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Women's Movements and Activism

Panel VI-25, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Friday, November 3 at 4:00 pm

Panel Description
  • Dr. Vickie Langohr -- Presenter
  • Dr. Sarah Fischer -- Chair
  • Mrs. Saly El Wazze -- Presenter
  • Azadeh Momeni -- Presenter
  • Hayal Hanoglu -- Presenter
  • Serra Kocak -- Presenter
  • Hayal Hanoglu
    Gender negotiations within Kurdish families and activism in Turkey and diaspora The aim of the paper is to present initial findings of research on gender roles within Kurdish families and among active members of diaspora. The study is a part of AlcitFem – a larger ongoing research project on alternative citizenship among Kurds in Kurdistan and in diaspora (funded by Norwegian Grants and Polish National Science Centre). By examining the histories and views of our respondents we try to show how the intersectionality of Kurdish identity and being Kurdish women are negotiated during everyday life in diaspora and in countries between which Kurdistan is located. Studying Kurdish diasporas from the perspective of transnational studies we show that despite technological advancement and the development of easier ways to maintain social networks "the national order of things" connected with cultural and social boundaries still affect Kurdish families in everyday life. The findings are based on 20 episodic interviews with Kurdish women in Turkey and diaspora. Operationalization followed Uwe Flick’s episodic interview in which questions were asked about specific topics related to biography – in this case gender roles, views on family and history of migration.
  • 99% of Egyptian girls and women have experienced harassment, most frequently in the street or public transport (U.N. Women 2013). The Egyptian government has taken action against public sexual harassment (PSH) since 2014, when it defined harassment and specified enhanced criminal penalties in a penal code amendment. Women now more frequently win jail sentences against attackers, while TV personalities in government-controlled media regularly praise these women as role models. I use interviews conducted in Cairo between 2012-2019, a newspaper database of PSH arrests reported in the year after the 2014 legal change, and analysis of TV talk shows in 2017-21 to demonstrate the drivers of Egyptian government activism. New youth anti-harassment movements began in 2012-13. They intervened in public, including separating groups of men following women in shopping areas during ‘eids. Their tallies of the number of women harassed during ‘eids appeared on major talk shows, prompting the creation of all-women police forces for these holidays. Activists’ public demonstrations and private workshops debunked PSH stereotypes, including that the sexual frustration of men unable to afford marriage causes harassment. Anti-PSH groups’ work was covered widely on TV; these appearances served as a “force multiplier” for groups’ messages, including refuting the belief that only “improperly” dressed women are harassed. This work created the climate for post-2014 government action against PSH. This finding contravenes existing research on when governments act against violence against women (VAW) generally and sexual harassment specifically. Htun and Weldon (2018) argue that where feminist movements are strong and occur within a country which has withdrawn its reservations on CEDAW and whose neighboring countries are also legislating against VAW, governments are likely to act. Tripp (2019) contends that the only MENA countries to comprehensively legislate against VAW, including sexual harassment, have been Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia because those governments used women’s rights to undermine Islamist challengers and their countries’ feminist movements coordinated across borders. Egyptian government anti-PSH action has occurred despite maintenance of its CEDAW reservations, and its anti-PSH legislation predates that of other MENA countries. Feminist movements supported Egypt’s anti-PSH activism but did not direct it, and the government acted on PSH after it had eliminated Islamist opponents in the August 2013 Rabi’a massacre and by criminalizing the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. Instead, space opened up by Egypt’s 2011 revolution allowed previously apolitical youth to put PSH on the government agenda.
  • Azadeh Momeni
    Art and Politics: A Comparative Study of the American Women’s Suffrage Movement and Iranian Woman, Life, Freedom Movement Art can play a significant role in the movements by helping to shape public opinion and mobilize people towards a common cause. Artistic expressions such as literature, music, film, and visual art can be powerful tools for communicating ideas and emotions that resonate with people and inspire them to take action. Additionally, art can also serve as a form of protest and social commentary, highlighting the issues and injustices that are driving the revolutionary movement. The focus of this paper is a comparative study of the American Women’s Suffrage Movement and Iran’s Woman, Life, Freedom movement, with a focus on paintings and poetry. During the 19th century, women were attributed with the key characteristics of gentleness, beauty, and were expected to maintain a housewife standard. They were defined as representing the values of piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity. However, the female suffragists challenged those ideas. More importantly, they strongly confronted the myth that “women have no place in politics” through different paintings and cartoons. Among those are Lou Rogers’ “Tearing of the Bonds”, and “Welding in the Missing Link”, which became the most prominent images employed in the Women's Suffrage Movement. Additionally, some American activists such as Charlotte Pekins Gilman wrote poems distributed in the format of postcards throughout the nations. American women utilized different arts not only to resist but also to push forward their movement. As a result of their efforts and fights, on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. And on November 2 of that year, more than 8 million women across the United States voted in elections for the first time. In the Iranian Woman, Life, Freedom Movement, too, art has been playing a considerable role. The painting of Mahsa Amini, whose death sparked this movement became placards and posters which have been utilized by protesters across the globe. Moreover, Shervin Hajipour wrote a poem and sang it. His poem became the anthem of the Woman, Life, Freedom Movement. He is the first recipient of the 2023 Grammy for Best Song for Social Change. In sum, in both the American Women’s Suffrage Movement and Iranian Women, Life, Freedom, art played a significant role in inspiring, motivating, and mobilizing protesters.
  • Mrs. Saly El Wazze
    In this research I examine representations of gender and gender-based violence in some of the most prominent campaigns produced by women’s non-governmental organizations in the past decade in Lebanon. I examine the publics these representations construct and engage in the pursuit of social change, and how the rhetorics they develop reflect on social change in the Lebanese and feminist public spheres. Lebanese NGOs operate in a public sphere influenced by patriarchal and sectarian structures, neo-liberal market relations, and an industry reliant on donor funding. As actors in civil society operating in this context, the campaigns they produce contribute to the discursive space of social action. They also play a role in challenging existing hegemonic gender beliefs and imagining new ways of being, making the rhetorics put forth by their campaigns worth examining. I posit my research in the literature on Michael Warner’s understanding of the Public-Counterpublic and Sonia Foss’s understanding of the feminist public sphere. I examine six of the most popular campaigns on GBV against women produced during 2009-2019 by three prominent Lebanese NGOs: KAFA, Abaad, and Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality. A visual and textual examination was conducted, then a feminist rhetorical criticism. In addition, interviews were conducted with communication officers in both NGOs and advertising agencies who produced these campaigns. Analysis of the campaigns revealed that one of two approaches were used to construct and address viewers, relatability and dramatic appeal. Campaigns who address their publics by striking relatability rely on reproducing stereotypical understandings of gender and middle-class, reflecting the campaign authors’ own middle classness. Campaigns using dramatic appeal rely on sensationalized classist stereotypes of victimhood and difference. As for the rhetorics produced, most of the campaigns reproduce normative beliefs and understandings, which complicates imagining feminist scenarios of liberation and new ways of being in society. Instead, the main goal for most of the campaigns seems to be maximizing campaign reach. Interestingly, each of the three NGOs create one campaign reliant on some stereotypical understanding of gender then subverte the same understanding in their other campaign; therefore, introducing conflicting understandings of gender. Similarly, stereotypes concerning class continue to be reproduced and unchallenged. As such, most of the rhetorics developed in these campaigns reflect a refeudalization of the feminist public sphere for the service of private interests in relation to donors. This translates into campaigns accountable to attainable goals in lieu of intersectional actionable social change.
  • Serra Kocak
    In this paper, I will demonstrate the main themes of Islamic feminists, their methods, and the impacts of political and cultural context on their struggles. I argue that the rise of local feminist ideas and gender consciousness in Muslim societies is crucial for the future of feminist works worldwide. This paper consists of six main sections. The first section summarizes the varying cultural and political contexts in which Islamic feminist literature is produced. The second section outlines the general methods through which Islamic feminists justify their arguments. These methods are reinterpretations of the Islamic sources, the Qur’an, and Hadith (Prophet Muhammad’s words), historical contextualization of the Qur’anic verses, and adaption to the practices of contemporary modern societies. The following section explains the arguments of Islamic feminists by focusing on the works of critical scholars: Amina Wadud, Asma Barlas, Fatima Mernissi, Leila Ahmed, and Saba Mahmood. The fourth section revolves around a discussion of the secular feminists in Muslim societies and their critique of the rise of Islamic feminisms. The following section examines some feminist scholars of the Middle East, situating Islamic feminisms within an anti-colonial framework. Finally, the paper concludes with a discussion of the role of Islamic feminist movements in global feminism.