- Thawrat El Banat
Thawrat El Banat (Girls Revolution) is one of the major online feminist platforms on Egyptian social media. We are active on Facebook (www.facebook.com/EgyGirlsRev), with over 135,000 followers without advertising, and on Twitter (#EgyGirlsRev). We are mainly concerned with defending women’s rights and discussing gender-related issues online. We have published the stories of more than eleven thousand women. The stories focus on sexual violence (harassment, female genital mutilation, rape, and sexual assault), discrimination based on gender, and forced veiling. Girls also share stories of success related to such experiences. We have launched off-line campaigns to end sexual violence and defend women’s right to free choices in relation to their own bodies and public spheres.
Thawrat El Banat was founded in January 2012, on the first anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution. It began with the idea that it was time for women to be given a voice. Based on a vision of a society that believes in free choices for women without any kind of discrimination, Thawrat El Banat began a digital feminist struggle to raise women’s awareness of discrimination and masculine dominance. As a feminist platform, Thawrat El Banat encourages young girls to share their discriminatory experiences related to gender roles. Also, it has launched many campaigns to document violence against women in public transportation, especially in subways, and violence against young girls at schools. One of our campaigns, We Will Ride Bicycles, was organized to defend women’s right to public space and to fight sexual harassment. The unprecedented campaign We Will Wear Dresses aimed to raise awareness of women’s right to wear dresses if they like, a practice that has declined with the rise of an Islamic movement that frowns on showing women’s legs. We also sponsor movie screenings followed by debates.
One of the main challenges we face is that the traditional community in Egypt refuses to abandon its dominance over women, considering them second-class citizens. Because of the patriarchal order in public and private spaces, many voices [End Page 374] calling for women’s liberty are silenced through direct threats and stigmatization. We are threatened by individuals who consider themselves guardians of traditions, religions, and virtues. They accuse us of spreading what they consider to be vices. Members are stigmatized as “bad girls,” atheists, and having no ethics or morals. Others claim that we are not real feminists, because we facilitate discussions about discrimination based on beauty standards, and they want us to discuss only sexual harassment. This is sad, because it makes us feel unfree to choose our feminist approaches.
Another challenge we face is the subordination of women’s issues across the political spectrum, from the religious and conservative to the liberal streams. Antidiscrimination laws are not applied, and we lack antiviolence legislations.
Thawrat El Banat also struggles with cyberbullying by people who want to punish us and shut down our radical voice. Our activists and administrators are regularly digitally threatened and sexually harassed because of our feminist identity. Our photos are published without our permission. The founders experience massive online attacks in which individuals’ privacy and reputations are violated. Electronic campaigns call on Thawrat El Banat members to shut down administrators’ personal profiles on Facebook and the official Facebook page. Despite the strong need, there are no digital crime laws. The real challenge is how to raise feminist awareness in women themselves under circumstances where girls and women are constantly fought, dominated, and stereotyped.
Thawrat El Banat
April 26, 2015 [End Page 375]