International Women’s Day

March 8, 2011

I can’t let this day pass without comment. Today is International Women’s Day and the news from Egypt is not optimistic.

“only days into the post-Mubarak era, many women’s rights activists have begun to feel suspicious that the national umbrella they rallied under, whose slogan was democracy, equality and freedom for all Egyptians, may be leaving them out.”

This reminds me of a very powerful article that Nina Burleigh wrote over a month ago in which she describes some horrifying scenarios that women are currently enduring and states:

“We in the West should reconsider our own definition of the boundary between a cultural trait and a human rights violation, as it pertains to women. An extremist takeover of Egypt will be a disaster for Egyptian women, who must hope that the future will be better for their daughters than for them, and that whatever new society is being formed takes into account the universal – not just Western – human rights of women. The world and moderates among the Egyptian people must keep the human rights of women front and center in the discourse as they watch Cairo, and other Arab nations, transform themselves.”


Strangely, this leads me to think of an overarching concept that both men AND women are oppressed when the distribution of power becomes skewed. A fairly recent article about, of all things, ‘wine and monogamy’ is part of what got me thinking this way:


“the Industrial Revolution in Europe prompted a growth in alcohol consumption for the simple reason that more people could afford to drink. That same economic shift also put a serious dent in the female-hoarding powers of superrich landowners. Factory jobs meant wealth was being distributed to a greater number of males, who now were working for cool cash rather than subsisting virtually penniless – and in many cases wife-less – on feudal farms. In contemporary parlance, a good job gets you the girl – the girl who would otherwise have shunned your romantic advances to settle for the posh life of a rich guy’s harem. ‘Since females are better off by sharing the resources of a rich male rather than singularly enjoying the limited resources of a poor male,’ the authors write, ‘there is a positive correlation between polygyny [men having multiple wives but NOT women having multiple husbands] and male inequality.'”


So perhaps, the strategy should be to not focus on ‘men in general’ as the oppressors of women but rather consider the overall inequities in a society and work towards true democracy for all. Could it be that this idea is “so crazy it just might work……”

Free Egypt

February 11, 2011

I’m watching images of the crowds cheering “Free Egypt” as they hear that Mubarak has stepped down.

Having read El Baradei’s article in the NY Times this morning (his viewpoint seems very balanced to me) I feel optimistic that the recent communications technologies will continue to give people opportunities and motivation to address imbalances in power.

Here’s a quote:

“young Egyptians, gazing through the windows of the Internet, have gained a keener sense than many of their elders of the freedoms and opportunities they lack. They have found in social media a way to interact and share ideas, bypassing, in virtual space, the restrictions placed on physical freedom of assembly.”

I love his conclusion in this article as well:

“We are at the dawn of a new Egypt. A free and democratic society, at peace with itself and with its neighbors, will be a bulwark of stability in the Middle East and a worthy partner in the international community. The rebirth of Egypt represents the hope of a new era in which Arab society, Muslim culture and the Middle East are no longer viewed through the lens of war and radicalism, but as contributors to the forward march of humanity, modernized by advanced science and technology, enriched by our diversity of art and culture and united by shared universal values.

We have nothing to fear but the shadow of a repressive past.”