This week, I was thrilled to add the Egyptian revolution’s Asmaa Mahfouz to my let’s-get-sucker-free roster. While most organizers used (relatively) safe tools like flyers and anonymous messages to pump the now historic Jan. 25 protest at Tahrir Square, Mahfouz, 26, grabbed a Web cam and broke. Watch the now-historic video she produced above. My favorite part? How she used a little righteous signifying to cite—then transcend—counterproductive machismo.
“If you think yourself a man, come with me on January 25th. If you have honor and dignity as a man, come. Come and protect me, and other girls in the protest,” she said, according to an Arabic-to-English translation by twitterer @iyad_elbaghdadi. “Whoever says women shouldn’t go to protest because they will get beaten—let him have some honor and manhood.”
As The New York Times reports, her confrontational approach moved the crowd:
“She got in front of the camera and said what she wanted with a daring and enthusiastic attitude that encouraged people,” a friend and organizer named Amr Ezz said. “The fact that a woman was able to do this made the men feel challenged, and they wanted to do the same.”
Of course Mahfouz is just one of perhaps thousands of Egyptian women who hit the streets to unseat President fo’ Life Hosni Mubarack. (Check out powerful images at this Facebook page and below.) They didn’t set out to counter the convenient Western stereotype of the voiceless, helpless, apolitical Muslim woman, but that’s certainly been one effect.
If you have any doubt, here’s one more She-Ra quote, which the Times got from a 28 year old school counselor and chant leader named Mariam Soliman:
“I am not socialist, I am not a liberal, I am not an Islamist. I am an Egyptian woman, a regular woman rejecting injustice and corruption in my country. Women have to go down and participate and demand their rights.”
Cairo University protest (Photo: Creative Commons/Sarah Carr)