Ill-behaved women

February 2, 2011

Every significant act of protest has its iconic image: the barricades in Paris in the 1960s, the Berlin Wall in the ’80s, the roadside war-protest camps leading to George W. Bush’s Texas home in recent years. Today, two images from Egypt linger in my mind. One is a woman my mother's age placing a very determined kiss on a young soldier's cheek. (My teenage daughter noted that he doesn't look thrilled.)

The other is an eight-year-old girl named JuJu. Asked, presumably by her father, to give some advice to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Juju speaks about counting the cost of his reign. Then she hops off the couch to approach the camera, her eyes lit with mischief and her hand held to her mouth, telling a secret: "And by the way, some of your police officers are removing their jackets, and they're joining the people." Here's the video:

Staid historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich coined a phrase that also went viral: "Well-behaved women seldom make history." Ulrich was writing about Puritan women, but her words rang through my head this weekend. My daughters have read Kay Thompson's Eloise books, but I shush them if they say, "Oh my Lord." I tell them to keep their shirts tucked in and not to run in church. I am rethinking these things.

Mubarak has been an expensive American ally. One-third of all U.S. foreign aid is allotted to Israel and Egypt--and more than half of this aid is military. This may be about to change. Friends have been posting Al-Jazeera and Guardian news clips on Facebook pages, along with brave tweets (what strange phrases we now use) from inside as thousands reject this "aid."

Stanley Hauerwas put it this way: up to this point, the classic image of Egypt has been a road with a man and donkey on one side and a giant military complex with American-bought fighter jets on the other. Relative poverty is juxtaposed with the threat of extravagant violence.

However, the undemocratic subjugation this "aid" enables is also under attack, and with it the classic image of Egyptian women. Garance Franke-Ruta points out that we ought to see the "powerful Twitter images and Facebook albums of women on the frontlines of the Egyptian uprising . . . for the truly exceptional instances they are."

That grandmother's kiss is nonsensical. Juju's dad was, by local standards, asking his daughter a crazy question--advice from a girl-child to a president? One sure way to control a population is to control the women. After all, if even the girls hit the streets, there could be total chaos--the powers and principalities might topple! To paraphrase the Kinks, if girls will be boys and boys will be girls, we'll have a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world.

I propose that we Christians teach our daughters some holy mischief. Let's look at the pictures, watch Juju and teach our girls how to be brave.


My hope

Thanks for this marvelous post. This is what I want for my girls... and for all the world: to be brave, to seek freedom and peace.


Thank you Juju. Let us all learn from Juju's honesty and good humor.

Prayers For Ill Behaved Women

Wonderful post. My prayers, however, are that these women who are joyously celebrating now won't become like their Iranian sisters who participated in the revolution as long as it suited the radical Islamist men who dominated the ensuing government, and then were subjugated to the terror and horror of sharia law. We all should be careful what we wish for in all of this...


There's also another aspect that needs to be thought through. In the video to the President of Egypt, Juju is speaking in English not Arabic. Is it really a message to her president?

Re: English?

I'm sure Mr. Mubarak speaks English just fine, or at least has aides who can translate for him.

Thank you for this! Very

Thank you for this! Very thought provoking -- "let's teach our daughters how to be brave." I couldn't agree more. So sad to see the voice of women shut down -- even what appears to be "honorable ways, for your best interest." God used many women -- He still will.


safety concerns

I heard last night that one of the methods being used is to drag women into alleys and "sexually assault" them, which I take to be a euphemism for rape. So if we are going to empower our daughters to stand in the front lines, we need to teach them how to protect themselves from harm. Mary Cartledgehayes

Don't Believe the Hype

It is very important to teach our daughters to be careful, but please, please note that women of all ages are registering regularly via Twitter and other social media that the only fear they have is of the armed thugs who are trying to squelch dissent. Please hear these stories on NPR's On the Media:

Women are involved in

Women are involved in nurturing children or and in some cultures. The rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.

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