Monday, March 21, 2011


I could just link to this but then it would get taken down at some stage, and it's too good and too historic for that:

Women of the revolution should be shaping the future

Ruby Hamad
February 26, 2011
As the euphoria of Egypt's revolution fades and the world's attention is captured by the massacres in neighbouring Libya and Bahrain, it is worth taking a moment to acknowledge that for Egyptians - particularly women - the battle is really only just beginning.
On February 15, Egypt's military ruling council appointed an Islamist judge, Tarek al-Bishry, to oversee the constitutional panel that will be responsible for drafting the new constitution. The panel, handpicked by Bishry and consisting mostly of fellow judges and politicians, does not feature a single woman.
Bishry has been referred to as ''moderate'' in his views, although Wael Abbas, a popular and influential blogger, calls him a "worrying" choice. "There is no such thing as a moderate Islamist," Abbas warns. "We want equality for all Egyptians, including Christians, Jews, Bahais and those who consider themselves atheists." Even from Abbas, as progressive and secular a figure as there exists in Egypt, there is no mention of equality for women.
It is a testament to how marginalised women are that there is more dismay that the panel features only one Coptic Christian (a judge) than there is that it features no women. Ten per cent of Egyptians are of the Coptic faith; at least 50 per cent of Egyptians are women.
Given 10 days by the military council to ease the transition into civilian rule, it is unlikely the panel will draft a new constitution so much as hastily amend the old one. This means the dreaded Article 2, which proclaims Islam the state religion and shariah the main source of law, is unlikely to change.
While minorities such as Copts are directly affected by Article 2, so too are women, and despite their marginal status, women are not a minority.
The fact that no women have been asked to help set Egypt on its future course is particularly galling when one considers the large role women played in the revolution itself.
On January 18, 26-year-old blogger Asma Mahfouz posted a video of herself on her Facebook page, telling of her intention to march to Tahrir Square on (the now legendary) January 25. In the video, Mahfouz implores her fellow Egyptians to help her overturn the 30 years of "humiliation and degradation" that characterised Mubarak's reign. Her video proved so popular, she was credited with awakening the revolutionary spirit in thousands of young men. After all, if a girl was brave enough not only to protest but also to make public her intention to protest in a regime known to crack down ruthlessly on dissenters, then they had to show their manhood by joining her, right?
Then there are Gigi Ibrahim, one of the ''Facebook youth'' who were instrumental in disseminating the images from Tahrir Square via Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Vimeo, and the activist Mona Seif, who gave one of the most harrowing live interviews of the revolution on al-Jazeera English. Witnessing the invasion of the square by pro-Mubarak goons, she cried out through tears that leaving was not an option for the protesters because they knew if they gave up, the regime "would hunt us one by one".
Even outside Egypt, women led the way. The New York-based Egyptian columnist Mona Eltahawy undertook what she dubbed a "media uprising" in the United States, crisscrossing the country in an effort to relay to confused Americans - audiences and media alike - what was actually occurring on the ground. In fact, Eltahawy was credited with prompting CNN to change its framing of events from ''chaos'' to ''uprising''.
So why are Egyptian women being excluded now? These early days are pivotal.
Without a female voice to influence the constitutional reform, it is unlikely that any reforms will be made that improve the rights of women, particularly given the short time frame. Egypt has unacceptably high levels of sexual harassment and low levels of female employment (in 2007, women's activity rate was only 23 per cent). While the two may appear unrelated on the surface, the fact is that the status of women in Egypt, as in the rest of the region, is one where they are largely relegated to the private sphere. As long as women are viewed primarily as wives and mothers, then their roles - and their bodies - will be regarded primarily as sexual.
Reforms that improve the status of women, giving them options outside the home and an identity outside of their strict gender roles, are needed to change the attitude many men harbour towards women.
Without these changes, for the women of Egypt it could be a case of the new boss looking remarkably similar to the old boss.
Ruby Hamad is a freelance writer.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I'm bracing for the inevitable: there will be a repeat of the federal Macquarie result where the Liberal candidate did nothing - didn't contribute to discussions and debates, didn't stand at the top of the stairs at the train station gladhanding commuters and thrusting pamphlets in their hands, didn't address any letters to the editor - and romped in regardless. Apparently my fellow Mountains folk care little whether the person they vote for is actively involved in the process, which seems rather strange. Perhaps, like me, they are more inclined to vote on party lines (or, OK, in my case, not-party lines). So I've already picked out my title for the aftermath: 'Sage Undertaking' (or, in the unlikely event that Labor is returned 'Sage Brush' as in, that was a brush with getting some arrogant toadie in power instead of a vitally interested local member.)

The lady in question, Roza Sage, is something of a Bronwyn type figure to look at. You know Barry Humphries objection to voting for Kevin Rudd because he looks like a dentist, well Roza actually is a dentist. Maybe she got tired of being hated and feared and just chose the wrong vocation.

Meanwhile, in the tradition of Labor rising through the ranks, the far more open and friendly (appearing) Trish Doyle is retiring member Phil Koperberg's head of staff.
The Greens are running former councillor Kerrin O’Grady.
Another - very active - councillor Janet Mays is running as an independent meaning that, yes, it is an all female field yet again (if you don't count the Christian Democratic Party candidate Merv Cox, and I don't).

Postscript: I take that back about Roza Sage: she was at our train station this morning, the eve of the election, along with our former federal Liberal member, Kerry Bartlett.

In other news - so assured is the routing of the ALP in this state that there is a forum scheduled for Monday in 'the wake of their defeat', despite it not being election day til tomorrow! 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dapin opens/opines

Mark Dapin is another of those columnists whose work I am exposed to through the caprices of the weekend newspaper lift out. Like that previous columnist I spotlighted, Dapin fills his spot with tales of his mum coming over from England and falling on her bum, of beer with an amusing name. He doesn't go to the lengths that a Ron Saw would*, of naming his wife and children with cute code names and writing about them incessantly. Or am I thinking of Ross Campbell?

*a habit that's been taken up by many an Australian columnist

 Well, a letter writer yearned publicly for Dapin to return to more political commentary and the message was received yielding this one true return to form:

I came back from holiday to find a postcard from my federal MP, asking whether I thought gays should be allowed to marry. I was a bit surprised, since she has never canvassed my opinion on any other issue: whether, for example, midgets should join the library service.
 I'd have thought everyone should have the same civil rights, regardless of their biology or beliefs*. So,yes, gays should get married, if they want. Your sexual orientation doesn't matter. As soon as you get married, you stop having sex anyway.

According to my MP's postcard, "Recently the government asked Members of Parliament to gauge local community attitudes to same-sex marriages." But in the Netherlands,which has about three-quarters of the population of Australia,only 1100 gay couples married in 2005. Do we really need to find out what everyone in the country  thinks about this?  I only ask, because I don't remember the government consulting me over whether we should invade Iraq. And when I demonstrated against the idea, it ignored me. Perhaps I should've sent the postcard.

I wonder if my (comparatively left-wing) MP is looking for my backing in the chamber because the people who object most strongly to gay marriage are religious - and everyone knows it's cruel to upset religious people, and if atheists stand up to them, we will burn in hell.  I've never quite understood why it is so important to respect religious - as opposed to political - convictions, but I guess religious people vote in Australia and dead Iraqis don't vote anywhere.

Last year, religious people helped the Victorian government decide not to allow classes in humanism in Victorian schools. But that colourful assembly of property developers' proxies, the NSW State Parliament, has long agonised over whether NSW schoolchildren should be allowed to take ethics classes instead of religious education.  Ethics, like PE, would be taught by volunteers.  Am I the only person who thinks that their children should be taught by teachers?

I have a stake in this, since in England where I grew up, religious education was compulsory and I was excluded from it.  "Noddy" Reese refused to teach me after I wrote swear words on the exam paper.  I did this because I didn't like the subject, and there didn't seem to be any way og getting better at it.  Religious education classes weren't real lessons, and I had more spiritually uplifting things to do, such as smoke cigarettes behind the bike sheds. Ethics periods won't be proper classes either, and kids in state schools will use them to persecute the volunteer tutors and stab each other in the arm with their (immoral) compasses.

 At school, I hope my children will learn words and numbers, countries and kings, and the fact that osmosis is the attraction of a dilute solution to a concentrated solution through a semi-permeable membrane. I don't want them being told that Jesus was the son of God. Yes, I it's important to be familiar with the Judeo-Christian tradition, so you can understand great works of devotional art, and ideas that have changed the world, but this should be taught as history, like the rise of Islam and the spread of Buddhism.  

A reader has complained I don't write about politics any more. There are two reasons for this: (1)Alexander Downer is no longer the member for Mayo. My work is done; (2)I don't get it. Labor politicians used to be mild right-wingers pretending to be left-wing so they'd get elected. Now they're mild left-wingers pretending to be right-wing once they're in Parliament. Does anybody seriously believe Julia Gillard is personally against amending the Marriage Act? Or, for that matter, that Tony Abbott really thinks climate change is a scam? Why should I tell politicians what I believe when they won't tell me what they believe?

Answers on a postcard, please.

*Except for estate agents, who are just a bunch of crooks.

[Good Weekend,  February 26,2011]