The women “over there”


Let me share a thought or two with you… This image as well as the images below, show women, Egyptian women, , standing forward to take a stand, one with stones, another with a sign, two with graffiti art, and the last one in a stand-off against the police forces in the streets of Cairo, to fight for their rights, against injustice, against aggression.

Now, contrast these images with the commonly propagated images of women from “over there”, from across the divide of the clash of civilisations, from places like the rouge state of Iran, from Arab countries where Muslims are the majority. These images portray more often than not women as weak, as quietly subjugated by men, silent, not able to resist, not able to fight – and more importantly in need of the forces of the civilised world to be saved. The “other” whether it is the women or their society as a whole is shown as monolithic, unchanging and more importantly incapable of the reforming from within.

Anyone who has seen images taken by men and women actually involved in the events, anyone who has challenged the view surrounding us will know that this image is not only sexist and Orientalist, it is also a view completely detached from reality.

So why go on like that? Why not show the strength and courage of these women? Well, to put it this way – this image of the women from “over there” as helpless defenceless creatures, a child needing protection is nothing new. It was used to get public opinion to support the colonisation of Egypt by the British nearly 150 years ago (of course in stark contrast to the depiction of the Egyptian man at the time – violent, ungodly, unkempt and as Winston Churchill expressed it 60 years later about the Palestinians “dogs in a manger”). So, why go on like that now, now that colonialism is over? Why go on like that when supposedly we stand for equality and peace? Why not show the world that the women “over there” are just as capable of taking care of themselves like the women back home?

Well, I leave you with these questions, and with these images of Egyptian woman not taking shit from anyone. I tell you, they can take care of themselves.





P.S. The images above are all from Elena Libia‘s fantastic collection of images of the women of the Arab revolutions – a good reference for all those who keep on asking “but where are the women in the Arab revolutions?” As you will see, they are right there in the forefront…

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