We cannot talk about the situation of Feminists in the Arab World without taking into consideration the situation of women in general. How can a feminist work in a society existing in a country that do not grant women their minimum rights by law?
This question raises the issue of the nature of a feminist work in a certain society. Recently, UN women launched a campaign to explore how women are perceived in a certain society by using autocomplete search tool on Google. The results were not pleasing at all when the search was made in communities seen as already gained so much rights for women in the West. The results came gloomy in the Arab World. This made me think that we as feminists didn’t reach as far as we would like to think in the Middle East and North Africa.
Society will fight back when it comes to changing its structure and its balance of power, especially when women emancipation is the subject. Feminists took the burden of freeing women from their chains. In the Middle East, Feminists were always dehumanized and demoralized. They were always accused of seeking to corrupt the society and eliminate the values that the people were raised on. Let alone challenging the state authority that is built on patriarchal control which led many feminists to face troubles with their governments as well as societies.
Feminists didn’t achieve successful results in the Arab region, yet, for different reasons. One is their attempt to insource the methods of feminists from other societies that were evolved differently from the societies of this region. Feminists in ME failed to evolve with the tools available in their own societies to reach a universal goal, they appeared arrogant and unreal in their attempts to prove that they are more progressive than others by applying outsider thoughts. The image of Feminists was not credible in countries governed by dictators especially when the wives of tyrants (First Lady Syndrome) and military officers’ wives were presented as feminists without making any tangible changes in the situation of women, this presented an image that is entirely different from what feminism supposed to manifest: A movement that defies patriarchal discrimination and tyranny against women and society in general.
The negative image of a feminist exacerbate as many of them used feminism for their personal prestige without believing in its calling. An example here of what used to be a feminist man who founded the Syrian Observatory for Women Rights. Someone who was supposed to defend the rights of Syrian women, but after the Syrian uprising in 2011, he started to incite the part of the population to rape women opposing the regime. Such examples undermine what other sincere feminists in Syria and Arab World were trying to establish. In societies where women face more challenging issues like educating girls, women economic empowerment and demanding governments to grant women’s rights by law, and ignoring women participation in shaping the laws and building the social and cultural infrastructure, all this is the base for more recognition of women’s weight in life.
Being a feminist is to challenge authority and assert equality of women as human beings not just looking at them as mothers, sisters and daughters, they are not an extension of the origin which usually considered a man, women are also an origin. Laws in these countries should not treat men and women differently and consider women as second degree citizens.
A feminist woman enjoys being her authentic self without pressure from the outside like society, boyfriend, or even other women.