Egyptian women are protesters too

By now, everyone on the Internet has heard of the protests in Egypt.

Powerful and moving images saturate the media, bringing us face to face with these brave women and men.

The New York Times offers this image on the left. The caption begins, “A protester consoled a woman during a demonstration.”

Okay, let’s break this down.

A protester? I see two.

A woman? Oh, now I get it, New York Times. The man is a protester. The woman is…a woman.

I seriously doubt that this woman found herself unexpectedly in the center of a protest, unless she was taking an extremely scenic route to her kitchen.

And is her hand, pressed against her compatriot’s chest, not just as capable of offering consolation? Couldn’t the caption as easily read, “A protester consoled a man”?

As Melissa McEwan notes in her blog at Shakesville, there is a coded misogyny in our use of language that reinforces the status quo.

This is the problem that gives us the terms “Female Doctor” and “Male Nurse:” what is implicit is that unless otherwise noted, your doctor is a he and your nurse is a she.

It also creates the assumption that, found holding each other in the middle of a rally, the man is most likely a protester and the woman is most likely in need of consolation.

But these images tell the truth of it:

These revolutionaries are inspirations to us all. Can you tell what the readers of this blog have in common with these freedom fighters?

That’s right. We are all comrades in the struggle against oppression.

How do you protest?


Heidi Heilig is a bookwriter, lyricist, playwright, and journalist born in Hawaii and living in Brooklyn. She holds a BFA in Drama and an MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. When she’s not arguing on the internet, eating cookies, or writing songs, she can be found contributing to the About-Face blog. Check out her website at http://www.heidiheilig.com.

3 thoughts on “Egyptian women are protesters too

  1. Great article and wonderful photos! I am baffled how anyone could look at a photo of two people participating equally in a movement of change in their society, then go on to trivialise one of those people with such a dismissive caption. Obviously reveals much more about the person who wrote the caption than the people in the photo.

  2. Thanks Aimy. It does say more about the writer of the caption, but also about a society that fosters that kind of writing. Misogyny is so coded into our very language (mankind meaning all humans but womankind meaning just the ladies, to give an oft-used example) that it rolls off the tongue unless we make a conscious effort to challenge it in our heads. This is why i love the term “feminist” meaning “one who fights for equality for all people.” If for millenia people claimed with a straight face that “all men” really means “all humans,” then i would like to seize the power to claim that “all women” can also mean “all humans.”

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