Feminism, Coups, and Democracies in Egypt
Millions took to the streets on July 3 and demanded that Morsi step down. In defiance he used his democracy trump card to defend his right to remain in power - as though being elected is synonymous with being democratic. So, many who made the revolution of 2011 felt they lost a lot when Morsi was elected. By 2013 they were sure that they were losing everything.
Whether it is a coup, or a "revocouption" as Juan Cole would have it, or a revolution it does seem that Egypt is struggling to establish a democracy that works for more of its people - and maybe, especially its women - than it did under Morsi. It is important to stay with this thought and recognise the amazing spectacle of millions of people risking their bodily selves for a chance at a democratic life. Whatever happens in these next months, even the horrific deaths of members of the Muslim Brotherhood - this initial massive action by the Egyptian people is an amazing and incredible feat. And as accusations and demonising charges abound on all sides, I continue to wonder what is really happening in Egypt just now.
Although acts of sexual violence and rape have been used to intimidate and "terrorise" women from taking part politically in public spaces women have defied this assault and remain a sizable part of the pro-democracy activists in the streets. In spite of the way they have been targeted for sexual violence they have remained a huge part of the demonstrations demanding freedom and equality for everyone. Their defiance and sheer determination begins the real making of democracy.
This - the active presence of men and women of all kinds demanding their rights to food, and jobs and freedom to choose a hijab or not - is the true threat of Egypt at the moment. This activism, rather than quietude of the masses, makes real democracy dangerous to those who define it for the powerful, rather than for ordinary citizens. So, be careful to think about whose democracy you are protecting when Egypt is criticised for its "coup".
This massive movement made up of hugely differing identities and interests may not find a way to organise themselves quickly enough, but they are trying. And it may be that the military will not do their bidding for them in a way that moves things forward progressively. But this is the initial intent and this intent needs to be applauded. Whatever happens next should not negate the unique offering that the Egyptian people have created.
Women, sexual rights and democracy
If you look at photos of pro-Morsi factions they are predominantly men. In most of the coverage of Morsi street demonstrations I have seen it is all men. Pro-democracy demonstrators have tons of women present - in hijab and not; in Western clothing and not. There are more women present in the 2013 actions than 2011 having been mobilised by Morsi's anti-women's "choice" stances. Many of these newly mobilised women are from rural areas and Upper Egypt and many are Coptic Christian women.
Mariz Tadros calls the new wave of sexual assaults against women " targeted sexual assaults". Tadros says that they use sexual violence to clear protest spaces, as in Tahrir Square. Most anti-violence and women's groups say it is pro-Morsi forces that condone and use these methods. They encircle women for gang rape and form human walls to keep anyone from preventing the raping. These sexual assault victims do not fall along a simple fault line of men and women although women are especially targeted and in greater numbers.