Exploring Taboos: At the Million Woman March

The events that took place during the Egyptian revolution have been well documented in the mainstream media, as well as citizen media, where the eyes of the entire world focused on the developments that led to the resignation of the president, Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011. Even the bloggers and coordinators from the various Rising Voices projects in Egypt contributed to the narration of events from their own personal experience.

However, in the months following the historic popular uprising, much of the globe's attention has turned elsewhere with similar protests taking place, as well as the aftermath of natural disasters. Yet, many Egyptian bloggers have continued to write about the ongoing challenges facing this time of transition.

Many Egyptians continue to promote the expansion of rights for women in post-Mubarak Egypt. One participant in the Exploring Taboos project wrote about his participation in the Million Woman March that was held on March 8, 2011, and which attracted rival protests and harassment from those that did not agree with the demands [video, ar].

Photo of the Million Woman March in Cairo by Al Jazeera English and used under a Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) license.

Ahmed Awadalla of the blog Rebel with a Cause participated side-by-side with women who attended the march. He describes the event from the perspective of “a male who went there to support women’s rally for freedom and democracy.” He assisted by distributing flyers that contained some of the demands that included significant female participation in shaping the country's constitutional, legal, and political future, as well as ensuring full equality and rights for women. The protest also called for the establishment of a law that would criminalize violence against women inside and outside the home, among other demands. When others saw the flyer and those who were marching calling for demands, he describes their reaction in this blog post:

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.

He described some of the arguments that were used against the protestors, including the claim that these demands are ill-timed based on what others believe are more pressing needs. However, Awadalla is unapologetic, writing that these rights cannot wait, and that this won't be the last time that he stands up for his beliefs.

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.

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