Arab Women in Revolution: Reports from the Ground

Part: 12

U.S. and Arab Women: Both Demand Democracy

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

While Arab women are working for democracy, American women are trying to make democracy work, says Susan Rose. In both instances, women's involvement and equality are necessary to create a stronger and healthier democracy.

(WOMENSENEWS)--In the United States the current political debate is focused on our economic struggles and the next presidential election. For American women the concern is very much about jobs and economic and social security.

In the Arab world, the "spring" has turned to fall and the future for women's security is worse. In Egypt, Al Jazeera reported, the economy has suffered and university-educated women are experiencing the highest unemployment at 55 percent. In Saudi Arabia, women may have gained the right to vote and run in elections this week, but they still can't drive. It was widely reported yesterday that a court sentenced a Saudi woman with 10 lashes for defying the kingdom's ban on women driving.

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.

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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.

Tunisia Triggers Revolutions

The Arab revolutions began in Tunisia in December 2010 when rebels toppled their government while trying to create a new order. President Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia.

In Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egyptians were organizing and protesting the Hosni Mubarak government with the help of cell phones and social media. Mubarak resigned and is being tried for corruption and murder.

Libyan and Syrian dictators continued to brutally attack and kill their citizens in order to suppress rioting. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is nowhere to be found, having apparently escaped through underground tunnels. He faces prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

In contrast, the personal lives of certain American politicians created a media circus. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger revealed he had cheated on his wife with a live-in housekeeper. New York Congressman Anthony Weiner was discovered texting pictures of his body parts to young women. Presidential candidate John Edwards and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford admitted to having affairs but only after being caught.

Schwarzenegger is now out of office and Weiner has resigned. Sanford was censured for misuse of funds and Edwards has been indicted by a federal grand jury for six counts of violating campaign contribution laws.

"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.

These changes in leadership have created opportunities for democracy and gender equality in both parts of the world.

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