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Gendered Politics of Alienation and Power Restoration: Arab Revolutions and Women's Sentiments of Loss and Despair:

01 Nov 2017-Feminist Review (Palgrave Macmillan)-Vol. 117, Iss: 1, pp 113-130

AbstractThe article suggests that from the start of the revolutions in the Arab region in late 2010 a connection between the law, state, political economy, gender norms and orientalist ideology has formed the foundation of women’s systematic exclusion from politics. As a consequence, women’s alienation from politics – a necessity for the restoration of old regimes of power – took on various forms, including: externalising, exceptionalising, and celebrating women’s revolutionary acts and contributions to revolutions. This article examines these processes that created the ideological and material conditions of women’s alienation, estranging their political involvement and exposing them to various forms of violence The article suggests that alienation of women from revolutions relied on gender normative ideology to create women’s supposedly unique and distinct interests; according to this ideology, women attempt to satisfy such interests through dancing, nikah al-jihad or the desire to be sexually harassed. Women’s power and needs were moulded as distinctly different from those of men. Hence, forms of alienation diminished women’s roles as initiators, producers of revolutions, rendering women apart. This article shows that, whilst forms of alienation differed in various political phases and often contradicted each other, the intent of each form of alienation was to show a defect, a mistake in women’s acts, and thus establish the supposedly ‘correct’ characteristics of women protesters based on women’s intrinsic nature. Through this, gender normativity was reproduced to serve the political class(s)’s specific interests, 2 determining the linkages between the alienation of women from politics, the alienation of the revolution from its people, and the entire sphere of politics. The sphere of politics not only relates to political activism and conflict between revolutions and counterrevolutions, it is also a battlefield for the (re)production of knowledge.

Topics: Alienation (62%), Political class (54%), Ideology (54%), Politics (52%)

Summary (3 min read)

Introduction

  • To varying degrees from one country to another, the states’ governing principle values men over women.
  • I engage with this question through examining the concept of women’s alienation and estrangement from their political roles in the Arab revolutions.
  • I look at how political processes and forces are gendered, and how alienation is used in the reshaping and reproduction of the social norms that govern women’s lives and activities during and beyond revolution.

Alienation, Politics and the Reproduction of Gender Norms

  • In Marx’s conceptualisation, alienation is the process of workers’ objectification within the production process, where the ‘object which labour produces stands in opposition to the worker as an alien thing’ (Marx, 1967: 58-59).
  • Hence, Marx uses the concept of alienation to disrupt the normalised relationships within labour production process (Ibid.).
  • Such a transformation may not only have implications for gender relations, but also for the political order.
  • The worker is not only foreign to his/her product and exploited by it, but also alienated from his/her human activity and fellow humans.

Women’s Sense of Loss and Despair

  • Before the revolutions, the region was going through a ‘crisis of authority’ (Gramsci, 1971, p. 274): authoritarian regimes still dominated power, but were no longer believed to be serving the people’s interests.
  • Four years later, the authors have seen the revolutions’ dramatic turn toward the antithesis of their demands and slogans: people have been forced to choose between military rule and the Islamic extremism of Da’ish, and such choices have unleashed turmoil across the region and drastically altered women’s sentiments towards the revolutions.
  • One feels the sense of loss in both Khadija’s and Zeinab’s words and the Egyptian women’s statement; the same sentiment can also be felt when speaking to diverse women, and people generally, from such post-revolutionary contexts, whether at a conference, in the streets or public transport, in shops, on social media or in newspapers.
  • For women’s act to be seen only as relative to men is an act of alienation and estrangement intended to bring women closer to gender normative roles and keep them removed from politics.
  • In the first phase of the revolution, the representation of women and gender roles used soft means to reproduce gender normative ideology, whether through attempting to demoralise the revolution by externalising women’s act of revolution or celebrating and exceptionalising women’s participation.

Mode of Subjugating Revolutionary Women

  • The transition period – after Mubarak’s resignation through the first presidential election in 2012 – was a time of hostile and hard forms of alienating women.
  • During this time, women protesters were targeted by the police and security forces, and subjected to forms of violence that varied from verbal harassment, physical and sexual assault, and accusations of performing immoral acts (Nazra et al., 2014, p. 11).
  • Secondly, the statement ‘they are not like your daughters or mine’ was intended to send a strong message to Egyptian families: women who protest lack morals, and it is a family’s responsibility to discipline their daughters.
  • Therefore, sexual harassment was not only a heinous crime in and of itself, it was also a strategy of estranging women’s political roles to transform the image of women from political activists into victims of sexual harassment; it both punished women who continued to protest and threatened those who even thought about following in their footsteps.
  • Crimes of sexual harassment, together with the unrest in the region, as a whole, reinvigorated orientalists to rethink the notion of ‘Arab revolution’, question whether the region was ready for democracy, and doubt the applicability of the Western model of governance to a region with no history of civilised movements.

Mode of Objectification of Women’s Act of Revolution

  • After Mubarak’s resignation, a trend appeared of pointing to women’s rights as part of Mubarak’s socially corrupt policies.
  • Such a trend both denied the history of women’s struggle and activism in Egypt and linked women’s rights to the old regime (Al-Ali 2012, 2014); such a linkage was intended to mobilise Egyptians against the notion of women’s rights and estrange gender equality from the new era of the revolution.
  • As can be seen, claims for a return to family values or demands for women’s equality have both been part of political agendas that were rejected or welcomed based on particular political events and purposes.
  • The objectification of women and their role in politics meant to separate women from the entire process of revolution-making and relocate their position outside humanity.

Conclusion

  • I argued in this article that the reproduction of gender norms was a necessity for the restoration of old regimes of power, and hence forms the foundation of the region’s political order.
  • Whilst forms of alienation differed in various political phases and often contradicted each other, the intent of each form of alienation was to show a defect, a mistake in women’s acts, and thus establish the supposedly ‘correct’ characteristics of women protesters based on women’s intrinsic nature.
  • Through this, gender normativity was reproduced to serve the political class(s)’s specific interests, determining the linkages between the alienation of women from politics and the alienation of the revolution from its people, and the entire sphere of politics.
  • State’s discourse of the proclaimed gender norms, as derived from religious and cultural values, is actually quite fragile, and could be contested, particularly during crisis and in a time of political disruption.
  • In addition, it is also necessary to expose hegemony’s means of alienating people through turning their lives to the abstract; where merely staying alive becomes the purpose of existence, rather than ‘life being an opportunity’ to desire, hope, work, and demand change.

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Gendered Politics of Alienation and Power Restoration:
Arab Revolutions and Women’s Sentiments of Loss and Despair
Afaf Jabiri
Abstract
From the start of the Arab revolutions in late 2010 a connection between the law, state,
political economy, gender norms and orientalist ideology has formed the foundation of
women’s systematic exclusion from politics. This article offers a gendered political
reading of the concept of alienation by unmasking the processes that created the
ideological and material conditions of externalising women’s revolutionary acts,
estranging their political involvement and exposing them to various forms of violence.
The article suggests that gender normative ideology’s characterisation of women’s
images, roles and acts during and after revolutions corresponds to the most profound
form of alienation. The article proposes that the externalisation, subjugating of women
and objectification of their revolutionary acts are modes of alienation are necessary
conditions for the reconfiguration of power dynamics to restore authoritarian states’
power. The sphere of politics, the article insinuates, not only relates to political activism
and conflict between revolutions and counter-revolutions, it is also a battlefield for the
(re)production of gender normative knowledge.
Key words: Gender normativity; regime restoration; revolution; alienation; women;
activism

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2!
Introduction
Despite changes over the last few decades in the Arab region concerning women’s
rights and political participation, to varying degrees from one country to another, the
states’ governing principle values men over women. This principle can be clearly seen
in women’s legal status. For example, guardianship provisions give male relatives
authority over women: male relatives have the right to determine women’s choice of
study, marriage, mobility, and so on (Jabiri, 2016 & 2013). Furthermore, citizenship
laws often treat women as secondary citizens, as such laws not only prevent women
from passing their nationality to their husbands and children, but also construct women
as subordinate subjects (Joseph, 2000). This is in addition to a whole set of decency
laws, modesty laws and customary practices that attribute honour and public morality
to women’s acts and behaviours, policing women in both the public and private spheres
(Jabiri, 2016; Hélie, 2012; Hoodfar and Ghoreishian, 2012).
There are extensive examinations of the processes of perpetuating women’s
subordinate position in relation to culture, religion, nationalist movements, and the
state’s alliance with tribes and other conservative groups (See: Al-Rasheed. 2013;
Charrad, 2000 & 2001; Joseph, 2000; Kandiyoti, 1991, 1992, 2001; Hatem, 1995). Less
consideration has been paid to how the state and its apparatuses mediate the realisation
of women, as a category, through the production of gender normative ideology – where
women are depicted as minor subjects and, ironically, also symbolise public modesty
and honour!(Hélie, 2012; Hoodfar and Ghoreishian, 2012) as well as the extent to
which these processes have aimed and contributed to estranging women from politics.

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3!
Whilst women’s historical role in politics and revolution in the region cannot be denied,
their limited gains – whether in terms of low representation or restricted rights – raises
questions around the efficacy of gendered political processes in pushing women away
from politics. I engage with this question through examining the concept of women’s
alienation and estrangement from their political roles in the Arab revolutions. I look at
how political processes and forces are gendered, and how alienation is used in the
reshaping and reproduction of the social norms that govern women’s lives and activities
during and beyond revolution.
Feminist scholarship has examined the post-revolution processes and shifts that
exposed women to various forms of violence and the marginalisation of their agendas
(El-Mahdi, 2012; Al-Ali, 2012 & 2014; Kandyioti 2011, 2012 & 2013; Johansson-
Nogués, 2013; Amar, 2012), I, however, take a relatively neglected point of departure,
especially vis-à-vis the estrangement of women from politics for the purpose of
restoring power by examining processes of alienating women through the
objectification of women’s acts and contribution to revolution-making, and strategies
of state and its counter revolution’s allies to galvanise the public and reproduce gender
normativity. I particularly take the case of Egypt to examine processes of excluding
women political activists through three modes of alienation. This includes the
externalisation, subjugation, and objectification of women’s revolutionary acts-that
moulded women’s power and needs as distinctly different from those of men, justified
and legitimised, different forms of violence against women.
The three modes of alienation developed, refined and adapted from Karl Marx theory
of alienation, for the purpose of scrutinising the ways in which gender norms and

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4!
relations were key to constituting women’s basic relationship with the revolution, along
with the unique conditions under which the alienation of women from politics intend
to restore old power hierarchies and structures. Examining Egyptian women activists'
estrangement from politics through the concept of alienation contributes into the
politicisation of the construction and reproduction of gender norms and locating
violence against women activists within political practices of restoring power. So
rather than examining cultural and social processes that construct gender normativity,
I, by relating to Marx theory of alienation, bring new accounts of how the sphere of
politics not only relates to conflict between revolutions and counter-revolutions, it is
also a battlefield for the (re)production of gendered knowledge. By this, I aim to show
that gender norms and relations are not only shaped by politics but also somehow
constitute a crucial part of the region’s politics and order.
This article is based on and heavily influenced by my own activism in the Arab region,
particularly over the last four years, when I worked closely with women’s activists in
Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Jordan. Over that time, I participated in several conferences
and workshops in the region, which included, three workshops and trainings for
Egyptian women’s rights activists; and two regional trainings held in Tunisia and Egypt
in cooperation with the Centre for Arab Women Training and Research (CAWTR). In
addition, I participated in several regional meetings on women in post-revolution
societies. In March 2015, I led the Arab Women’s Network’s (Roa’a) delegation
composed of activists from Jordan, Bahrain, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, and
Syria – to the United Nations’ 59
th
Session of the Commission on the Status of Women
(CSW).
!
!

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5!
Alienation,*Politics*and*the*Reproduction*of*Gender*Norms****
!
In Marx’s conceptualisation, alienation is the process of workers’ objectification within
the production process, where the ‘object which labour produces stands in opposition
to the worker as an alien thing’ (Marx, 1967: 58-59). In the capitalist system, alienation
is about disconnecting workers from power politics: the system treats the worker as a
thing, turning him/her into a commodity, a valueless self, to the extent that ‘the more
objects the worker produces the less he can possess and the more he falls under
domination’ (Ibid.: 78).
For Marx, alienation is insidious and dangerous because it makes ‘all of this appear
normal and even natural’ (Kain, 1993: 124). Alienation of the worker from his/her
product and production activity, which in turn alienates him/her from his/her human
nature, may not appear to him/her as a form oppression or domination. In this sense,
the oppressor is unlikely to be identified, as no one observes that alienation is the
product of a particular form of power relations and human interactions. Hence, Marx
uses the concept of alienation to disrupt the normalised relationships within labour
production process (Ibid.).
Socialist and Marxist feminists have adapted and developed the normalised relation
between the oppressed and the oppressor in Marx’s theory of alienation (Klotz, 2006;
Foreman, 1977; MacKinnon, 1989 & 1982; Jaggar, 1982; Kain, 1993). Socialist
feminists, such as Anna Foreman (1977), have tried to unmask the question of women’s
oppression by positing femininity, in and of itself, as a form alienation. Hence, the
realisation of women’s selfhood is a mode of alienation that results in women’s
agreement with their modes of objectification (Ibid). Marxist feminists, on the other

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Abstract: A MOST MASCULINE STATE: GENDER, POLITICS, AND RELIGION IN SAUDI ARABIA Madawi Al-Rasheed Cambridge: Ca mbridge University Press, 2013 (xii + 333 pages, works cited, index) $78.79 (cloth), $26.99 (paper)A Most Masculine State: Gender, Politics, and Religion in Saudi Arabia will become an essential reference for discussions of what the author Madawi Al-Rasheed calls "the globalized question of Saudi women" (26). Saudi women are subject to economic marginalization and strict rules that regulate their everyday lives. While Western media focus on the ban on driving, this book explores the "deep-rooted exclusion" of women in the Saudi kingdom (1). Male guardians determine and control women's mobility, education, employment, and health just as the state makes their subordination possible at the legal, social, political, and economic levels.Al-Rasheed identifies her book as a project exploring "the intercon- nection between gender, politics, and religion" in an attempt to explain the continued exclusion of Saudi women from the public sphere (3). The ban on independent associations and organizations has also played a major role in denying Saudi women a chance to press collectively for social transforma- tion (2). The status quo is, however, changing with the expansion of com- munication technology that allows Saudi women to be present and active in the public sphere. Their voices are no longer unheard as they challenge ociety "through daring voices, critical texts, and real mobilization" (2).Acknowledging pioneering texts in the study of gender in Saudi Arabia, including work by Soraya Altorki, Saddeka Arebi, Eleanor Doumato, and Amelie Le Renard, and drawing upon the work of feminist scholars Deniz Kandiyoti, Suad Joseph, Mounira Charrad, and Sylvia Walby, Al-Rasheed looks to fill a gap in the growing literature by placing gender in Saudi Arabia in relation to the state and religious nationalism. She formulates the concept of "religious nationalism" in conversation with and against Joseph Massad's and Partha Chatterjee's theories of nationalism, which, she argues, "fail to account for the imaging of Saudi Arabia" (9). Unlike Jordan, for example, which was "invented" by forging a nationalism based on Bedouin culture, "the Saudi nation articulated an identity by claiming to apply the Sharia in all aspects of life and submitting to a universal Islamic ethos" (14). Citing the work of Beth Baron and Mervat Hatem, she also contrasts the case of the Saudi kingdom with that of Egypt, where anticolonial nationalism allowed women to benefit in certain legal aspects while "projecting gender relations as a function of greater political projects" (17). In the Saudi kingdom, religious nationalism involved breaking the military and political autonomy of the tribes, even as it drew upon the tribal ethos to keep "women in a patriar- chal relationship under the authority of male relatives" (5). By looking at both secular and religious nationalisms in the region and their relation to modernity, mostly through the prism of their discourses of women's rights, Al-Rasheed shows how "in both cases, women are turned into symbols, representing anything but themselves" (17).In the Saudi kingdom, a limited women's presence indicates the nation's obedience to Islamic law. Al-Rasheed surveys a number of Saudi fatwas on women in the 1980s whose restrictive interpretations of Islam, she shows, were used by the state to further limit women's visibility in the public space. The religious 'ulama' have also emphasized women's "emotionality" to deem them incapable of serving in state positions and public offices. This narra- tive was further used to make the subordination of Saudi women possible in legal, social, and religious terms. In order to control their appearance and mobility, women's bodies were referred to as sources of fitna (which the author translates as "chaos" rather than "temptation").According to Al-Rasheed, Saudi women face a "double exclusion"- "one in the general economy and one in the domestic sphere" (23). …

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"Gendered Politics of Alienation and..." refers background in this paper

  • ...In this narrative, a woman ‘is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her … he is the absolute—she is the other’ (de Beauvoir, 1949, p. 16)....

    [...]


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Abstract: Preface Part One: Feminism and Marxism 1. The Problem of Marxism and Feminism 2. A Feminist Critique of Marx and Engels 3. A Marxist Critique of Feminism 4. Attempts at Synthesis Part Two: Method 5. Consciousness Raising 6. Method and Politics 7. Sexuality Part Three: The State 8. The Liberal State 9. Rape: On Coercion and Consent 10. Abortion: On Public and Private 11. Pornography: On Morality and Politics 12. Sex Equality: On Difference and Dominance 13. Toward Feminist Jurisprudence Notes Credits Index

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"Gendered Politics of Alienation and..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Socialist and Marxist feminists have adapted and developed the normalised relation between the oppressed and the oppressor in Marx’s theory of alienation (Foreman, 1977; Jaggar, 1982; MacKinnon, 1982, 1989; Kain, 1993; Klotz, 2006)....

    [...]

  • ...…on the other hand, have provided a theoretical framework for women’s oppression by questioning whether the relationship between sexuality, housework (as forms of labour), domination and the objectification of women is a form of alienation (Jaggar, 1982; MacKinnon, 1982, 1989; Kain, 1993)....

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Frequently Asked Questions (1)
Q1. What are the contributions in "Gendered politics of alienation and power restoration: arab revolutions and women’s sentiments of loss and despair" ?

This article offers a gendered political reading of the concept of alienation by unmasking the processes that created the ideological and material conditions of externalising women ’ s revolutionary acts, estranging their political involvement and exposing them to various forms of violence. The article suggests that gender normative ideology ’ s characterisation of women ’ s images, roles and acts during and after revolutions corresponds to the most profound form of alienation. The article proposes that the externalisation, subjugating of women and objectification of their revolutionary acts are modes of alienation are necessary conditions for the reconfiguration of power dynamics to restore authoritarian states ’ power. The sphere of politics, the article insinuates, not only relates to political activism and conflict between revolutions and counter-revolutions, it is also a battlefield for the ( re ) production of gender normative knowledge.