Panel 5e. Patriarchy and the Arab Spring: liberation or backlash? I

Chair: Bjørn Olav Utvik

National liberation – gender stagnation? Patriarchy and politics in Galilee and Gaza
Dag Tuastad, University of Oslo

In 1990, in the midst of the Palestinian intifada, Gaza City became the first city in the history of the Mediterranean where swimming was formally banned by the intifada leadership. At the same time, conservative female dress codes were encouraged. This reflected that the transformation of patriarchal structures was uneven. On the one hand, most of the intifada activists revolted against the will of their elders. On the other hand, gender roles were re-traditionalized. Later on also youth would experience a setback. As the national liberation movement dominated political life after the uprising, youth participation in politics decreased. These processes have continued since the Islamist takeover of Gaza in 2007. By contrast, among Palestinians inside Israel, different trends have been observed. Fewer Palestinians participate in national politics while clans (hamulas) have resurged in local authorities. Simultaneously, the gap in gender roles has diminished. More women work, their marital age is higher, and the fertility rate is in steep decline. It is apparently a paradox that where clan politics is stronger, patriarchal structures are weaker while patriarchy has been consolidated where the national liberation movements have been strengthened. I will argue that this relates to how the liberation movements cultivate conservative gender roles to enhance public morality. This is not the case in Galilee where the doors have been opened for political participation of younger generations in local politics, and where clan politics largely overshadows national politics. The study is based on fieldwork from Gaza and Galilee.

No Arab Spring or rebellion against patriarchy among Palestinians in Israel: What rule does this exception prove?
Tilde Rosmer, University of Oslo

Young Palestinian citizens of Israel have not followed the examples of the Arab Spring demonstrators and taken to the streets to protest the increasing discrimination they face as non-Jewish citizens in the Jewish state. Nor have they rebelled against the patriarchal structures within their own community. Why not? The predicament of this native national minority is complex and paradoxical: they constitute approximately 20 percent of the population in a highly militarized state where they have rights as individuals and are represented on local and national level, yet are discriminated against as non-Jewish citizens. Currently the pressures for change within this community is for unity: the Islamic Movement in Israel has been trying to unite to reverse its split in 1996 and in January Arab parties in the Knesset agreed to unite and be represented on one list. However, these parallel developments comprise an inherent contradiction – the Northern branch of the Islamic Movement does not support participation in national elections and the Southern branch is part of the new Unity List running in the March election. In same way as this contradiction can exist by way of common necessity, this paper argues that for Palestinians in Israel the slow and steady struggle for rights and equality at state level has usurped the potential for a rebellion against patriarchy. Thus, context is the key to understand the potential for and boundaries of social change vis-à-vis old patriarchy.

Gender Politics and the Saudi Educational System
Laila Makboul, University of Oslo

In Saudi Arabia, education is often depicted as women´s greatest progress. With a majority of females graduating from university, this paper will explore the Saudi educational policy and its potential as a source of women empowerment in the society at large. One contention pertains to whether the educational system is instrumental in promoting women´s rights or in preserving traditional gender roles. Women are increasingly graduating from untraditional fields of studies previously preserved for men. The appointment of the first female deputy minister in 2009 and following election of 30 women to the 150-person Shura Council in 2013 are celebrated as a sign of political willingness to widen the public sphere of women. It remains to explore whether these changes are transformed into overall gender equality in the society or are an attempt to control women´s field of action by leading them. This study will show how policies set by the educational ministry are gradually preparing women for a wider incorporation into the public sphere, while carefully trying to avoid confrontation with conservative segments of the society by maintaining strict gender segregation and to some extent separate school curricula. This is evident from the goals and policies set by the educational ministry for the next five years which state the importance of preparing women for participation in different fields but at the same time underscore the importance of safeguarding the teachings of Islam and strengthening the unity of the country. The findings rely on interviews, statistics, curriculum and educational policy review.

Of broken walls and broken illusions, or: Where do social media actors perceive liberating change in the Arab world?
Albrecht Hofheinz, University of Oslo

‘Patriarchal authority has collapsed,’ was a young intellectual’s first thought on the impact of internet use on his society. And: ‘Virginity is no longer an issue.’ Are such slogans borne out by reality? ‘We have broken the wall of fear,’ revolutionaries had claimed. Where are we, five years on? Where the outsider points to many continuities, Sudanese are convinced that their country has ‘totally changed’. To them, the experience of social change beneath the façade of superficial similarities and regime stability is fundamental. A video of a renowned pro-regime shaykh spread like wildfire on WhatsApp, showing the master masturbating. ‘All of Sudan has seen it!’ The taboos of religion, sex, and politics are challenged in an image revealing the emperor’s new clothes. Old authorities still wield considerable power; and disrespect for the authorities is nothing new. But it remains a striking fact that this attitude is perceived by the actors themselves as a significant change, compared to the norms that they were fed by these authorities during their upbringing. ‘Real change is happening on the social level,’ they explain, ‘irrespective of the rear-guard fights that get so much attention in politics.’ In my presentation, I discuss material collected over the past five years both online and offline in Egypt and Sudan, to study how people there reflect on the social changes they are experiencing. Patriarchal and gender norms are central to this discussion. A special effort is made to include voices from beyond the urban ‘Facebook youth’ in the analysis.

Comics and the liberation from patriarchy
Jacob Høigilt, Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO)

Comics for grown-ups is a new medium in Egypt, and one that takes on a number of sensitive social and political issues. This paper surveys how a number of independent comics in Egypt treat social and political problems connected to patriarchy and authoritarianism in Egypt, with special regard to the successful, collaborative effort Tuk-Tuk. I argue that through their deployment of vernacular language, humour and explicit graphics, these publications are part of the same cultural emancipation among the young that could be witnessed in a number of cultural productions during the early days of the Egyptian revolution. The fact that comics has continued to prosper after 2011 indicates that parts of the social and cultural content of the 2011 uprising are still very much alive in Egypt today, despite the bleak political realities. The paper relies on extensive use of examples from a range of comics recently published in Egypt, as well as interviews with authors and graphic artists conducted in Cairo in 2012 and 2014.

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