Recommended Reading

[Trigger warning for violent misogyny.]

Mass March by Cairo Women in Protest Over Abuse by Soldiers, Dec. 20:
Several thousand women demanding the end of military rule marched through downtown Cairo on Tuesday evening in an extraordinary expression of anger over images of soldiers beating, stripping and kicking female demonstrators in Tahrir Square.

"Drag me, strip me, my brothers' blood will cover me!" they chanted. "Where is the field marshal?" they demanded of the top military officer, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. "The girls of Egypt are here."

Historians called the event the biggest women's demonstration in modern Egyptian history, the most significant since a 1919 march against British colonialism inaugurated women's activism here, and a rarity in the Arab world. It also added a new and unexpected wave of protesters opposing the ruling military council's efforts to retain power and its tactics for suppressing public discontent.

The protest's scale stunned even feminists here. In Egypt's stiffly patriarchal culture, previous attempts to organize women's events in Tahrir Square during this year's protests almost always fizzled or, in one case in March, ended in the physical harassment of a small group of women by a larger crowd of men.

"It was amazing the number of women that came out from all over the place," said Zeinab Abul-Magd, a historian who has studied women's activism here. "I expected fewer than 300."

The march abruptly pushed women to the center of Egyptian political life after they had been left out almost completely. Although women stood at the forefront of the initial revolt that ousted President Hosni Mubarak 10 months ago, few had prominent roles in the various revolutionary coalitions formed in the uprising's aftermath. Almost no women have won seats in the early rounds of parliamentary elections.
Secretary Clinton's Remarks on Women, Peace, and Security, Dec. 19:
Now I know some of you may be thinking to yourself, "Well, there she goes again. Hillary Clinton always talks about women, and why should I or anyone else really care?" Well, you should care because this is not just a woman's issue. It cannot be relegated to the margins of international affairs. It truly does cut to the heart of our national security and the security of people everywhere, because the sad fact is that the way the international community tries to build peace and security today just isn't getting the job done. Dozens of active conflicts are raging around the world, undermining regional and global stability, and ravaging entire populations. And more than half of all peace agreements fail within five years.

At the same time, women are too often excluded from both the negotiations that make peace and the institutions that maintain it. Now of course, some women wield weapons of war – that's true – and many more are victims of it. But too few are empowered to be instruments of peace and security. That is an unacceptable waste of talent and of opportunity for the rest of us as well. Across the Middle East and North Africa, nations are emerging from revolution and beginning the transition to democracy. And here too, women are being excluded and increasingly even targeted.

Recent events in Egypt have been particularly shocking. Women are being beaten and humiliated in the same streets where they risked their lives for the revolution only a few short months ago. And this is part of a deeply troubling pattern. Egyptian women have been largely shut out of decision-making in the transition by both the military authorities and the major political parties. At the same time, they have been specifically targeted both by security forces and by extremists.

...That is why this morning, President Obama signed an Executive Order launching the first-ever U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security – a comprehensive roadmap for accelerating and institutionalizing efforts across the United States Government to advance women’s participation in making and keeping peace.

...Excluding women means excluding the entire wealth of knowledge, experience, and talent we can offer. So the United States will use the full weight of our diplomacy to push combatants and mediators to include women as equal partners in peace negotiations. We will work with civil society to help women and other leaders give voice to the voiceless. And we will also help countries affected by conflict design laws, policies, and practices that promote gender equality so that women can be partners in rebuilding their societies after the violence ends.
I highly recommend reading both pieces in full. This is a real thing in the world, and it is terrible and awesome and takes my breath away with an expansive hopefulness for a possible future so close I swear I can smell the earth on its dusty feet, yet just far enough away that the realistic contemplation of its never being realized terrifies me.

I want a world in which women are heard, in which women are agents of peace. I want it so bad, so goddamn bad.

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