Friday, January 28, 2011

On The Riots In Egypt And Women

I have not been following the news on those very closely, but it's not difficult to agree that Egypt needs a different government and that this is a real uprising, not an astro-turf one. The impact of Tunisia's successful protests is also clear.

All this makes the downy hair on my arms rise up. If you know what I mean. We are watching democracy in action! A possible revolution! And then I hope that people don't get killed.

But suppose that the situation indeed does result in a new government for Egypt. What would that government look like? A secular democracy? A clone of what Egypt has now but with different names in power? An Islamist theocracy?

Nobody knows, for sure. At the same time, the history of revolutions can be informative. There are exceptions, sure, but in far too many cases the blood that was supposed to water the tree of liberty just nurtured a different kind of oppressive power structure. Obvious examples of the latter abound: Iran, for example. Even the quasi-change in Iraq seems to lead down the road of greater oppression of women.

The French Revolution is the example which should most warn women, in particular, not to put too much trust in the power of revolutions. Women participated in it in large numbers. But what they got out of it, ultimately, was Napoleon Bonaparte and the Napoleonic Code which established the husband's supremacy over the wife.

This is not intended to discount the importance of what's happening in Egypt or in Tunisia, just to point out that we shouldn't automatically assume that revolutions against a tyrant are going to benefit everyone in the society equally.

Added later because my head works slowly today:
The morale of all this is that women must be involved in the revolution AND in its aftermath and not simply assume that someone else will take care of their rights.