Thursday, January 5, 2012

Born in misogyny

Arab Spring or Islamist Winter? is the title of a new piece (behind subscription wall) by Michael Totten.

The Islamist surge is not good for the region's women. Monotheism has a long history of misogyny. The Islamist revival manifests particularly intense versions of this.

The Arab Spring was sparked by the self-immolation of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi. While there is no doubt about the desperation of the act, nor the grievances (including much petty, and-not-so-petty corruption) which made it resonate, there is another aspect which is notable. In the words of Wikipedia(tm):
Regardless, Bouazizi's family claims he was publicly humiliated when a 45-year-old female municipal official, Faida Hamdi, slapped him in the face, spat at him, confiscated his electronic weighing scales, and tossed aside his produce cart. It was also stated that she made a slur against his deceased father. Bouazizi's family says her gender made his humiliation worse. His mother also claimed Hamdi's aides beat and swore at her son. Countering these claims, in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, a brother of Hamdi claimed neither his sister nor her aides slapped or otherwise mistreated Bouazizi. He said they only confiscated Bouazizi's wares. However, an eyewitness told Asharq Al-Awsat that he did not see Hamdi slap Bouazizi, but that her aides did beat him.
Being humiliated by female authority made it that much worse, apparently.

There is a powerful historical resonance here. So much of the Islamist revival is a revolt against modernity, with female empowerment being at the heart of what is being rebelled against, what is found to be so repellent about modernity. In a region where power is concentrated in the barracks and the mosque--both bastions of male power--women, even more than its other residents, are stuck between mosque and military and the pervasive misogyny that links and surrounds both.

UPDATE But many Tunisian women are willing to stand up against using dress to publicly control and restrict women.


  1. Fascinating.

    I'd known since day one that the American Left's narrative of the Arab Spring was fundamentally flawed. Just because the rioters were using Twitter did NOT mean that they were in favor of Obama, organic hummus and bitching tribal tattoos.

    I'd pegged the riots as counter-crony-secular-state (and thus the rise of Muslim Brotherhood should not have been a surprise to anyone)...but I hadn't realized that the traditionalist views of sex roles were baked into the uprising from the very start.

    It's not just that the progressives were projecting a crazy narrative - it's that they had things EXACTLY backwards: the fascist regimes were hated because they were so PROGRESSIVE.

    It'd be funny if people weren't dying. :-/

  2. I think the authoritarian regimes were hated because they were oppressive and corrupt: but there is otherwise much in what you say.