Here we have a very clear situation where an integral understanding brings clarity into an otherwise utterly puzzling situation. The question we are solving for is this:
Why Does Democracy and Freedom in Egypt Leave Out Women?
As the world witnessed, throughout the protests in February, women were at the forefront. Their courage and sacrifice of the Egyptian women was equal to the Egyptian men. Yet, during the protests they not emphasize gender rights in a country where women have faced rampant discrimination and received little legal protection against widespread violence and sexual abuse. Egyptian women were careful not to display any intention of wanting to advance one groups rights over those of another. Why?
“We did not speak of our gender rights during these protests because it was not the right time. We spoke for the political and social rights of all Egyptians. If we were to campaign for our rights as women in parallel with the revolutions national goal, that would have been called political opportunism,” says Hala Kamal, an assistant professor at Cairo University and a member of the Women in Memory Forum.
Now, only weeks into the post-Mubarak era, many Egyptian womens rights activists have begun to feel suspicious that the national umbrella they rallied under, whose slogan was democracy, equality and freedom for all Egyptians, may be leaving women out. Their disappointment began when no women were selected by the military council to be among the 10-member constitutional committee responsible for making constitutional revisions. Another setback is the return of sexual harassment to the streets.
Although it only took a few weeks (miraculously) to remove a Authoritarian Regime from power, it will take years to transform a “Traditional” culture that, in fact, prefers Authoritarian Leadership. The men in Egypt, and frankly most of the women, have a predominantly traditional worldview. As such, they prefer authoritarian leadership—not Mubarak, but nevertheless, leadership that is based on traditional values, that has clear set of rules regarding right and wrong, and is firmly rooted in cultural and religious tradition. While the surface details of the Traditional worldview will differ depending on the local customs (and predominant religions), the deeper structure is always the same. Study people from every continent, country and religion who have a Traditional worldview and you will notice that the core values and beliefs (about the world) are identical.
Women’s rights—being treated equally and respectfully—is a value that is NOT generally held by people with a traditional worldview.
People with a traditional worldview believe in very strict gender roles. This is true in any culture, East or West.
In the streets of Cairo, and most cities in this part of the world, if a woman fails to cover up her face, or willingly allows the skin of her arms or shoulders to be displayed in public, then it is widely believed that “She is asking for it.” This means that if your sister, or daughter, or best friend were in Cairo (or another city in this region), and she showed her face or shoulders, men would believe she is asking to be violently raped. And if she is violently raped, the first question that many people in this culture will ask—both men and women—is, “What was she wearing?”
This is just the reality. If you have a modern or postmodern worldview, this may seem barbaric. It may even anger you. But if you have a traditional worldview, or have family, friends or loved ones with a traditional worldview, you will understand.
Neither Egypt—nor the Middle East—is going to transform its culture overnight from having a predominantly “Emperial” and “Traditional” worldview into a culture with a “Modern” worldview. Adaptive change does not happen overnight. History (and integral psychology and sociology) shows that adaptive change of this nature takes a very long time if it happens at all. This is not a pessimistic point of view. It is an integral point of view. If you truly understand the answer to the first integral leadership question “What’s really happening here?” then you have a much better chance at actually affecting change.
While the revolutionaries can kick out Mubarak, they can NOT remove the majority of a nation’s population who share his Traditional worldview and preference for Authoritarian leadership. Nor should they want to.
If women’s rights are to emerge in any real sense in Egypt, hundreds of thousands (or millions) of Egyptian men and women (and the groups they belong to) will have to go through the same long, slow and often painful process of adopting a modern worldview that other cultures went through. Here’s why it is so difficult: many aspects of the modern worldview specifically contradict what these individuals have learned at home, in school, and in their religious education over ten, twenty, thirty or forty years of life experience. You can’t change your worldview overnight. So you shouldn’t expect them to.
My young daughters (who live in the U.S.) will be adults long before it will be safe for them to walk the streets of Cairo in Western clothes and not have rapists look and them and believe that they are “Asking for it.”
Meanwhile, rest assured that most men and most women in Egypt will remain comfortable with traditional gender roles (and limited rights for women) as specifically defined by their religious and cultural traditions. And most Egyptian men and women will view modern gender roles (along with all aspects of the modern worldview) with grave concern and deep suspicion. How could they not given their traditional worldview?
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