Egyptian Women of the Arab Spring: A Social Media Revolution

I wrote a paper in December 2011 around the role of social media and women’s involvement in the Arab Spring as part of my graduate class at USF: “Gender and Globalization”. Following are portions of my paper in a series.

Introduction

This paper will analyze Egyptian women and their role in the 2011 Arab Spring revolution. Through problematizing historical systems and current structures, I will attempt to examine the way new media is shaping women’s movements and facilitating women’s rights in a predominantly patriarchal, Muslim society.

I am fascinated by the role of new media in people’s movements, specifically, the new narrative that it helps us create as global citizens. As stories are told in real-time, truly understanding who is writing our own history is a challenge, as tweets, updates and posts fade into the folds of blogs and are lost behind the scroll of endless pages. The use of new media in people’s movements began in 2009 in Iran, and has continued at an even stronger rate since, in particular in Tunisia and Egypt. The role women had in the Arab Spring uprisings – both on the ground and online – was particularly powerful in Egypt, and is backed by a history that has supported women mobilizers in previous periods of unrest. Examining the unfolding of a 21st century people’s movement while attempting to understand a new media narrative is why I chose to do research in this area.

Within the context of this paper I will also be providing visuals – charts and graphs – to illustrate the way these collective points of action – tweets, posts, searches – tell a greater story.

Statement of Purpose

In this paper I would like to address the Arab Spring protests in Egypt through the lens of women’s movements and the rise of social media as a conduit for action and solidarity throughout the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). I will be answering the following questions: What role did women play in igniting, creating and sustaining change in the January 2011 revolution in Egypt; what role did social media play in facilitating this movement both on and off the ground, and specifically how were women using new media to engage in the conversation and planning of the revolution; where do women fit into the new paradigm of government in Egypt, and how are they focusing on bringing women’s rights into a newly democratic society?

With these questions in mind, I will be touching on the history and context of the Arab Spring revolutions, starting with the Tunisian revolt in early January and ending with the ouster of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in late January. I will examine the role history played in women’s movements and progression of women’s rights leading to the Arab Spring, and address the actions of women and their real-time organizing via social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. My conclusion, largely topical, will focus on the recent events in Tahrir surrounding the current transition government and women’s roles in post-revolution Egypt.

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