Question 5: “Your body is a battleground.” –Barbara Kruger
“Aliaa’s picture does not play by the rules. She is not “waiting” for the “right moment” to bring up bodily rights and sexual rights in post-Mubarak Egypt. Her nudity is not about sex, but it aims to reinvigorate a conversation about the politics of sex. She is staring back at us, daring us to look at her and to not turn away. Daring us to have this debate.” –Maya Mikdashi Use the case of Aliaa el-Mahdy, the “nude blogger” in Egypt during the Arab Spring, to reflect on the role of gender and sexuality in revolution; the limits and potentials of nude protest; the contested meanings of “freedom” and “oppression”; and digital citizenship, or the ways in which social media has transformed political protest and the public square. Consider ANY 2 of the the following questions to build your argument: • How does Aliaa Elmahdy’s story illustrate the centrality of gender and sexuality to revolution? Why are nationalist movements often associated with masculinity? How was gender important to the 2015 coup in Turkey? • Why is sexual violence often used as means of state control either during wartime, as in Bosnia, or in response to women’s participation in social protest, as in Tahrir Square in Cairo? •
What constitutes “freedom” and “oppression” with respect to women’s dress and appearance? What are the pros and cons of associating nudity with feminist empowerment or sexual “liberation”? Does the global commodification of women’s naked bodies in advertising and social media– including women’s self-commodification– complicate this equation between nudity and liberation? • How do social media including What’s App, Twitter, and Facebook challenge traditional paradigms of political protest, agency, and organizing? Which form of social protest do you believe is most effective? Will the future of social movements involve online protest, street actions, or a combination of forms? Discuss at least 2 essays (Mejias, Eileraas, Hafez, Al-Ali, Mostov, Nozaki, McClintock, Helie-Lucas, Akinerdem, and/or Stetz) AND one newspaper article from our class materials (Dabashi, Eltahawy, Ali, Friedman, Loshitzky or any other article related to nude protest). You must also discuss ONE of the following visual materials (most were shown in class): Refinery 29 “A Woman’s Place” re sexual harassment in Cairo; Asma Mahfouz “Democracy Now” interview; Mona Eltahawy CNN interview “On Women’s Future After the Arab Spring”; the nude interview with el-Mahdy; or related film clips regarding nude protest, Aliaa el-Mahdy, Femen, and/or the Arab Spring.