February 3, 2011 | 12:13 pm
Seeing female protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square has been one of the most surprising developments to emerge in Egypt over the past week. In a country where women are considered second-class citizens (menstruation among the reasons) and are often groped by male passersby, women crossing that threshold and standing side by side with Egyptian men seems to have sparked a movement within a movement.
“For many Egyptian women, the massive street demonstrations that have shaken the authoritarian rule of President Hosni Mubarak have also raised hopes of a more personal brand of liberation. Long treated as second-class citizens, the women say they have found an unexpected equality on the front lines of the protest,” reports the Los Angeles Times’ Laura King.
“In past protests, the female presence would rarely rise to 10 percent. Protests have a reputation for being dangerous for Egyptian women, whose common struggle as objects of sexual harassment is exacerbated in the congested, male-dominated crowd,” writes Slate’s Jenna Krajeski.
“As a picture of compassion between combatants, the image of a plump Egyptian woman kissing a green-eyed soldier on the cheek during protests last week was a powerful statement of national unity.
But it was also far more radical than that in a country in which men and women are barely tolerated holding hands in public in the most liberal precincts of comparatively Christian Alexandria, and where public displays of affection are frowned upon and likely to be met with cutting glances and vicious neighborhood gossip elsewhere,” explains the Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta.