Imported feminism: problematizing the Westernized image of the feminist in Arab social media

Ramy Magdy (Political Science Department, Faculty of Economics and Political Science, Cairo University, Giza, Egypt)
Maries Mikhael (Master's Program in Politics, Economics and Philosophy, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany)
Yassmine G. Hussein (Faculty of Economics and Political Science, Cairo University, Giza, Egypt)

Journal of Humanities and Applied Social Sciences

ISSN: 2632-279X

Article publication date: 24 May 2021

1183

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to analyze the discourse of Arab feminism social media pages as a form of real-time new media. This is to be conducted culturally to understand the Westernized character these pages tend to propagate and the politico-cultural significations of such a propagation.

Design/methodology/approach

Using visual and content analysis the paper analyzes both the written and visual contents of two popular Arab feminist Facebook pages, “Thory” and “Feminist doodles” to explore its culture relevance/Westernization via the categories of “re-employing the binary second wave feminism, the historical relevance and the Westernized tone of both pages.

Findings

The pages showed a tendency toward second wave, Westernized, anti-orient feminism. Such importation of feminism made the pages’ message not only a bit irrelevant but also conceptually violent to a large extent. Starting from alien contexts, the two pages dislocate the Arab women experiences of their situation for the sake of comprehending and adapting to heavily Westernized images.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to the ongoing debate over the gender issue in the Arab context after 2011, what it originally offers is discussing the cultural relevance of popular feminist Facebook pages claiming to represent the everyday struggles of the Arab women. In addition, it shows the impact of real-time media on identity formulation.

Keywords

Citation

Magdy, R., Mikhael, M. and G. Hussein, Y. (2021), "Imported feminism: problematizing the Westernized image of the feminist in Arab social media", Journal of Humanities and Applied Social Sciences, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JHASS-10-2020-0181

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Ramy Magdy, Maries Mikhael and Yassmine G. Hussein.

License

Published in Journal of Humanities and Applied Social Sciences. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence maybe seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode


1. Introduction

One important real-time platform for staging arguments about gender image(s) and their roles in the Arab world is social media. However, an important feature of these platforms of discourse is that they are heavily Westernized ontologically and visually. In the sense that in their addressing of their audience about “the female, the feminist and gender” they tend to adopt “second-wave-feminism” conceptualizations with their heavily contingent character influenced by the Western context of postwar Europe. Using visual analysis, the paper will focus on studying the conceptualizations of gender “as knowledge producing” in two popular Arab feminist Facebook pages: Kharabeesh Nasawiyya (2020) (lit. Feminist Doodles) and Thory (2020) (lit. Revolt!). The pages are chosen to problematize their “definitions” of feminism, and how the models, posts and images they use while arguing for feminism are Westernized and take “the female” as a fixed category. The work of Butler (1999) on gender trouble will guide the positionality of the paper by illuminating how gender as a fluid concept is influenced by context(s) and power discourses, as these pages are still parts of the hegemonic Western discourse of feminism. The research will focus mainly on the period after January 2011 (the Arab Spring) as a crucial event in the history of Arab world that opened the stage for voicing claims about different human rights and underscored the importance of social media in influencing the public realm and shaping discourses.

2. Feminism and gender: a critical affair

When it comes to the wave structure of feminism, one usually retells the story of the Suffragettes then delve into the contexts of the second wave. However, what is of true import to our paper is that although the second-wave of feminism was calling for equality, it led to solidifying the gender boundaries and treating women as a special category rather than trying to liquidate the stiff gender identities. Catharine A. MacKinnon, for instance, assumes in her research “Feminism, Marxism, Method and The State” that the constructive abstract theorization of feminism was epistemologically constrained by the masculine point of view, she believes that gender identity is epistemological neither biological nor ontological. Hence, the hegemonic male perspective will always constrain the philosophical speculations of the feminists. It will even constrain the concepts and the terms they use while building a critical theory seeking political change (MacKinnon, 1983).

Yet the pluralist characteristic of the second wave of feminism did not prevent a third wave of feminism that called for “the subversion of identities.” The rise of the third-wave of feminism was synchronized with the propagation of multiculturalism and post-modernism. The third wave of feminism developed a critical orientation against the monolithic image of women perpetuated by the second wave. Third wavers believed that there are several context-based ways to be a woman and that both gender and sexuality are socially constructed. Rebecca Walker's book is usually credited to be a starting point for understanding the third wavers (Walker, 1995).Walker argued that it is no longer relevant to order the world through the binaries of male\female, black\white […] etc. Instead, Walker argues that categories of identities became more fluid, bisexual, transgender and interracial. In poststructuralist feminism, a theory of performativity was formulated in the book of Judith Butler, Gender Trouble (Butler, 1999). For Butler, gender is a fact of individual expression where there are no static traits of being a female or male, rather, you execute it. The bottom line in third wavers’ discourse is to transcend the usual, normal and taken for granted binaries that prevailed over mass culture and penetrated second wave feminism. And for a wider focus on the claims and strategies of third wave feminism, one can explore the works of James (2010), Heywood and Drake (1997) and Henry (2004).

This brings us to the newly initiated 4th wave of feminism; this wave is the development of feminism to adapt to the newly rising issues women face in the 21st century due to technological progress. It focuses, mostly, on being aware of as well as resisting the objectification of women in global media and social media (Kinna, 2017). Fourth wavers tend to raise the issues of violence and harassment in real life and through social media. One popular movement in the wave is the famous MeToo movement and also other movements such as Every Day Sexism Project, UK Feminista and One Billion Rising.

Examples of important scholarly work in the wave is Rebecca’s Solnit “Men Explain Things To Me” in which she paved the way for the concept of “mansplaining” that tackles how gender biases assess female credibility (Solnit, 2014). Besides, Jessica Velenti in her memoires sheds the light on the daily sexual objectification and sexism faced by women (Valenti, 2016); and also the widely famous Laura Bates’ work that illustrated the tales of her Every Day Sexism project. The project records the different assaults and harassments women faces in different countries (Bates, 2016).

Feminists in their call for equality and representation of women claimed the universality of the Western concepts about patriarchy, oppression, and women rights; while in fact this framework created a kind of “Western feminism” that molded a perception about the third-world that the oppression faced there is out of “non-Western barbarism” as expressed by Judith Butler. Decolonized states were not fully decolonized of the Western perception of feminism (Butler, 1999). Such a stereotype legitimates the need for exploring the diverse efforts exerted by feminists under the umbrella term “Arab Feminism.”

3. Arab feminism: a controversial carnival

As shown before, the genes of Western feminism are no doubt acquired into any feminist claim worldwide. However, when it comes to positioning this Western heritage for women rights against Arab women struggles, things become complicated. There are numerous monolithic assumptions about the Arab women and Arab feminism from the Western feminist point of view as paradoxically stated in “Arab and Arab-American Feminisms” (Abdulhadi et al., 2015). For instance, a “victim stereotype” stigmatizes Arab women as passive victims to their patriarchal societies. Through politicizing hijab and the Arabic dress in general, Arab women are perceived as silent subjects who perpetuate male-domination, oppression and even sexual violent activities as female circumcision. Further, it is assumed by some American writers that the USA is the refuge for Arab women that would provide them with liberation and security.

Against all these assumptions an Arab endeavor for Arab feminism emerged. Taking into consideration the historical circumstances of the Arab world, of colonization and liberation struggles, women organized themselves in several Arab countries as in Egypt and Algeria to fight the colonizing powers. Although at some point, the feminist issues were overlooked in favor of the liberation journey (Arab feminism, 2011). However, establishing pan-Arab feminism made more sense than merely accepting the Western model of feminism in the Arab countries.

According to Arab feminists, the most significant factor in forming the gender identity in the Arab world is Islam, Islam is not just a code of beliefs it is “a system of identity” as mentioned by Mai Ghoussoub in her paper “Feminism –or The Eternal Masculine- In the Arab world” (Ghoussoub, 1987). Hence, the study of feminism in the Arab world requires a deep understanding for the statute of women in Islam. Although Islam guaranteed women numerous economic and social rights, the paradox is that the social and political institutions that developed later on were so keen to confine women power. It was inherited from the tribal societies to perceive women as “socially and sexually active” they assumed that women are “fitnat,” which means that although they are beautiful, they jeopardize the stability of society. Hence, it was out of masculine anxiety that females were physically and socially secluded.

However, the circumstances started to change in Egypt after the French Campaign in (1798–1801), the Egyptian women started realizing that there is a whole different way of living and a different manner in which French men treat their women leading to the rise of pro-women figures like Refea Al-Tahtawi, Qassem Amine and the later activist Huda Shaarawi. It is worth contemplating how the long history of Arab women struggle was exceptionally started by men, name them Al-Tahtawi, Amine or even Muhammad PBUH as argued by some. This might be considered totally different from the histories of Western feminism(s) that enlisted males as the reasons for their hardships.

However, paradoxes started to condense with the national liberation struggles. As mentioned by Mai Ghassoub, the struggles for national liberation in the 20th century contributed to women’s emancipation through the great role Arab women had during these struggles. Paradoxically later on, women were betrayed, that after the liberation and regardless of the contribution of women to this victory; women would gain nothing from the national governments that called for a restoration of traditional patriarchal values as related to Islamic identity and Arab culture; this happened significantly in Egypt and Algeria. Consequently, the post-colonial regimes in the Arab world that were mostly military dictatorships would grant women franchise rights in a context that voting has no influence.

Yet in “Arab Feminism at The Millennium” for Therese Saliba argued that in the 1990s a paradigm shift happened causing the emergence of a “transnational feminism” persuading feminist scholars to study Arab women with a respect to the specificity of their culture. Also that shift made scholars perceive the different struggles in the Arab world as an opportunity for women to “search for indigenous identities and gain economic and legal rights within their societies (Saliba, 2000). Additionally, Therese Saliba highlights the “Islamic awakening” in the Arab world as a response to the cultural imperialism of the West. Hence the rise of several Islamic women’s movements was an indigenous reaction to the Western feminist movements. However, these movements cannot be studied merely through the theoretical perception of the Western feminism because of the so many complexities in its analysis regarding its Islamic identity and its relation to the Arabic patriarchal society.

What one can conclude clearly is that one of the most significant attributes in Arab feminism history is the fluctuation of opinions among feminist scholars and the swinging of their literature between supporting and attacking the status of women in Arab societies because of the dogmatic and oppressing environment they live in. Therefore, it is obviously discernible from such a carnival of literature is that Arab feminism tends to swing between two positions; the first was criticizing the current situation of Arab women while perceiving traditions or Islam as ideals in need for respect if women situation to improve. The second position put traditions and Islam as reasons for the deteriorated situation of women in the Arab world. However, what both positions might be understood to argue for is the need to handle Arab feminism within Arab and Islamic history not within some universalized Western feminist history (Abu-Lughod, 1998; Ahmed, 1992; Darraj, 2002; Mernissi, 1994; Moghissi, 2011; Shaaban, 1991).

4. Media, gender and identity

Gender and social media too became an important point of focus in feminist and\or gender scholarship. However, this is not a recent interest for feminists, but rather it has roots in second wavers’ leftist interest in assessing and resisting the framing effect of capitalist advertisement. Nowadays, social media plays a relatively strong role in affecting how people perceive their gender identity and sexuality. Guided by “Media, gender and identity” for David Gauntelette, one can state that since people can’t avoid TV, magazines, advertisements and social culture, there is no way they won’t be somehow influenced by this experience in perceiving themselves and how their interactions with others should look like (Gauntlett, 2002). Therefore, social media influences how people would be persuaded to adjust their masculinity or femininity based on the messages they receive regarding how the contemporary gender identity should look like.

However, media can sometimes portray feminism in a disfigured manner, which would harm their overall causes rather than further them. Susan Faludi in her book “Backlash,” states that the media is of great responsibility in shaping the image of feminism and women liberation in America (Faludi, 1991).

It is important to stress that in patriarchal societies power practiced against women can evolve in context-based situations. Therefore, David Gauntelette suggests that in patriarchal societies it would be simplistic to assume that power flows from men (as a dominant group) to women as oppressed citizens, rather power relations are more complex with several parties involved in it. As we can see the media plays a pivotal role in creating the sexual identity of the receivers making understanding our sexuality and gender identity a core prerequisite for our satisfaction and happiness. So we can conclude that the “discursive power” of the social media has a direct and massive effect in sculpturing our gender identity and influencing our social relations. For example, there is a decline in the number of married couples in the UK because of the increasing public discourse about self-fulfillment and that marriage hinders people from reaching this goal. Critically, this assumption shall not be taken for granted, in a study for Elizabeth Frazer after studying seven groups of teenage girls who read “Jackie” a girl’s magazine in the UK; she found out empirically that people are not directly influenced with the ideology of the text they read, they may criticize it and deal with it as a mere fiction. However, this does not mean it does not form their gender identity even if they do criticize it will have an effect on their identity. She proposed that this influence is not a consequence of the ideology imposed in the text as it is widely believed because of the “ethereal” nature of ideology. However, “discourse register” which she defines as “institutionalized, situational specific, culturally familiar, public way of talking” is in fact a more concrete approach to study and notice its influence on what people say and don’t say, though she concluded that the influence of magazines on the process of forming people’s identity can’t be clearly predicted (Frazer, 1987). In “A Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites” identity construction is defined as “sense-making process by which people selectively organize their experiences into a coherent sense of self”. Online media arena complicates this process by liquidating the concepts of boundaries, social interactions and power. If this to be reflected on the gender identity formation, the social network discourses would create an arena in which all fixed gender identity concepts may be challenged (Papacharissi, 2011).

Additionally, Fourth wavers acknowledged the power of media in asserting gender identities, and as media has become one of the most disseminated channels of information in contemporary societies, it can heavily influence and reinforce oppressive gender stereotypes on a much larger scale (Mantilla, 2013). This motivated modern feminists to take to media in its different forms to fight back against this new form of misogyny and sexism. And such engagement with social media influence over gender identity is the focus of our present analysis. However, what one analyzes here is not the influence of the message of social media on gender identity, but rather how this message is structured and projected.

5. Arab feminist social media: “praying in Malta”

In Arab culture, Malta is known for its Christian majority, so when the Ottoman conquest happened there, nobody used to answer the “Azan Muslim call for prayer” because they were all Christians. Hence, a very famous Egyptian proverb is “to call for prayers in Malta” which reflects the state of someone talking and nobody understands, or when someone is calling for something irrelevant to the context he lives in.

An analogue for this proverb is the Arab feminist social media; we argue they propagate heavily Westernized feminist ideas. Their analysis and depiction of women status in the patriarchal Arab society tend to project a Westernized image of Arab women, and they even propose some extraverted solutions for the historically rooted gender inequality problems in the Arab societies. For these reasons few understand them, and fewer are ready to support them. Through the rest of this section, we will be analyzing features of the detachment between Arab feminist social media and the Arab women historic-cultural situation.

5.1 Sample

The paper offers an empirical study of two famous Arab feminist Facebook pages. The two Facebook pages that have been chosen are “Feminist Doodles” and “Thory” (which means revolt). These two pages are from the most well-known pages among Arab people, as well as being sufficiently active on Facebook. “Feminist Doodles” is of a Lebanese background, while “Thory” is an Egyptian page; that is to guarantee a degree of diversity in the point of views. They were chosen also for being among the top followed Arab feminist pages during the study period.

A post from each month since March 2017 till October 2018 is analyzed from “Feminist Doodles.” While two posts from “Thory” are chosen because the latter page is far more active than the former. This is to have a sample of 20 posts from “Feminist Doodles” and 45 posts from “Thory.” Some miscellaneously chosen posts have been analyzed too due to their flagrant expression of the problems our paper tackles to replace the irrelevant posts that have been in the sample. We shall mention that we were intending to expand our sample till posts since 2011. However, we have faced an obstacle that “Feminist Doodles” has been launched on March 2017; hence, to guarantee an equal time span we could not analyze any older posts from “Thory” before March 2017.

5.2 Method

In interpreting the posts, we adopted two levels of analysis; content analysis of the posts to analyze the dominant ideas and orientations of the descriptions they write. And visual analysis for the photos attached to the posts. Starting with visual analysis, it passes through three levels as Theo Van Leeuwen classifies it; 1st, representational meaning which is merely what appears in the picture without seeking any depth in the interpretation; 2nd, Iconographical symbolism where we go a step further to try to identify the concepts and ideas that the picture is intending to send; 3rd, the iconological symbolism, which is a kind of ideological analysis of the picture and an attempt to explicate the underlying ideological intentions of the picture (Leeuwen, 2013). In our analysis, we will practice our content analysis on the third level of analysis, which is the iconological symbolism to explain the ideological background of these feminist pages and to what extent are they able to address the real problems of the Arab society.

As for using content analysis for the third level of visual analysis, we explore three dimensions to be able to reach the ideological meaning of the post. First, does this post perpetuate the shortcoming of second wave fixed gender identity (clarified above in the feminism theory section)? Second, is this post historically relevant to the Arab society or it reflects a degree of conceptual dislocation\violence by uprooting Arab women from their contexts? Finally, whether the post is visually Westernized or does it reflect the real state of the Arab women?

A degree of everydayness is adopted in this paper with regard to judging a thing to be Western/Arab, to be contextually relevant or irrelevant. One will later see in our analysis of the posts how we justified, for instance, the Westernized nature of post due to its heavy use of blonde women figures. One generally knows that the majority of Arab women are not perfect blondes or blondes. This is an everyday knowledge. Also, another gesture of everyday manner of analysis is shown when we criticized preaching for feminist rights in intimate situations, as an Arab from his everyday knowledge understands that Arab women largely do not claim for their gender rights in isolated intimate positions. A degree of bias can be certainly spotted in adopting everyday categories of judgment; yet the authors believe that declaring these categories reduces such a bias to some extent.

In translating the three questions of content analysis we depended on a simple coding method of 1 and 0. 1 is given if the character we criticize is found in either the post photo or caption, and 0 is give if it is not found. Translated into numbers, we gave 1 if the post perpetuates fixed gender identity, and 0 if not. We gave 1 if the post is historically irrelevant (i.e. practices conceptual violence), and 0 if it is relevant. Finally, we gave 1 if the post is visually Westernized and 0 if not. By summing the results of these categories in every page, we managed to reach our findings.

6. Findings and discussion

The results of our analysis were as follows: with regard to Feminist Doodles page (Appendix 1): out of 20 posts 7 posts propagate fixed gender identity, which means 35% of the studied sample, 3 posts clearly reflect conceptual violence, which means 15% of the studied sample and 15 posts project Westernized female images reaching 75% of the sample.

As for the Thory Facebook page, out of the analyzed 45 posts, around 37 propagate fixed gender identity, which means 82.2% of the sample, and around 18 posts practices conceptual violence recording 40% of the sample . And finally, another 18 posts project Westernized female images reaching a limit of 40% of the page sample.

As shown in the previous paragraphs, both pages show an alienated form of their discourse recording high percentages in terms of their Westernized images and conceptual violence. However, Feminist Doodles tends to project Westernized images in their messages more than Thory. Conversely, Thory heavily propagates a rigid formula of gender identity. The high percentages recorded for the categories of Westernized imaging and rigid gender identity confirm to some extent how these pages are influenced by second wave feminism with its contingent and rigid character.

Analyzing each page separately; the heavy weight of Westernized images in Feminist Doodles comes from two main features of their messages; first, the recurrent use of blonde women in the posts ignoring the darker complexion of Arab females in reality. Second, the 1960s fashion and haircuts of the old American movies that the page tends to employ in its depictions. This makes the pages on the imaginary level truly living the fantasies of the 1960s Western feminism. Fixing gender identity in Feminist doodles was maintained by two main strategies that the page repeats in its posts: the depiction of a male female encounter in most posts and the employment of perfect female bodies. The male\female encounter shows how the page tends to imagine feminist struggles as between “men” and “women.” These men and women are perfect monolithic entities; this appears frequently in the heavy usage of beautiful white curvy girls against handsome well-dressed men neglecting the variety of gender and cross gender shapes and looks. Visually, most ladies that have been used in the posts are not like the figure of an Arab lady: she’s blonde, wearing a short dress and having a light complexion. In fact, these characteristics would make a European woman more likely to relate to this page’s posts than an Arab woman. The roughly 15% of conceptual violence in page posts was due to the depiction of situations and the employment of languages that are not practiced or used in the daily lives of Arab women. Many male\female encounters are usually depicted in very intimate positions among seemingly unmarried couples. What makes them practice a kind of conceptual dislocation\violence is that for Arab women to understand these messages they have to uproot themselves from their daily contexts to be able to comprehend the level of intimacy and positionalities the page supports. Usually, Arab women do not argue for their rights against Arab males during warmly intimate meetings. Encounters of gender in the Arab world take shapes that are less intimate and more conservative than depicted by the page. One can generally doubt that gender encounters can ever be like those depicted by Feminist Doodles.

Regarding Thory, rations take different weights. A bloc of 82% was representing a frequent tendency to fix gender identities. Unlike the centrality of the image in Feminist Doodles, the caption does the job for Thory. Thory’s language fixes gender identities by the recurrent addressing of Arab females in the Arabic female voice against their male counterparts. “Thory,” which is an Arabic command in the female voice, reflects the prevalence of text over image in Thory. Thory usually posits Arab female\or females against some anonymous and imagined group of despotic Arab males. Not only that but also fixing gender identities appears in Thory’s positing of females as “monolithic” females against a “monolithic” male dominated Arab society. Fluid gender identities or intersection had no place in Thory’s discourse. Another 40% reflected the Westernized nature of the page posts. Although Thory’s language appears to be eloquently Arabic, this did not guarantee that their discourse was not alienated. Thory’s character of Westernization operates on two fronts; the image and the imagination. For the image, Thory’s sample had many Western girls as icons for beauty, bravery and independence. As if Western women face no problem of gender. As for imagination, Thory employs an uneven orient\occident binary. Such a controversial orientalist language by its nature tends to demean what is oriental and depict it as a space for myth and backwardness while glorifying whatever occidental. And while Doodles’ posts tend to sound self-asserting for women, a victim-mentality dominates over Thory’s language. These hierarchies in discourse clearly show the Westernized nature of Thory’s discourse and reflect the absorption of the Western feminist biases against Arab women as mentioned in Abdulhadi et al. (2015). A controversial 40% of Thory’s posts practices a kind of conceptual violence. Although Thory’s language sounds deeper than the catchy Feminist Doodles posts, Thory’s conceptual dislocation and violence are harsher. Not only Thory uses some degree of nudity and obscenity in its posts, its orientalist discourse tends to be sometimes tyrannical. The generalist orientalist discourse that perceives Arab women as victims and harem drove Thory sometimes a step further to deny Arab women the ability of choosing their dress. Openly, one can find Thory’s posts attacking women’s choice of Hijab or Niqab regardless the possibility that these might be the voluntary choice of Arab women. The orientalist imagination does not allow Thory to imagine Arab women having any margin of choice; they are always victims, enslaved and their choices are not theirs. Such tyrannical language drove Thory to the extent of commanding some Arab state for its decision to ban Niqab. This is contradictory to the loud libratory tone Thory claims when addressing Arab societies and institution. Such a denial of choice not only reflects the Westernized fantasies Thory inheres but also transpires the second-wave negligence of gender identity as an individual expression. Thory in a typical second wave tone perceives gender identities in terms of conflicts between two monolithic groups and appears to be blind to the individual nature of gender identity that the later third wave feminism explored.

The anti-Muslim bias Thory frequently shows sometimes make the page compromise its main feminist message for the sake of attacking Islam as such. This anti-Muslim bias not only makes Thory’s posts sound “sometimes” irrelevant to the condition of Arab women but also pushes Thory to propagate anti-religious acts. Such anti-religious acts like justifying extramarital relations and mocking religious symbols such as nuns or religious texts terrorize the identities Arab women might profess willingly. It could be inferred that Thory’s conceptual dislocation usually puts Arab women in a hard bargain between their female rights and their chosen identities. But again, the orientalist imagination of Thory right from the start appears to solve this dilemma by denying any ability of choice among Arab women. This makes the preaching tone in Thory’s posts makes sense because preaching presumes an obedient addressee.

Therefore, it is concluded that the two pages’ inability to untangle a discourse from either Westernization and\or gender rigidity is attributed to the second wave feminism they support. Such second wave constructs adopt fixed gender identities, sharp encounters, Eurocentric vision and anti-oriental discourse all together. This makes the imported feminisms these pages employ, though looking glamorous, are self-defeating. Such self-defeat arises from the inability to offer a meaningful reading of Arab contexts or a common ground for an Arab feminist platform shaped through social media.

One can also discern this self-defeat by reading some of the comments of Arab women on the pages’ posts in which these women plainly argue that the pages do not represent their ideas. These pages might offer a platform for broadcasting women complaints but the languages and strategies they use cannot take them further than mere announcing of problems. What these pages needs is to establish themselves more in Arab contexts and handle the struggles of women starting from the conditions of their societies. Any total rupture with Islam the Arab world main religion or with Arab culture entails a negligence of the possibility that Arab women might have voluntarily chosen their ways of life and worship. It would be better if these pages focused on the everyday abuses women face than package theorizing on culture and religion. In addition, trying to practice patronage over Arab women’s choices under the stereotype of “all Arab women are harem” will not but add more shackles to the already precarious gender situation in the Arab world as in elsewhere.

7. Conclusion

The development of feminist thought witnessed a tendency toward diversity and plurality than mere stressing on male\female binary. However, gender identity faces many challenges with the rise of real-time new media. This media, and social media as its center, offer a space for real-time interactive debate but also represent a complex framing power. Such complexity is studied in the Arab context. Analyzing the posts of two popular Arab feminist Facebook pages (Feminist Doodles and Thory), the pages showed a tendency toward second wave, Westernized, anti-orientalist feminism. Such importation of feminism made the pages’ message not only a bit irrelevant but also largely conceptually violent. Starting from alien contexts, the two pages dislocate the Arab women experiences of their situation for the sake of comprehending and adapting to heavily Westernized images. It is recommended at the end of the paper that Arab social media needs to tackle Arab feminism from the viewpoints of its context not from the viewpoint of alien contexts.

The list of posts analyzed from 'Feminist Doodles' page from March 2017 till October 2018

Post date Fix gender identity Conceptual violence Westernized
March 2017 0 0 1
April 2017 1 1 1
May 2017 0 0 1
June 2017 0 0 1
August 2017 0 0 1
September 2017 0 0 1
October 2017 1 0 0
November 2017 0 0 1
December 2017 0 0 1
January 2018 0 0 0
February 2018 1 0 0
March 2018 1 1 1
April 2018 1 0 1
May 2018 0 0 0 (veiled woman)
June 2018 0 0 1
July 2018 1 1 1
August 2018 0 0 1
September 2018 0 0 1
October 2018 1 0 1
Page’s profile picture 0 0 0

The list of posts analyzed from 'Thory' page from March 2017 till October 2018

Post date Fix gender identity Conceptual violence Westernized
March 1, 2017 (irrelevant) replaced with Miscellaneous post 1 1 0 0
March 2, 2017 1 0 1
April 3, 2017 (irrelevant) replaced with Miscellaneous post 2 1 1 0
April 4, 2017 1 0 1
May 5, 2017 0 1 1
May 6, 2017 (irrelevant) replaced with Miscellaneous post 3 0 1 0
June 7, 2017 1 0 0
June 9, 2017 1 0 0
July 9, 2017 1 0 1
July 10, 2017 1 0 0
August 12, 2017 1 0 1
August 13, 2017 (irrelevant) replaced with Miscellaneous post 4 1 0 1
September 13, 2017 1 0 0
September 16, 2017 1 0 0
October 15, 2017 1 0 0
October 16, 2017 0 0 1
November 23, 2017 1 1 1
November 24, 2017 1 0 1
December 19, 2017 1 1 0
December 20, 2017 (irrelevant) replaced with Miscellaneous post 5 1 0 0
January 21, 2018 0 1 1
January 22, 2018 1 1 0
February 23, 2018 1 1 1
February 24, 2018 1 0 0
March 25, 2018 1 0 0
March 26, 2018 1 1 0
April 27, 2018 1 0 1
April 29, 2018 1 0 0
May 29, 2017 1 0 1
May 30, 2018 1 0 0
June 4, 2018 1 0 0
June 5, 2018 (irrelevant) replaced with Miscellaneous post 6 1 1 1
July 3, 2018 1 0 0
July 4, 2018 1 1 0
August 5, 2018 1 1 0
August 7, 2018 1 0 0
September 7, 2018 0 1 0
September 8, 2018 1 1 0
October 9, 2018 0 0 0
October 10, 2018 0 1 1
Miscellaneous 10 1 1 0
Miscellaneous 11 1 1 1
Miscellaneous 12 1 0 1
Miscellaneous 13 0 0 0
Miscellaneous 14 1 1 1

Appendix 1. Feminist Doodles

Posts analysis from March 2017 till October 2018:

  • Results in percentage: (20 posts):

  • Fix gender identity: 7/20 = 35%

  • Conceptual violence: 3/20 = 15%

  • Westernized: 15/20 = 75%

Table A1

Appendix 2. Thory

Posts analysis from March 2017 till October 2018:

And some other miscellaneous posts

Results in percentage: (45 posts):

  1. Fix gender identity: 37/45 = 82.2%

  2. Conceptual violence: 18/45 = 40%

  3. Westernized: 18/45 = 40%

Table A2

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Scott, J.W. (1988), “Deconstructing equality-versus-difference: or, the uses of poststructuralist theory for feminism”, Feminist Studies, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 32-50.

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank Prof Nadine Sika, Associate Professor of Political Science at the American University in Cairo (AUC) for her role in enabling the paper to receive comments and evaluations during the AUC politics annual conference, February 2021. These comments helped us improve the paper logic, structure and content. The authors also wish to express their deep gratitude for Prof Amaney Jamal the Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Politics at Princeton University and the discussant of their paper at the conference. Prof. Jamal’s evaluation encouraged the authors to improve the paper and better spot its points of strength. Equal thanks to the reviewers of this paper whose opinions were very illuminating. Many thanks also for Noha A. Nagi, Content Manager, Social Media Analyst and Digital Marketer for helping us to better search and list the posts of the two analyzed Facebook pages.

Corresponding author

Ramy Magdy Ahmed is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: ramy.ahmed@feps.edu.eg

About the author

Ramy Magdy is as an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Faculty of Economics and Political Science Cairo University-Egypt, a PhD Student in the same department and holding a MSc in political science. Maries Adel Aziz is a Master’s student at Master's program in Politics, Economics and Philosophy- Universität Hamburg and Yassmine Gamal Hussein holds BSc in Political Science from the Faculty of Economics and Political Science Cairo University-Egypt. The three are interested in the fields of political theory and political thought with more focus on the theoretical questions related to power, discourse and gender in the Middle East.

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