Panel 12

Panel 12 – Gendering the Uprisings: Women’s Movements
Dina Hosni

Title: The Political Empowerment of Female Egyptian (Post-)Islamist Youth: A Growing Project within the Arab Spring

Abstract: Despite the fact that the Arab Spring did not necessarily materialize with the political effects anticipated, it has led to the formation of a new generation of politically active youth with a distinct worldview. Based on interview data, the study is conducted on Egyptian female Islamist youth, given their pivotal active role within the Arab Spring. The objective is to compensate the scant attention paid to female Islamist youth as a cohort in spite of their contribution to the Revolution as shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts.

As evidenced from the study, those female Islamist youth seem to have undergone some form of ideological transformation that tends to espouse an understanding of religion as not solely compatible with modernity, but that its very survival as a religion hinges on attaining such compatibility – a defining feature of post-Islamism. Though the literature on post-Islamism has delineated some broad characteristics of the notion, post-Islamism is a dynamic evolving phenomenon that acquires novel meanings from one context to another – a process which merits further scholarly research. Focusing on Egypt’s female Islamist youth, the proposed study aims to respond to this lacuna by providing a novel understanding of the dynamic notion of post-Islamism based on this group’s recent ideological transformation with its dedication and action to more personal freedom of expression and rights to political participation as manifested during and post the Revolution.

In view of previous work on female Islamists, the proposed study represents a step forward where a reconceptualization of the domain of the public sphere for those female Islamist youth is in process, and a move from Islamist women exhibited forms of activism whether through overt resistance to state power or through embracing higher levels of religiosity – to a form of balanced merging between resistance and religiosity is taking place.

Bio: Dina is a Ph.D. candidate at the Institut für Soziologie, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main. She earned MA degrees in Comparative Politics, TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and TAFL (teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language) from the American University in Cairo. Her research interests include political Islam and the politics of gender and youth.

Ginger Feather

Title: The Discursive Repositioning of Women’s Associations and Youth Vis-à-vis the State in Post-Arab Spring Morocco and Tunisia

Abstract: The women’s movements in Tunisia and Morocco have been instrumental in promoting gender equality in the family law, penal code, and political representation. In the post-Arab Spring climate, divergent perspectives over the role of women and gender equality are increasingly apparent within the Moroccan and Tunisian women’s movements. The rise of Islamic parties and accompanying increase in the number of women parliamentarians, particularly among the prevailing religious parties, created a window for religious-based women’s activism to take a more central role vis-à-vis the state, causing secular groups concern that previous collaboration with the socialist government (in the case of Morocco) and Ben Ali regime (in the case of Tunisia) might provoke a conservative backlash from the new religious blocs in parliament. Most disconcerting, the Islamic resurgence threatens a reversal of hard-fought family law and penal code reforms. Based on in-depth interviews between 2012 and 2015 with the most prominent Moroccan and Tunisian women’s and youth associations and activists as well as newly-emerged challenger organizations, this project identifies interstate trends and intrastate contestation within the respective women’s and youth movements, provoking a recalculation of priorities and strategies and a subsequent discursive repositioning vis-à-vis the state.

Bio: Ginger Feather is a PhD student in Political Science at the University of Kansas. Her dissertation work focuses on women’s and youth associational activism in securing family law and penal code reform and addressing VAW and discriminatory practices in Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt. Feather explores post-Arab Spring repositioning of the dominant discourse, tactics, and strategies incorporated by women’s and youth associational advocacy vis-à-vis Islamic electoral blocs and state authority.

Anna Rhodora Solar & Ashyanna Alexine Bangcola

Title: The Thawra of Women: A Comparative Study on the Effects of the Arab Spring on the Status of Women’s Rights in Tunisia and Egypt

Abstract: Generally, the Arab Spring may be characterized as a mixed-gender movement for national consolidation without central focus on gender justice. However, one could go far to say that the women were central to each of the Arab Spring movements, and not just as symbols but as agents of change. Women were at the forefront during the protests, fighting alongside their fellow men. In fact, the Arab Spring was praised by mainstream media as ushering in a revolutionary wave of democratization and gender liberation for what most of the Western world had assumed to be passive Arab women. Five years after the Arab Spring and we ask, where are the women now? This paper examines the case of gender equality in the aftermath of the upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt through a postcolonial feminist perspective. It begs the question of whether the ‘positive change’ was sustainable and led to improved women’s rights in the Arab region. Specifically, the paper uses two indicators: government policy on women’s rights and levels of gender-based violence, to determine whether the effect of the Arab Spring was gender- emancipatory or gender-oppressive to the women in Tunisia and Egypt. The paper argues that despite propositions of women better off protected under traditional dictatorship, overall the Arab Spring has been instrumental in the fight for gender equality in the long term, if not in the short-term.

Bio: Anna Rhodora Solar is an Assistant Professor in Consular and Diplomatic Affairs Programme in De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, Manila, Philippines. She has a masters degree in International Studies. Her research interests include international security, international political economy, geopolitics, comparative politics and ASEAN.

Ashyanna Alexine Bangcola, is an AB Consular and Diplomatic Affairs graduate in De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, Manila, Philippines. She is a Filipino Muslim.