The late Tuesday assault was the last straw for many. Protesters and activists met Wednesday to organize a campaign to prevent sexual harassment in the square. They recognize it is part of a bigger social problem that has largely gone unpunished in Egypt. But the phenomenon is trampling on their dream of creating in Tahrir a micro-model of a state that respects civil liberties and civic responsibility, which they had hoped would emerge after Mubarak's ouster.
'It shouldn't be happening' "Enough is enough," said Abdel-Fatah Mahmoud, a 22-year-old engineering student, who met Wednesday with friends to organize patrols of the square in an effort to deter attacks against women. "It has gone overboard. No matter what is behind this, it is unacceptable. It shouldn't be happening on our streets let alone Tahrir."
No official numbers exist for attacks on women in the square because police do not go near the area, and women rarely report such incidents. But activists and protesters have reported a number of particularly violent assaults on women in the past week. Many suspect such assaults are organized by opponents of the protests to weaken the spirit of the protesters and drive people away.
HERvotes, a coalition of 51 women's groups, vowed to ensure that several decades of progress in health care, education and labor rights will not fall by the wayside in the run-up to the November general election.
"Women are outraged with the constant politicization of theses issues with no regard for half of the population," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
"The gender gap is alive and well," agreed Lisa Maatz, chief lobbyist for the American Association of University Women, who added: "We are mad and we are fed up."
In a campaign year in which the economy and jobs were the initial dominant themes, social conservatives have thrust birth control and abortion to the top to the agenda at the state and federal level.
At a stellar gathering of leaders from business, philanthropy, government, and non-profits, the National Council for Research on Women will kick off 30 years of transforming the way the world looks at women and girls at its annual Making a Difference for Women Awards Dinner on Tuesday, March 6th. The Council will honor: Beth Brooke of Ernst & Young; Abigail Disney, Pamela Hogan, and Gini Retiker of the Women, War & Peace series on PBS; Anita Hill of Brandeis University; and Soledad O’Brien of CNN at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.
As the Arab world rumbles and shakes, women in the region are experiencing the good, the bad and the ugly that comes with instability, transition and crisis. From Tunisia and Egypt to Syria, Libya and Bahrain, women have been present and vocal in the street protest movements, standing shoulder to shoulder with the men, resisting the batons and tear gas, and being killed. Many have been key organizers and leaders in social networking, helping to articulate a common message and vision of freedom, democracy and equality, and providing logistical support to men at the frontlines of violence. They have also faced many of the same physical and sexual threats and risks that women elsewhere have encountered during crises and transitions, including harassment, assault and death.
Despite their contribution, they are again facing exclusion from the political processes under way.
On Tuesday, thousands of women—the Associated Press’s estimate put the number at ten thousand—went to Tahrir Square to protest. (According to Reuters, the women were “surrounded by men pledging to protect them.”) The turnout was, no doubt, driven by the violence of the recent clashes, which began December 16th and have left an estimated eight hundred and fifty people injured and fourteen dead. But it can also be explained, in part, by a single video from December 17th.
Jenna Goudreau asks what feminism means today and reports on her poll of change-makers from across generations—from the old guard of the women’s liberation movement to business trailblazers and millennial women reclaiming and redefining it on the Web. The responses were mixed.
For many, regardless of age, modern feminism retains its activist, agenda-based roots. “[It’s] revolution,” says Gloria Steinem, 77, the famed women’s rights activist and co-founder of Ms. Magazine. “Women in the world still bear most of the violence, do most of the work and get less of the salary. We’ve come a long way in consciousness and made a lot of strides, but this is just the beginning.”
“I call it feminisms—plural,” says Robin Morgan, 70, co-founder of the Women’s Media Center. “To young women in the global North, eating disorders are a major problem, but to women in the global South, eating disorder means not having enough rice in your bowl. So feminism doesn’t have a narrow definition; it’s when anyone fights for women’s rights.”
“[It] is the recognition that women are human beings with the right to full participation in society,” says Irin Carmon, 28, a former Jezebel writer now at Salon. “What that means in practice is ensuring reproductive freedom, working to prevent discrimination and sexual assault, and trying to create a world of relationships and partnerships that reflect and enable women’s contributions.”