In the wake of the horrific gang rape (*tw) that resulted in a young woman’s death last week in India, major protests have been going on, in the face of police violence, in spite of a justice system stacked against the women… In protest after protest women are standing up to the violence against them. I have no words to describe how I feel reading about this and seeing the images, I am in awe of them, and I don’t understand why we all aren’t out in the street right now. Really lacking the words, so here are some pictures.
The intifada, or uprising, of women in the Arab world is a campaign that truly excites me. I “made friends” with the group on Facebook via the Femina Invicta FB page a while ago, but truly became enamored of them when they kicked off their photo campaign, “I’m with the uprising of women in the Arab world because…”, which has gone viral, and includes statements from women and men from Arab countries, as well as from supporters around the world.
Femina Invicta was invited to add to the campaign, but ultimately my picture was not included, I guess because the sensitivity of my posting from occupied Palestine, a decision I completely understand and respect. My support remains unwavering.
This is what it said:
See the Facebook page here http://www.facebook.com/intifadat.almar2a
Scroll down for selected images…
And the following is an article on the page and campaign’s success via Facebook campaign for women’s rights goes global – Daily News Egypt.
A women’s rights group has launched a social media campaign to promote women’s rights across the Arab world.
The Uprising of Women in the Arab World group launched the campaign on 1 October, encouraging Facebook and Twitter users (female and male) to upload photographs of themselves holding a sign reading “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because…” followed by their reason to support the cause. Since the launch of the campaign, to mark the anniversary of the launch of the group, there have been over 200 replies with more being posted each day.
The group was started in October 2011 by four female activists, Yalda Younes, Diala Haidar from Lebanon, Farah Barqawi from Palestine and Sally Zohney from Egypt. They started the group to harness the social and political progress of the Arab spring. They believe that the calls that came from across the Arab world for freedom, justice and dignity cannot be fully achieved without the inclusion of women.
The group’s slogan is, “together for free, independent and fearless women in the Arab world.” Currently the main source of contact for the group is through their Facebook page and Twitter account. They receive posts from all over the Arab world, however support has also come from as far afield as Spain, Sweden, America, Brazil and Italy.
The group has many demands including, “absolute” freedom of thought, the right to autonomy, equality with men, the abolishment of all laws violating the Universal Declaration of Human rights and protection against domestic violence.
The campaign aims to “highlight the various kinds of discrimination against women in the Arab world” and to “re-open the debate in the social media on women’s conditions.” The group hopes to create a base for feminist activism and to highlight that despite the relative success of the Arab spring in many countries, the issues facing women are still present in society.
Responses have come from both women and men, all giving different reasons for why they support the campaign. Ragheed from Syria said, “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because my mother, my sister, my girlfriend, my daughter are independent human beings, they are not my followers.” Assil from Palestine said, “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because it’s not fair that I have to be trapped at home [for] three months to prove to people that the baby in my womb is my late husband’s.”
The group’s Facebook page raises a number of issues affecting both men and women in the Arab world, including the issue of homosexuality. Mohammad from Oman posted his picture with the sign, “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because all the religious, social, and sexual oppression I was subject to was directed towards the female inside of me.”
Ahlam from Palestine
I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because it’s the woman’s right
to stay single as long as she wants and not be labeled as defective.
And because it is my right to choose the type of education and career I want
irrespective of my future role as a wife or a mother
Sara from Yemen
I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because
it is allowed by law to rape me when I am a child
in the name of marriage.
Walaa from Syria
I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because
my mother should have chosen whom to marry
instead of whom I should marry
Abdulkareem from Saudi Arabia
I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because
I am 16 years old and according to the law,
I am the guardian of my widowed mother.
You are strong, you are free!
There is a huge problem with the way that people are taught about gender in this society. Children are indoctrinated early to believe that there are two sexes, corresponding with two genders, which are both immutable and non-voluntary and completely beyond our control. This worldview is called the gender binary, and it has no room in it for us.
Trying to teach a new perspective to the victims of this extremely aggressive brainwashing can be daunting.
Until recently, I hadn’t encountered transphobia from feminists. Call me lucky
In my feminist community, a key part of our world view is a commitment to equality for all oppressed groups, according to the idea that there cannot be justice for only some — justice means justice for ALL. So there is a connection between oppression of women, oppression of Palestinians, oppression of queer folk… And so on.
Most of the women I know in this context use the term “radical” to some extent or another — in their feminism, politics, or elsewhere. Because we believe in changing societal power structures, from the root (the word radical is from the Latin radix (gen. radicis) “root”, meaning “going to the origin, essential”). On the face of it — Radical Feminism.
Contrast this with my newly found experience with North American radical feminism (sometimes called RadFem). If I understand their position correctly, they claim that gender — as a *whole* — is entirely a cultural construct, and therefore, there is no such thing as gender dysphoria, because your body, or chromosomes are the only thing that make you a man or a woman. Anything else is decoration. RadFems will often use dismissive and demeaning language saying things like “a man who puts on heels and make-up magically becomes a woman, yippee”, totally disregarding the trans experience and identity issues trans people describe.
In the past few months I have come across Facebook groups, blogs, and online warfare, carried out by RadFems, regarding trans women, especially on the topic of trans women’s acceptance in women’s spaces. While I had been generally aware that there is not universal acceptance of trans women in women’s spaces (take the well-known example of the Michigan Music Festival and the womyn-born womyn movement). What I did NOT expect was outright hatred and demeaning of trans women. Call me naive.
Examples include refusing to refer to trans women using female pronouns (to the extent of changing the text in blog responses), calling trans women “rapey men” who are all about the sex, and trying to get “into the panties” of (cis) lesbians, to terms such as “stealth men” trying to “take over”, to horrible caricatures and jokes and demeaning representations in quotes and images, meant to denigrate and humiliate and erase the existence and legitimacy of trans women. Well, of all trans people, but particularly trans women. One site went so far as to troll the Internet for pornographic images of trans women and post them against the intention, desire, and permission of the women involved — once again, in an attempt to vilify, objectify, and humiliate. And promote hatred and bigotry, of course.
As an activist who deals daily with multiple forms of oppression against multiple groups, both outright direct oppression, and the hidden forms as well — I’m not generally surprised by the levels of hatred, bigotry, stupidity, meanness, violence, and other negatives humans are capable of. But I guess my naivete shows when people ostensibly committed to such ideas as equality and social justice do it.
I will do more research on this, because my experience with radical feminism in the US has more to do with ideas about sexual violence by men, and anti-pornography, than an obsession with gender identities per se, but then — when I left the US many many years ago, there was a whole lot I didn’t know about a lot of things. (And there still is ).
Also note that unlike my usual practice, I have intentionally avoided linking to RadFem blogs, sites, or discussions. Several of the most hateful among them have cleverly pushed their sites up in Google search through extensive cross linking. My goal here is to include several trans links explaining some of the key issues from a trans perspective, while avoiding giving more of a stage to the haters. I will be posting more about this topic, and am also happy to answer questions or point you in the “right” direction if you want to read more.
Meanwhile, here are some links that are must-reads if you want to understand more about the dialog between transgender women and cis-gender women:
Pretty Queer is one of my favorite sites. It covers a range of issues from a frequently “heretical” perspective — such as calling out privilege and transphobia and transmisogyny within queer communities.
It was here I first discovered Savannah Garmon, who wrote this post:
In the post she discusses her experience in how she is accepted (or not accepted) by cis women, and how trans and cis women came together in a workshop called “No more apologies: Queer trans and cis women, coming/cumming together!”, in which the foundations were set for a wider dialogue about trans woman inclusion in queer women’s spaces/communities and social settings.
Her blog leftygirl is also on my blogroll. Check her out!
Monica Maldonado — responding to the outlandish claims that trans women are demanding cis women “make themselves sexually available” to them:
This blog post by Jade Pichette discusses identity erasure, cis-privilege, and consent:
This event in Ottawa – No More Apologies Ottawa/ Pas Plus d’Excuses Ottawa — has been drawing a LOT of transphobic attacks. See the event on Facebook.
I’m not a fan of hierarchical lists. I think there are millions of brave and inspiring women who are unknown and unrecognized, whose bravery is in standing up every day to oppressive cultures, governments, and families; who go to work, protect their children, survive violence, and more. I am publishing these lists to give recognition where I can, and to encourage more recognition, and more women to step up and step out – as much as they can. Because I firmly believe we are the ones who can, and will, bring the changes we want and need.
And because these women bring tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.
From every continent, from every walk of life – these are women who have stood up to oppression on various fronts: Rape, women’s rights, political oppression, war, the environment, poverty, disease…
At any place and for any issue that needs righting, you will find women fighting.
Check out this online magazine by and about Kashmiri people, with great focus on women
+972 Magazine chose a list of women activists from the Arab world as Person of the Year
Huffington Posts list of the 50 Best Moments for Women in 2011
Free birth control, girl-on-girl sailor action, Elizabeth Warren, the indomitable Rachel Maddow, the British monarchy goes modern, dancers, comedians, and women heading companies… Fun slideshow.
Standout performance here is Anne Marsen in Girl Walk All Day – if you don’t want to feel good, don’t watch this!
More info at http://girlwalkallday.com/
Yes, it includes some mommy and lifestyle sites, but it also includes business/entrepreneurial websites, and feminist blogs (that are already on my blogroll! Check them out).
The Huff objects to how women are left off lists of the most important people of the year (noting that to even make the Times runner-up list, you need to be a princess. No other women were apparently outstanding this year. The Huff disagrees, and so do I). Here’s the Huffington list of top women.
Some additional women on MY list:
Daphne Leef and Stav Shafir are the two women leaders of Israel’s J14 social movement that was born when Leef staked a tent on a central Tel Aviv boulevard last summer, to protest out-of-control rent increases. The movement caught fire as Israelis from all walks of life joined to protest the cost of living, decreasing social rights, and increasing economic gaps. The protest wave brought hundreds of thousands of people out into the street in a way never seen before in the country.
Facebook page: Women Resisters to Authority
The Huff’s list of most ridiculous quotes about women in 2011, and who said them
It’s another round-up! Today: gender & bullying, gender & socialization, little girl rant, penis mom, tropes, and did I mention a new favorite blog? If you don’t think this one is crazy brilliant, you can get your money back.
Some forty years after the removal of homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders, and 20 years after its removal from the WHO IC-10 list, an Israeli psychiatry reference book (university textbook) describes homosexuality as a disease treatable by conversion therapy.
Gender & Bullying
And together with that – because boys are still more important: Anti-bullying campaigns and the erasure of sexism.
And an interesting note: When I was putting this post together I went to Google to look for images. I started with “gender bullying”. I got images of girls bullying boys, and some of girls bullying girls. Some of the boys looked genderqueer to me, and I thought that might be a good angle – so I went looking for genderqueer images. But losing focus on the erasure of sexism bothered me. So this time, I looked up “boy bullying girl”. Again, I got lots of images of girls bullying boys, and a few of girls bullying girls.
In the end, I could not find one single image that was real, or even real-looking, of a boy (or boys) bullying a girl. Not one.
(Just some cutesy braid-pulling stock images).
Truly, it seems that boys never harass girls. Must’ve been a figment of my imagination. And that girls are the only bullies out there [puke icon].
Gender & Socialization
Socialization of little girls:
One little girl’s rant about girl stuff and boy stuff:
(Riley for prez…!)
And women’s socialization:
- A clip from BBC’s ‘That Mitchell and Webb look’ on advertising to women
- The Penis Mom
Culture & Media
The weekly Trope:
This week, three “queer” tropes that particularly annoy me.
This one is actually losing steam these days, but remember what happened when Roseanne kissed Sharon?
Though meant to be gender neutral, it’s usually a guy trying to get away from a girl. When two women are together, somehow that doesn’t deter men – they just ask for a threesome.
I saw just this scenario on Rizzoli & Isles (please don’t ask why I was watching that…). Three notes: Indeed, used by a woman. But — they were extremely uncomfortable about it, squirmy, and inexplicit. So they “hugged”. Meh. Then — predictably — the guy (soul mate?) asked for a threesome.
The token lesbian in a cast of gay men
Blog Pick of the Week
Best for last? Check out this blog. You will not regret it!
Hyperbole and a half
Some of my favorite posts:
By now, the image of the Egyptian “woman in the blue bra”, being stripped, dragged, and kicked by soldiers is probably seared onto your retinas. It is on mine. Few images of women protesting for their rights have ever sparked that degree of coverage. I’m not exactly sure if the prurient aspect of her bra being revealed is the reason, or her presumed humiliation for being undressed that way… After all, women are often humiliated, with no international consequences.
I also wonder why three weeks of protests against the military government, and then escalation to violence where many women and men were beaten, shocked, and humiliated, and at least 10 people were killed (10 at that point; the number is now at least 17) – didn’t evoke a particular response.
Either way, what was astounding and wonderful in my eyes, beyond the recognition of the brutality and the reason for it – this brave woman standing up for her freedom – is the tremendous wave of protests by women in Egypt in response. For almost a week now, thousands and thousands of women are taking to the streets, saying – we are drawing a red line, and you may no longer cross it! (View video)
And in the spirit of the Tahrir, here are some other women’s protests from around the world this past week:
Late edit: I am happy to report that women were everywhere this week, so this is far from comprehensive. Let’s call it a very significant sample.
Belarus December 19
The Ukrainian feminist group Femen organized a protest in Minsk against Belarus’ authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko. In addition to commemorating the brutal shut-down of the protest of his fraudulent re-election last year, Femen protests sex trafficking carried out via Belarus. Protesters were teargassed, beaten, and many were arrested. Three of the protesters have reported that they were taken by the KGB, blindfolded, stripped, doused with gasoline and threatened with immolation. The KGB agents then beat them, cut their hair, took their money, clothes, and passports, and left them in the woods, 120 miles from Minsk. In addition, at least a dozen reporters were detained, including Australian reporter Kitty Green, and several Belarusian reporters. Though no charges were filed, the reporters were fingerprinted and interrogated, and the photos on their cameras were erased. In that spirit — view a photo album of the protest.
Yemen December 20
A women’s march in Yemen on Tuesday
Bahrain December 15-17
Bahraini women occupy a roundabout on December 15 — simply sitting there, asserting their right to be. Nevertheless, authorities violently removed the women, and beat and arrested activists Zainab AlKhawaja (shown above) and Fathiya Abduali. On December 17, the third day of anti-government protests, protesters react to tear gas fired by riot police.
India December 14
Personal and work pressures make it difficult to be as focused as I’d like on my pet topics. But these great blogs and articles keep coming my way, so I thought I’d share some. If it works out I’ll do it regularly.
December 6 was Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, held each year on the anniversary of the 1989 École Polytechnique Massacre, where 14 young women were killed for being women.
In this moving post, Marvelist shares her own story and her thoughts on Canada’s decreasing support for gender equality.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an annual international campaign that runs from November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women, to December 10, International Human Rights Day. Over 2000 organizations in 154 countries have participated in the campaign.
I wanted to post this before the 16 days were over… Oh well. It’s worth noting anyway.
- Nobel Women’s Round-Up: If you click on nothing else, DO check out the Nobel Women’s Initiative 16 Days of Activism blog: Each day features another amazing woman activist from a different part of the world: Palestine and Israel and the Congo and Iran and South America… Well, there are a lot of amazing women out there!!
- And here is a great initiative that runs during the 16 days, aimed at encouraging girls and women to take control of technology and end violence.
Take Back The Tech
From The Queer Activist Blogosphere
The Social Justice League’s blog post Fauxgress Watch: “Born This Way” examines why it is actually detrimental to queer folk to use the argument “we were born this way” or “being queer is not a choice!” as a justification for seeking rights/equality.
Nobel Peace Prize Winners
Of course, I had several tearful moments watching three women accept the Nobel Peace Prize. Women from areas fraught with violence, who were brave enough to find their personal power, raise their voices, become leaders, and make a change.
Heifer International – an organization committed to ending hunger and poverty – opine that these three women can start a movement.
Culture & Media
The weekly Trope
And of course, the “shocking” discovery that rapists and men’s magazines sound suspiciously alike
- Jezebel: Can You Tell The Difference Between A Men’s Magazine And A Rapist?
- The Fatal Feminist gives a good review of how this perpetuates rape culture
- And on a different topic, just because I think it’s a great post, here’s another one by The Fatal Feminist: Get Me Off This Damn Pedestal
This email had me laughing out loud in my office. There are a LOT of responses, but so many of them are just so hysterical it’s worth scrolling around a while.
Israeli former president, Moshe Katsav, finally begins his prison sentence for rape!
This New Yorker blog post gives a quick history of the case.
How our fearless leaders REALLY see women (without their uniforms!!)
But sexism is still rife at the top of Israel’s government and military, as evidenced by the “joke” – caught on tape – in which Defense Minister Ehud Barak and army Chief of Staff Benny Ganz objectify female soldiers and one of the minister’s own media team. These two senior men then threaten the press if they release the tape.
Murder of Mustafa Tamimi
I began this as an item in my roundup, and it grew, and grew… So this horrible episode got its own post.
I haven’t written as much as I planned in the past two weeks. I had a (too-long) list of topics to cover: Princess Culture, Why/how women are not taught to say NO, “Sitting at the table”, teaching girls to be smart rather than pretty, and more.
But while my sort of intro-level feminist posts were boiling in my head, things were happening around me that I just couldn’t deal with, and which affected my ability to focus on my planned posts. I live in Tel Aviv, Israel. I’m not sure how much coverage there is internationally about what’s been going on here… The international press is famously inaccurate and biased (in all sorts of directions) in covering this region. So I’ll give a snapshot.
The (very) short version is that there are two related and very frightening trends happening here:
The first is a growing wave of nationalism, which includes increasing violence towards minorities, a surge of anti-democratic legislation designed to silence protest and opposition, curtail the activities of human rights groups, promote settlement in West Bank territories, giving enhanced rights to orthodox Jewish minorities at the expense of, well, everyone else…
The second is an increasing exclusionary and discriminatory attitude towards women. This has manifested in several ways, including government support for segregated buses and public transportation in Jerusalem, the removal of women from public images (such as billboards and posters) in response to orthodox pressure, separate sidewalks for men and women (as a matter of fact – even when the supreme court ordered this to be stopped, the municipality refused, and when the one woman on the city council protested this, she was fired)… Male soldiers walked out of a military ceremony because women were singing, behavior they were not punished for, and as a matter of fact they seem to be getting the support of the powers-that-be, meaning that women will be further silenced and segregated in the army. (One leading rabbi says soldiers should “choose death” rather than listen to women sing). Women are being excluded from judiciary committees, and several leading female news professionals are being fired from their jobs – based on age and appearance (keep in mind the female presence in Israeli news is minimal to begin with). Teachers’ faces are blotted out of educational campaigns. And more.
(Well, there are also economic trends, with the government passing laws that put more money into the pockets of cartels/tycoons, and take more away from the rest of us. And more stuff. But how much can I possibly focus on? Or deal with, without just keeling over??)
I haven’t been covering any of this in my blog, keeping my activism to my local community and Facebook. Because I didn’t feel I could do the topic(s) justice in the amount of time I have to write. But the fact that I got as overwhelmed as I did made me realize that if I didn’t write something about it, I would never get back to my personal blog agenda – which also includes queer/LGBT topics, which are falling ever-further behind.
So for now, I’d like to share some of the actions that have come (primarily from women) in response to some of these anti-woman trends. (read more here)
1. Poster campaign:
Following the literal erasure of women from public advertising (including, by the way, from the entire campaign for organ donation), several women conceived a campaign consisting of a photo shoot of women, and printing posters that people could hang from their windows or balconies, creating a female presence in Jerusalem in spite of the religious pressure for erasure.
The campaign’s taglines were: Not Censored and Bringing Women Back to the Public Spaces
2. Photo Shoot
3. Women Sing!
A public singing event was coordinated in four different cities (including Jerusalem) where women declared in the most direct manner possible: We will not be silenced!
The Jewish proscription against women singing is based on the idea of “Kol B’Isha Erva” or, “the voice of a woman is nakedness”, where the word for nakedness actually means literally “the pubic region”, and is used for “lewdness”. Therefore, immodest/impure/prohibited. The protest event was promoted as “This is not what “pubic” looks like”, and subtitled “Don’t Stop Singing!”.
(I looked but couldn’t find myself in any of the photos…)
4. Women journalist campaigns
(mostly In protest of the firing of Keren Neubach):
- “Mute Protest” today, in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (FB event is in Hebrew. Here is the Occupy Israel protest post. ) (The idea being, of course, that women’s voices are being silenced. Neubach is one of a very few women in journalism who actually has a POV)
- Petitions: There are several. Here’s one (in Hebrew).
- Return Women to the Screen campaign (on the Paucity of Women in Israeli News): http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/146101/