Latest posts by Dalya Al Masri (see all)
- Reflections from the diaspora - December 15, 2019
- The Latest Wave Of Revolutionary Uproar - November 25, 2019
- Bringing On Pressure: The Treaty On The Prohibition Of Nuclear Weapons - November 9, 2019
We often stereotype revolutions with illustrations of Che Guevara carrying a gun, or men marching at the forefront in violent acts of disobedience, yet these revolutions are much more far-reaching than those conventional clichés. Revolutions require both men and women to come together, regardless of race, gender, and political affiliation, in order to surpass substandard living circumstances. Often, the popular conception of revolutions conceals the diversity behind-the scenes of individuals propelling the change; this is not the sustainable revolution that ends with success.
Women are rarely acknowledged in history as having been participants of social and political movements, and this is also due to gender-enforced ideas that women do not partake in revolutions nor on the battlefield, as these roles perpetuate that the woman is the victim, or provider, often needing saving. However, more recently, women have stood out as the catalysts for change in nations that have often neglected these same women. In Lebanon, we see young, politically-engaged women at the forefront of news interviews, and in Sudan we saw Alaa Saleh lead the chants for change and becoming immortalized as an image of resistance. To better understand the transformation of women in revolutions, we need to look at the historical inclusion of women in revolutions, which has been long-standing.
Today’s civil disobedience in the Middle East, South Asia, and Latin America pull influences that were seen in the French and Haitian revolution, and most recently in the Arab Spring. The French revolution of 1789 came about a time where women in France had no political rights or voting privileges. Women used the volatility of the political climate to assert themselves and prevail from being looked down as second-class citizens. They marched assemblies and leaped the streets, using literature, weapons, music, and political chants to pave the way for progress. The Haitian revolution, in the 1800s, saw women deploy anonymity for the sake of deconstructing colonial presence from France and Portugal, as well as the use of violent means as a way to act against shoddy conditions, by fighting alongside men and initiating revolts. These influences of women’s active involvement are heavily present in the Arab Spring of 2011, beginning in Tunisia. Although the term Arab Spring does not accurately describe the outcomes in places like Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, it became a portrayal of women’s collaboration. Scenes of women marching the streets, demanding the overthrow of a repressive regime, one concealing women’s rights in the region, seized our screens. These depictions were iconic, as women were often cautious to participate publicly in the political sphere due to traditional norms.
The well-known uprisings in 2011 led women all of kinds, journalists, academics, photographers, and students to shake down authoritarian regimes from Tunisia to Egypt. They used popular and peaceful methods seen in revolutions of the 1900’s such as revolts and active use of technology available to them.
A substantial difference from the French and Haitian revolution versus the Arab Spring and today’s civil unrest, is the widespread use of social media from Facebook to Twitter. In the twenty-first century, this technology is utilized to broadcast protestation and turmoil in their cities, propelling them in resistance against corruption and bribery, especially in areas that are censored in the media. This has reversed the idea of gender segregation, one that brought men and women together to dissent against inequitable conditions and lavish politicians. Notably, the use of social media allowed these women to join the movement significantly and become key figures in social change, which is increasingly prevalent across mass demonstrations today. Women’s involvement in protests today sees no borders, no social construct, and most importantly, no constraints.