Although I am still deeply agitated over what happened today at the women march today in Tahrir, I have to give my personal account as a male who went there to support women’s rally for freedom and democracy.
First, since the call for the march on Facebook, we have got a lot of negative comments either being sarcastic of the whole thing or others who want us to postpone it for later. I am really trying to comprehend the “Let’s save it for later” argument. Is it really concern for stability? Or is it internalized patriarchy that sees women issue as trivial?
So we get together in Tahrir, a few hundreds of women and men. We started to distribute flyers mentioning our demands which were:
I know the demands would be controversial and we expected strong debates at the protest, but what happened in reality was much worse than any of us expected.
The flyer had the following demands:
1. Women's participation in shaping Egypt's constitutional, legal and political future.
2. A new civil constitution that respects citizenship, espouses equality and abolishes discrimination.
3. Amending laws so that it give full equality and rights, including personal status law.
4. Not allowing women's reproductive role to take over her participation in public and private life.
5. Establishing law for criminalization of violence against women inside and outside their home.
6. The constitution must allow women to run for presidency.
We started chanting for women rights. Just as we started chanting a group of couple hundred men started gathering and then started the chant race! They said: The man is a man and the woman is a woman; you are the children of Suzan Mubarak; Go home women!
We tried to chant back singing the national anthem and saying “Men and women are one hand”. They seemed very provoked by our mere existence and their looks were full of sarcasm and ridicule. Apparently the possibility of women running for presidency was beyond their misogynous ego.
The shocking part is that they used Islamic chants against us saying “Women’s voice is a shame”, “why didn’t God send female prophets?” This was quickly followed by rounding us up and pushing against us and ugliness followed. Women and girls were groped, their hair got pulled; dirty harassers hands were all over their bodies. I did my best to protect my friends and we got into physical and verbal fights.
I was called a faggot defending whores. I was told I wasn’t Egyptian for doing this.
So now. Some accuse us of being too controversial. Some accuse us of using the wrong time and place to voice our grievances. Until when would we remain silent? And till when we will be too shy to call for women rights? I am not sorry I called for justice. I am just really appalled but what my friends had to go through. We managed to get our voices heard for once, and it won’t be the last time.
I hope what happened today will shed some light on the unacceptable attitudes towards women. More men need to speak out for women too. This will definitely help our cause.
The battle is hard. Mubarak’s regime and authoritarianism destroyed people’s sense of diversity. It may take years to actually change attitudes. I think we are up for it though.