IDN3 Egyptian feministic archival Support 2 Youth Revolt a Cairo NOW, Adult Content
by Malga Kubiak Support 2 Youth Revolt in Tahrir Square
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camera, malga kubiak, tjell zachrison, kari jantzen, sun zachrisson
script regi malga kubiak
cast, malga kubiak, tjell zachrison, diamanda galas, nick cave, cm von hausswolff, carin vestman, dorota turalska, freddy wadling, sun zachrisson, john giorno
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The blog of 20-year-old Egyptian blogger Aliaa Mahdy Photograph: Aliaa Mahdy
When a woman is the sum total of her headscarf and hymen – that is, what's on her head and what is between her legs – then nakedness and sex become weapons of political resistance. You can witness how nudity sears through layers of hypocrisy and repression by following Aliaa Mahdy, a 20-year-old Egyptian who lit the fuse of that double-H bomb when she posted a nude photograph of herself on her blog last week.
It was in Egypt, after all, that the ruling military junta stripped women of both headscarves (detained female activists were made to strip) and hymens when it subjected them to "virginity tests" last March, by which a soldier inserted two fingers into their vaginal opening. What are the military's "virginity tests", but a cheap tactic to humiliate and silence? When sexual assault parades as a test of the "honour" of virginity, then posing in your parents' home in nothing but stockings, red shoes and a red hair clip is an attack towards all patriarchs out there.
Supporters and detractors quickly lined up to comment on her blog, where the counter for pageviews outpaces a pendulum many times over. Far from the immature naïf some have tried to paint her as being, Mahdy knows exactly where it hurts – and kicks. She wrote:
"Put on trial the artists' models who posed nude for art schools until the early 70s, hide the art books and destroy the nude statues of antiquity, then undress and stand before a mirror and burn your bodies that you despise to forever rid yourselves of your sexual hangups before you direct your humiliation and chauvinism and dare to try to deny me my freedom of expression".
She might have been born 10 years into Hosni Mubarak's rule, but Mahdy understands the way personal freedoms have steadily shrunk in Egypt. The double whammy of military rule – in place since 1952 – along with the growing influence of Islamism, ensured that. Mubarak would fill jails with Islamists, but would fight their ideas not by giving civil and personal liberties room to express themselves, but through conservative clerics employed by the state. When the only two sides fighting are conservative – even if one of them is just conservative in appearance – then everyone loses. And women don't just lose; they're also used as cheap ammunition.
Witness the ultra-conservative Salafi party's use of female candidates on their list: it looks good when you have female candidates; you can tell the feminists who decry your misogynistic ideology to shut up. But the said candidates have no face, and no voice. On election pamphlets, a rose represented one Salafi female candidate – and soon after, the rose was replaced by a picture of the candidate's husband. There are reports that if Salafi women win parliamentary seats, their husbands or a male guardians will speak on their behalf because Salafis consider a woman's voice to be sinful.
While Mahdy's act has been hashtagged (#NudePhotoRevolutionary) and her name tweeted and Facebooked endlessly, others did not receive such attention. Samira Ibrahim, the only one of the women subjected to "virginity tests" who is taking the military to court for sexual assault, has neither a dedicated hashtag nor notoriety. Another woman, Salwa el-Husseini, was the first to reveal what the military did to them, but news reports have said she can't raise a lawsuit because she doesn't have identification papers.
Not only did el-Husseini speak out, she courageously agreed to be filmed at a session of testimonies on military abuses. Again, hardly anyone knows her name, her recorded testimony isn't racking up page views, and she was called a liar and vilified for speaking out. Both women have vehemently maintained they were virgins.
If "good girls" in headscarves who kept their legs together only to be violated by the military speak out and no one listens, what's the message being sent? When the military justified its violations by saying "those girls aren't like your daughter or mine. These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square", what's the message?
Some in the liberal camp have accused Mahdy of "harming" the revolution by allegedly confirming the stereotypes of revolutionaries that its opponents hold. Shame on them! Why allow those opponents to set the agenda for "good" and "bad". Since when do revolutions allow their conservative opponents to set the agenda?
When Mohammed Bouazizi, fed up with humiliation, repression and poverty, set himself on fire in Tunisia last January, essentially taking state abuse to its logical end, he ignited the revolutionary imagination of the Middle East and north Africa. Aliaa Mahdy, fed up with hypocrisy and sexual repression, undressed. She is the Molotov cocktail thrown at the Mubaraks in our heads – the dictators of our mind – which insists that revolutions cannot succeed without a tidal wave of cultural changes that upend misogyny and sexual hypocrisy.
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