"Mubarak is gone. Misogyny might be a tougher foe," concludes Jenna Krajeski in a New Yorker account of yesterday's march of women in Tahrir Square, which did not go as planned.
The organizers of the march had written on their Facebook page, "The bodies of women, so often used as ideological battlegrounds, have withstood all kinds of police violence, from tear gas to live bullets. The real battleground did not differentiate between women and men." It was called, ambitiously, a million woman march, but turnout was estimated at 1,000. And in the square yesterday, the women and men who showed up to protest the exclusion of women from the political reconstruction process found themselves shouted down by opposition, and even beaten.
Strangely, the AP refers to the members of the backlash as "hecklers" in its headline, but goes on to report,
At Tuesday's march, men scolded protesters and said their concerns were not urgent in the aftermath of the uprising. When the women argued back, some were verbally abused or groped. Others were beaten and had to be ripped away from the groups of men.
Some of the showdowns were indeed verbal; CNN reports that some of the demonstrators chanted, "Men are men and women are women and that will never change and go home, that's where you belong."
Al Jazeera's blogger quotes a man saying, "Why are we dividing our demands? When the revolution started we were all the same with the same demands, what changed now." (It's a question the American women's movement, which partly came out of anti-war and Civil Rights movements, became used to hearing in the Second Wave.) An activist, Riham Shebel, told Al Jazeera that counter-protesters told her, "They thought that it was one of those western influences. I explained what International Women's Day was. But then they started yelling at me that it was one of those sectarian demands. I told them that today's event was organised in honour of all of the martyrs, women and men, of the Egyptian revolution."
Many Egyptian women had said, before and after reports of Lara Logan's attack, that the sexual harassment they'd experienced in Cairo had abated during the anti-Mubarak revolution. But one woman told Krajeski she'd been harassed on her way to the protest: "The men are back to their old habits."
But it's not just the men. These activists face the challenge that there is no national consensus among Egypt's women about what their own role should be. There are, of course, women among the religious traditionalists who have no interest in the prospect of a female president, a particular bone of contention. There were women in the square, "There has always been a female presence. If you set yourself apart, you make yourself a spectacle." And, "Egypt is in a dangerous time right now. We should wait."
A Long Battle Ahead For Egyptian Women [Al Jazeera]
Rebellion [New Yorker]
Women And Men In Tahrir Square [New Yorker]
Sexual Harassment And The Egyptian Revolution [Alt Muslimah]
Egypt's Million Woman March Fizzles Into Shouting Matches [CNN]
Egyptian Women's rights Protest Marred By Hecklers [AP]