The counter-revolution and women

The ugliness and ridiculousness of the army and their defenders' arguments this week has been hard to countenance. 

Much of the debate has centered on the shocking image of the young woman dragged, half undressed and mercilessly beaten in the street by soldiers. The denial, misogyny and hostility on display has been in direct proportion to the impossibility of defending this conduct. 

A sheikh with the Gamaa Islamiya exemplified the worst of Islamist bigotry and hypocrisy by telling Al Ahram a few days ago that "real Egyptian men don't follow April 6 women into the street" and if people are concerned for women's honor they should worry about girls sleeping overnight in tents with boys and dancing.

The focus on women -- their safety, their "honor," their participation -- has brought out the worst in the counter-revolutionaries. In the pro-army Abbasiya protest yesterday, people chanted: "From the ladies of Egypt to Ghada.." -- addressing this brave young woman, beaten by the army -- "Your end will be annihilation." They also reiterated the perversely common argument that the woman in the blue bra entrapped soldiers into beating and stripping her in the street. The event was headlined by Tawfeeq Okasha, a weird populist TV station owner (and former Mubarak supporter) who judging by this video -- in which he creepily tells activists Nawara Negm and Asmaa Mahfouz that he has guys all ready and lined up to marry them and teach them to calm down and love their country -- is a raving psychopath and misogynist. Just for good measure, the Abbaseya demo also reportedly featured posters of popular private TV channel presenters Mona Shazly, Reem Maged and others with nooses around their necks. 

The loons in Abbaseya are an extreme end of popular opinion (albeit one that is being dangerously encouraged). Many other Egyptians are shamed, shocked and scared by the army's violence towards citizens, and (although I think by now almost everyone knows that something terrible happened Downtown last week) would prefer to believe that it didn't happen -- or that those it happened to somehow deserved it. Egypt is still fighting the same battle, a year on: a battle over whether all its citizens deserve safety and dignity and whether those who are in power can be held accountable. The denial and incoherent rage being directed at protesters -- and at those women who, according to these arguments, chose to embarrass themselves and their country by getting themselves nearly killed in the street by soldiers -- shows how difficult and threatening this kind of change will be.