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Discussion Topic of the Week!

From Womens e-news.org:

U.S. and Arab Women: Both Demand Democracy

Some clips:

“American and Arab women have much in common. While women in the Arab world are working for democracy, American women are trying to make democracy work. The fight for gender equity and democracy are deeply intertwined.”

“As the revolutions erupted last spring and Arab citizens struggled to bring democracy to their individual nations, Arabs of all ages and sexes were demonstrating and trying to evict their leaders.

“In comedic contrast, American newspapers were full of sex scandals involving male politicians. The issue in the U.S. was about extra-marital sex and cheating.

“While the dalliances and disloyalty of elected American officials cannot be equated to the abusive power of male Arab leadership and its long-term impact, there is a parallel: in both cases the men in power proceeded with an autocratic sense of impunity.”

“”Powerful men molest with impunity,” wrote Katha Pollitt in the International Herald Tribune, but the way in which Arab dictators govern and American politicians conduct their personal lives while in office has most recently led to their downfall and disgrace.”

What do you think? Do powerful men overuse their power–both sexually and politically? Are there truly ties between Arab and American women as this article suggests? Does, or can, democracy work in either situation?

Read the full article here and share your opinions, questions and thoughts below.

Nathalie Couet
With a French-Polish mother and a Québecois father, Nathalie has always been fully aware and grateful of the fact that she is a citizen of the world. Born in the United States, Nathalie moved to the United Kingdom at six months, only to return to the U.S. at the age of three. After high school, Nathalie moved to Montréal, Québec to complete a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology/Archaeology/African Studies. Forever in love with writing, the outdoors, and photography, Nathalie spent several years as a freelance sports photographer and writer. A deep love of science brought her back to her roots, and she now works in communications for a software company. (She has long said that tech geeks are her spirit animal…and now she spends her days with them.) Suffering from self-diagnosed wanderlust since she was a little girl, Nathalie has been fortunate enough to visit most of the U.S. states, several Canadian provinces, and a dozen countries over three continents. As an adventure junky and an avid rock-climber, Nathalie now travels whenever and wherever she can, writing, climbing, and eating everything she can along the way.

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    6 Comments

    1. Did anyone see this article on the Economist this week? It’s talking about almost the exact same thing: http://www.economist.com/node/21532256

    2. It’s funny, Wellesley is having an event about this exact topic. It’s also really unfortunate that women were promised a seat at the negotiation table in Egypt, I believe, in recognition of the contribution they had but there’s been little to no information for the public about what is going on. Does anyone know if they’re being treated with respect?

    3. Good question. Is anyone around here from Egypt who can speak to that?

    4. To me, the answer to the first part of the question, “Do powerful men overuse their power–both sexually and politically?” is emphatically yes. Not all powerful men, necessarily, but in most cases I would say “overuse” actually means “abuse.” I remember reading French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy’s defense of DSK and outrage at the global media’s treatment of him, which included the lines “What I do know is that nothing in the world can justify a man being thus thrown to the dogs” and “I am troubled by a system of justice modestly termed “accusatory,” meaning that anyone can come along and accuse another fellow of any crime—and it will be up to the accused to prove that the accusation is false and without basis in fact,” a direct contradiction of “Innocent until proven guilty” that entirely discounts that the experiences of the woman DSK assaulted are, in fact, factual. (full article here: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/05/16/bernard-henri-lvy-the-dominique-strauss-kahn-i-know.html).

      Roxane Gay wrote a great article for The Rumpus titled “The Careless Language of Sexual Violence” (link: http://therumpus.net/2011/03/the-careless-language-of-sexual-violence/) responding to a New York Times article about gang rape of an 11 year old girl by 18 men in Texas this past spring. She writes “We live in a strange and terrible time for women. There are days, like today, where I think it has always been a strange and terrible time to be a woman.” I think she’d extend her statement to include to space as well as time, and argue that it is a strange and terrible time not just for American women, but for women all around the world. I know this doesn’t exactly address the second part of the question about whether or not there are ties between Arab and American women as Pollit suggests, or the efficacy of democracy as a political system in which men and women can actually be equal. Maybe if we could achieve a non-patriarchal democracy…but we seem a long, long way from doing that.

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