the implications of the application and its wording. As a result, Christine sent an email to the Dean of Student Affairs asking questions about the application, which she posted to the Nasawiya wall. Other members posted responses to the image’s comment thread. Some mentioned that similar forms are used at dorms for other universities. This needs to be researched further and pursued for change.

Christine met with the Dean of Student Affairs and the university counselor on Monday 23 January 2012. Both positively received the complaint, stating that it was only when Christine had identified the strong language of the form that they realized how counterproductive it was to their goals of empowering the students. As such, a replacement form was created emphasizing not the disempowerment of the female students, but the level of supervision that the university would play, upon the request of the parents (many of whom live abroad). It was also agreed that this form would be signed by the parents of students resident at both the women’s and men’s dorms. The updated version can be found at

http://www.balamand.edu.lb/english/OSA.asp?id=2705&fid=160

So while this does not mark the erasure of patriarchy at the University of Balamand, it does mark a small victory, while illuminating a few important lessons:

Firstly, a variety of tactics are needed to bring down patriarchal systems. At times, large protest marches are needed. In other times, it is a stern email from a member of faculty asking questions about a problematic practice. Others, it is the threat of images going viral on the internet. Sometimes, all three. Patriarchy and social injustice manifest themselves in all facets of life. We need to keep all tools ready, harnessing the appropriate tool for the specific situation and specific audience.

Secondly, identifying and challenging patriarchy is a collective effort. Sarah’s posting of the image prompted Christine to write the letter, which illuminated the problem to the Dean, so that the form was changed and the discriminatory practice equalized. This is the collective at work. This is its strength. This is why it works. We cannot stand alone, for the elephant is too big sometimes to even see, let alone push out the door. And if one project fails, we are there to catch each other, provide an umbrella when it rains, or a tissue for the tears. This is the strength of the collective and this is why it will succeed.

Nasawiya (North)

This first appeared here at Sawt Al Niswa (Voice of the Women). Thanks to Sawt Al Niswa.

 

(Photo Credit: Sawt al’ Niswa)

Thank you to the women of Egypt

A court in Egypt ruled yesterday, December 27, 2011, that imposing `virginity tests’ on women prisoners in military prisons is wrong and unconstitutional. The court is expected to further decide that such tests are completely illegal, which would open the possibility of financial compensation for the wrongs committed.

This is one of two cases filed by Samira Ibrahim and Maha Mohamed, two of the women who had been subjected to the test. The other, equally important case challenges the referral of prisoners to a military court.

The court’s decision was a great one. The greater act, however, was that of Samira Ibrahim, Maha Mohamed, Salwa al-Hosseini and all the women across Egypt who have organized, pushed, repelled attacks, and kept on keeping on. When they have been attacked, they have said, publically, “I tell female activists go to the square and don’t be afraid, this is our square.” And then, they have gone to the square, to all the squares and all the streets.

Women pushed Mubarak out of office, and women today are pushing at more than the military. Egyptian women are pushing at patriarchy itself.

Much of the focus of the last day has been on Samira Ibrahim, a woman who refused to stay silent, refused to submit, refused to behave. While Samira Ibrahim is indeed a courageous and feminist woman, she is not “the woman” behind the ban nor is she “one brave woman.” Rather Samira Ibrahim is one of the women, one of the brave women, who have opposed the assaults on women and continue to do so.

At the beginning of the year, when the women of Egypt pushed Mubarak out, the world watched, and shared and cherished, their names. Today, as the year closes and the women of Egypt assault the very foundations of State patriarchy, we again remind ourselves that behind every individually named women – such as Ghada Kamal Abdel Khaleq, Sanaa Youssef, Samira Ibrahim, Maha Mohamed, Salwa al-Hosseini, Mona Eltahawy, Mona Seif – and behind every named women’s organization, such as Nazra for Feminist Studies or the New Woman Foundation, there is a world of women, on the march.

They know the military, they know the violence, they know the patriarchy, and they reject them, one and all. The women of Egypt are neither surprised nor daunted when a military prosecutor condemns the end to `virginity tests.’ They are, instead, in the streets, affirming their womanhood and their humanity, “I will not give up my rights as a woman or as a human being.”

So, as the year ends, let’s say, as Samira Ibrahim did after she heard the verdict, “Thank you to the people, thank you to Tahrir Square that taught me to challenge, thank you to the revolution that taught me perseverance.” Thank you to the women of Egypt.

 

(Photo Credit: ElMundo.es/AFP)