How Algerian women lost their moment of triumph: Deconstructing war discourse

Part 1

This post continues in the same theme of my previous posts here and here, but it is concerned with a section of Algerian society: women. It is about the role Algerian women played in the revolution and the social and cultural tensions which were experienced during the revolution and then after gaining independence. A while ago, MnarviDz sent me an interesting video about this issue. Here it is:

There are many more on YouTube (all in French though). The interesting thing about this video and many others, is that one gets the sense that very little has changed since (this video was filmed in 1962). It is an eerie feeling indeed. Actually, one has to be careful with expressions like ‘very little has changed’, because implicitly we are comparing two things with respect to some predetermined reference point. I suppose many would say that a lot of things have changed for women since. Take the recent governmental initiative to give quotas for women representation in politics for example or the promotion, in 2009, by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Pr. Ardjoun Fatma-Zohra (a hematologist) to the rank of general in the national army. Surely, these are good signs that things are changing (for the better or worse is irrelevant, the point is things are changing for women). Or are they? It certainly looks like they are.

But what use for a woman to be general in the army if the Algerian civil law makes her inferior to her male counterpart? Whereas the religious law regards this promotion as illegal, as mainstream Islamic jurisprudence deems it forbidden for women to take up influencial political roles. What significance does a woman general in the army has if her testimony is worth half that of a male sergent in her regiment? We all know that these ‘changes’ are really dictated by high-above don’t we. From the West (gotcha! I bet you were thinking much higher above 😉). It is so obvious. These ‘changes’ do not reflect an evolution of the Algerian society in any sense. They reflect the will of those powerful nations who rule the World today.

Much like what this young Algerian lady in the video above is advocating. She may be filled with all the noble intentions in the World and the most fervent nationalism, but she seems oblivious to the fact that her discourse is fundamentally Western. Indeed, even ideas like freedom and self-determination are Western – although one might argue that there are equivalent concepts in our own culture. Yet it took us 130 years to (re-)discover them. That is because it took 130 years for the Western mindset about cultural domination and supremacy to start shifting. Philosophical and political debates never ceased in the recent history of the West you see. Whereas in our part of the World, total stagnation. Even now we are incapable of talking and listening to each other. So even the awakening of the Algerian people was driven in part by what Algerians who were exposed to the Western education and culture brought back with them. These concepts were then translated into our own language, into a discourse we could identify with – a religious discourse. It is no surprise that as long as this convoluted and tortuous way of doing things persists, we will continue to get ourselves entangled in all sorts of incoherences. But perhaps there is no other way, perhaps part of maturity is to accept that incoherence is a part of life and that it is not the end of life.

Nevertheless, I find this to be a curious personnality split. I get the sense from the way the young lady speaks, in the above video, that she was disappointed by what happened after the independence. That somehow, the revolution had failed the women, especially those who militated side by side with men and sacrified their lives for this country. Being disappointed means you had expectations which somehow did not come true. So I ask myself: “What did she expect?!”, to kick the French out and then carry on living in fundamentally French (Western) ways? And how representative is her view of that of the majority of Algerian women back then?

So when I say little (not to say nothing) has changed, this is what I mean: a fundamentally incoherent discourse that still permeates all levels of Algerian being. As if the devastating effect of colonialism wasn’t enough, now we are submerged by the relentless onslaught of globalization. Even the most established and rooted grand nations are struggling against this ruthless phenomenon, so you can imagine the state of frail nations such as ours (if there could be such a thing as an ‘Algerian nation’ that is). Even those who vociferate about Islam and 3ourouba, or the Berber identity or whatever, they are all doing so because they are confused about who they really are and they reject what it has all come to. All of them share with this young lady, whose voice and ideas have travelled 50 years to reach us today thanks to modern technology (another Western creation), all share with her that unbearable sense of bitter disappointment.

I have written a long post, and yet I still feel like I have not yet finished all I wanted to say. I shall leave it to another occasion, where I will continue to address this theme but from the perspective of literature.

Note: The name of the young lady in this video is (the late) Zohra Sellami.

This entry was posted in Algeria, Algerian history, Algerian society by algerianna. Bookmark the permalink.

About algerianna

I enjoy writing, well communicating to be more precise as writing is somewhat a solitary activity. I tend to think that life is beautiful and interesting but people tend to over-complicate it. I like thinking about people and societies (netfelssaf like we say in Algerian). Apart from that, am relatively begnin.

22 thoughts on “How Algerian women lost their moment of triumph: Deconstructing war discourse

  1. Independence meant the end of dependence and nothing more. Nothing more can be expected from it and certainly not to transform in a wink the deep rooted structure of a society. I have a problem with your serie of posts and the relation to independence that bring out the feeling that independence is the problem. For me, it is a date, like the date of birth. Without birth nothing is possible but a birth does not guarantee a successful life. Add to this the fact that in my opinion, the algerian people has, in his recent history only one positive, remarkable accomplishement : it its war for independence. It was hard, it was bloody, it required painful sacrifices and smart strategy and they did it.

    Algerianna you put me in the uncomfortable and not usual situation for me to be the guy who speak for the half full bottle. Things have dramatically changed for women since independance. This is not because a woman is promoted general but because the structure of the family is completly upset. Women work, women earn a salary, women have an existence in the public sphere. During my military service, in the early 90’s, I was appointed momentarily as a teacher of french for some yemenite pilots that came for a training in Algeria. After I made them confident enough they told me that they were shocked by what they saw in algiers, the way the women dress, the couples walking in the streets and sitting in the « salons de thé ». They almost told me that the algerian men have no « rojoula » now and that we are not muslims. Compared to yemenit society which resembles the algerian society of the fifities and before, the algerian society is modern.
    Compared to our neighbours, Tunisia and even Morrocco much more has to be done.

    But about the incoherence between the religious attachment and modern aspirations, you preach to the choir…

    • Black cat,
      Congratulations for surviving till the end of my rant. You are a living proof of the legendary Algerian toughness. I think that you misrepresent what I said about independence – at no point did I brand it as the problem. In fact, my first post was about bringing out the positive achievements since. There were a few, but the general balance comes out as negative in my opinion.

      As for every Algerian, for me, independence as a symbol is sacred, the sacrifice of the martyrs is sacred, it has huge significance for all Algerians and it is also significant in the modern history of the Arab World. This is a self-sufficient fact that is not being debated here and will never be. But I do not see it as a discreet time point, I do not see it as simply the end of the colonial period (a happy end, which for the people back then it probably was simply that and it is perfectly legitimate) – I see it as a beginning, not just a date, a (re-)birth date. Perhaps it is expecting too much from it, perhaps at the end of the day, your way of looking at it is much more in line of what is really was, but I think my exasperation and that of many compatriots stems from the repeated failed starts since that supposed re-birth. Pick any significant date since 1962, and you will also be confronted with the same constat: a failed start, a stalk.

      Evidently, this may be true for all countries in our region of the World, even the Arab Spring revolutions of our present day I expect them all to be failed starts (too pessimistic? I sincerely hope I am). But I am talking about Algeria simply because am Algerian – it does not mean am singling it out as the most spectacularly failed state in the World (there are much worse scenarios which have unfolded in other parts of the World), and I am certainly not laying the blame squarely on independence! These things are not binary.

      I am glad you tried to bring a positive note, am always complaining that us Algerians tend to be too negative (which I do quite a good job proving by complaining about it), but I am sorry to say that I have lost faith in our ability to make it whilst at the same time fervently hoping am wrong. [By the way guys, if anybody has any positive thing to say about our current situation or recent history, please do it – I’d be so glad to read it (yetla3li el moral shwiya)].

      You say that a lot of things have changed for women, yes I did not deny that in my post, lots of superficial changes like in most parts of the World due to the supremacy of Western ideologies, I simply said that they changed for the wrong reasons. If a change is motivated by the wrong reasons, it is generally not sustainable and it could backfire.

      The women issue is just a part of a whole, not even the most important part (arguably). I guess my overall point is this: considering the major challenges and problems which threaten the whole planet and the huge technological progress which makes one year equivalent to one second, the 50 past years might turn out to have been our only chance to get on track. And I dread to think we have let it slip through our fingers. It fills me with anxiety to contemplate the future of our country, not only in light of our recent experiences as a people, but also the fact that we do not seem to be learning from our mistakes and capitalizing on our rich experiences (compared with our neighbouring countries at least). That we have a lot going for us is undeniable. That we Algerians deliver in times of crisis is also undeniable (Oum Derman anyone?). But it is simply not a sustainable way to wait till there is a crisis to get your act together. Surely, we have had enough crises to at least get this lesson. And the other young countries which have had just as tormented a history as Algeria has had and which, nevertheless, seem like they are getting their act together already offer an unfortunate contrast for us (am talking about Asian and Latin American countries here).

  2. Two remarks first on the video:
    1/ Sellami was still young and probably an idealist like many young revolutionaries. She then married Benbella while he was in Boumediene’s prison. I wonder if she questioned her husband’s actions when he was the president (jail and torture of many fellow revolutionaries).
    2/ Her remark on her father’s behaviour is so true. I know many Algerian men, members of the RCD etc. and who talk of women rights and all but then act with their daughters and sisters in well a very Algerian manner, i.e. a manner they oppose politically. It’s like those saying they accept gay people and all but would become crazy if the gay is their own son.

    Now on the topic, I very much agree with QatKhal. The war’s aim was to oust the French and nothing else. It’s like those French intellectionals and activists who supported the FLN and then were disappointed by the fact free Algeria wasn’t a progressist country (in the way they understood it), etc. The same goes for women and their situation in Algeria. Some might have thought things would change but it wasn’t the revolution’s goal. I would say that some even had the plan to take back any change that had been caused by French interference…
    And I still agree with Qtakhal about the fact things have changed and improved. I don’t know if the changes are 100% caused by independence but there’s certainly a fair part of them which wouldn’t have occured had we been still under French colonial rule.

    • MnarviDz

      1/ Sellami was still young and probably an idealist like many young revolutionaries. She then married Benbella while he was in Boumediene’s prison. I wonder if she questioned her husband’s actions when he was the president (jail and torture of many fellow revolutionaries).

      I don’t know, but you know, there is a viewpoint which maintains that, ‘Making peace with the establishment is the landmark of reaching maturity’. Khalida Toumi is the personification of this viewpoint.

      2/ Her remark on her father’s behaviour is so true. I know many Algerian men, members of the RCD etc. and who talk of women rights and all but then act with their daughters and sisters in well a very Algerian manner, i.e. a manner they oppose politically.

      You just had to bring Saadi into this didn’t you :p But it’s a good point. So I need to rectify what I said. It’s not that ‘very little has changed’, rather ‘some things will NEVER change’.

      It’s like those French intellectionals and activists who supported the FLN and then were disappointed by the fact free Algeria wasn’t a progressist country (in the way they understood it), etc. The same goes for women and their situation in Algeria. Some might have thought things would change but it wasn’t the revolution’s goal. I would say that some even had the plan to take back any change that had been caused by French interference…

      Yes, most of the analyses of this issue (women rights issue I mean) are Western, using Western references and methodological frameworks, I will post an example in the second part. You could perhaps post equivalent analyses which do not follow Western frameworks of reference if you are aware of any. It could be interesting to contrast them.

      And I still agree with Qtakhal about the fact things have changed and improved. I don’t know if the changes are 100% caused by independence but there’s certainly a fair part of them which wouldn’t have occured had we been still under French colonial rule.

      See my reply to Qatkhal – my objective is not to establish a causality link between independence and all the woes that came afterwards at all. There has always been woes in the history of this part of the World anyway and that is just the way it is, pointless to look for causes albeit not devoid of historical interest. Am really trying to project us in the future by looking into the recent past, the starting conditions if you like. From this perspective, I do think that the way it was done is linked to where we are now. Not only that, I think it’s a self-repeating pattern. It’s obvious really, but perhaps we as a people are not yet ready to accept this. When we will be, we will perhaps be better equipped to think dispassionately and find sustainable solutions and thus instil a positive sustainable change rather than just react to external influences and end up having an evolutionary trajectory which looks like background noise with no actual meaningful signal.

  3. Algeriana ton post est un sujet d’un long et interminable débat…. un sujet qui a fait couler beaucoup d’encre…. mais voyons un peu la vidéo que tu nous propose 😉
    Une jeune qui parle des relations hommes/femmes, elle le dit elle parle des jeunes, et parle comme une jeune. D’ailleurs à la fin de la vidéo je me suis souvenue d’une citation que nous répétait toujours mon père-Allah yerrahmou- dont je n’arrivais pas à me souvenir… mais que fait google? Alors je l’ai trouvée par le biais d’un blog de quelqu’un qui lui aussi la recherchait comme moi. Elle est ici, choisis la version qui te plait
    Mais mon père, qui n’était ni communiste, ni socialiste, ni capitaliste, ni anarchiste, ni…. c’était un simple citoyen qui réflechissait…. il nous donnait cette version : ” si tu es anarchiste à vingt ans c’est normal, si tu l’es encore à quarante c’est que tu es fou” :-)))
    Cette jeune fille parle comme une jeune de son âge, mais que disait la femme plus tard? (Allah yer’hamha).
    Quand j’ai cherché, j’ai trouvé ça :”En 1972, elle reçoit une curieuse demande en mariage. Elle émane d’Ahmed Ben Bella, alors détenu dans une résidence d’État, à Douera (30 km au sud-ouest d’Alger), après le coup d’État militaire qui l’avait renversé le 19 juin 1965. Un officier de la Sécurité militaire, geôlier du président déchu, transmet le message à la jeune femme, qui n’hésite pas une seconde : « C’est oui, pour le pire… et pour le pire. » Consciente qu’elle va lier sa vie à celle d’un détenu promis à la réclusion à perpétuité, elle sacrifie à son amour sa carrière et sa famille.”.

    En dehors de la question que tu poses et qui est en rapport avec la guerre d’indépendance et de ce qu’on en a fait après. A mon avis, elle a été idéalisée plus que nécessaire, et idéalisée aussi la suite, jusqu’à la fin de l’heureux intermède post-indépendance et le retour à la réalité. Mais c’était un contexte historique et politique…. Donc, en dehors de la question de qu’a-t-on fait de notre indépendance? Tu poses le “problème” de la femme algérienne, ou de la femme arabe, ou de la femme musulmane face à un éventuel “progrès”, face à une éventuelle “évolution” qui à mon avis n’existe nulle part. Les rapport hommes/femmes sont partout les mêmes, ou plutot le regard que portent les hommes sur les femmes et les femmes sur les hommes est partout le même. ne nous leurrons pas. Because le psychique humain est unique. Les femmes sont partout des femmes, et les hommes sont partout des hommes. Tout le reste n’est que littérature ou seulement parfois législation.
    ON accuse souvent les hommes arabes/musulmans/tiers-mondistes, d’être ceci ou cela… et les femmes aussi. Arabes/musulmanes/tiers-mondistes d’être aussi beaucoup de choses… mais qu’en est-il des femmes émancipées? Comment sont-elles? Comment gèrent-elles leurs vies familiales? leurs vies de couple? regardez Clinton, trompée devant la planète entière. Humiliée (enfin à sa place je l’aurais été) elle a encore le culot d’aller chez les femmes (arabes et musulmanes) et leur apprendre leurs droits.

    Mais revenons à cette vidéo, au moment-même où parle cette “jeune fille” en France, la femme française n’était pas l’égale de son “frère” français que je saches. C’était l’époque où en France les jeunes filles apprenaient à l’école la gestion domestique, etc… Après bien sur, il y a eu mai 68, etc, etc… mais aujourd’hui, les femmes en France continuent encore à demander salaire égal à travail égal…… ya3ni de quoi ils parlent?

    Comme Mnarvi qui parlent des hommes (démocrates) qu’il faut voir chez eux…. j’ai habité au cœur de la Kabylie quelque temps et j’ai vu combien les femmes kabyles étaient “libérées”, “émancipées”, “égales de leurs frères” wal hamdoulillah 🙂
    Moi, je parlerai de certaines femmes (je dis bien certaines, j’ai des exemples en tête mais je ne généraliserai pas évidemment) qui portent (à l’extérieur) l’étendard de l’émancipation féminine, de l’égalité, de l’évolution, du progrès… il faut les voir chez elles….

    • J’ai oublié un détail de la vidéo… quand elle dit “les vrais révolutionnaires sont morts”, et l’échange entre elle et l’intervieweur…. c’est quand-même drôle, vous ne trouvez pas?

    • Merci Oumelkhir pour ton témoignage, j’aime beaucoup lire tes perspectives. Je ne sais pas si les rapports hommes-femmes sont partout pareils. Je pense que ça dépend à quel niveau on aborde la situation, mais si on considère plusieurs cultures, je pense que nous remarquerons qu’il existe bel et bien des différences. Si on considère même comment un homme algérien se comporte avec une femme Occidentale et une femme algérienne, nous observerons une grande différence. Peut être que les similarités dont tu parles avec la situation actuelle en Occident sont dues aux tensions qui découlent dans leur cas de l’héritage judéo-chrétien et pour nous c’est les traditions propres à cette région géographique ou même certaines règles d’ordre religieux.

      Je n’ai jamais visité la Kabylie, si tu as des exemples précis ou des anecdotes, je te prie de nous les poster 🙂 Je pense que l’existence d’un nombre de ‘légendes’ concernant des femmes leaders (El Kahina, Tinhinan) donne à croire que la culture berbère contient des éléments qui seraient conformes avec le féminisme moderne et d’autres non. J’ai lu quelque part que les cultures païennes étaient plus à l’aise avec les femmes leaders.

      Que veux-tu dire par ‘curieux’ dans ton second commentaire?

      • Algeriana, j’ai pas dit “curieux”, j’ai dit “drole” :-)))
        C’est drole, puisqu’on sait que la femme épousera Ben Bella plus tard. Alors de deux choses l’une : ou bien elle a renoncé à ses principes et oublié ses critères très précis qu’elle avait du prince charmant.
        Ou bien elle ne savait pas que certains révolutionnaires étaient encore vivants :-)))
        Et puis que sont devenus les révolutionnaires qu’elle voulait mettre au monde? Le couple Ben Bella a-t-il eu des enfants?

        Et ça renvoie à ce que j’ai dit dans mon premier commentaire, elle a un langage de jeune, elle rêve comme toutes les jeunes filles de son âge, mais la réalité est différente…. et la vie se vit loin des tribunes et des discours ronflants…

      • Algeriana, au sujet de la Kabylie c’était de l’ironie.
        Ce n’est au contraire pas le cas du tout, les femmes en Kabylie, comme les femmes en Algérie (parce que certains veulent nous faire croire que la Kabylie serait hors de l’Algérie) vivent les mêmes conditions, ou peut-être pire au vu de la géographie, du climat rude, etc… (j’ai habité en haut des montagnes du Djurdjura). Mais comme certains “militants” de tel ou tel parti nous gavent de beaux discours, et de blabla… on pourrait croire que chez eux, la femme vit des conditions différentes, alors que c’est tout à fait le contraire, et je crois bien que c’est ce que voulait dire Mnarvi.Les femmes en Kabylie portent encore le bois sur leur tête, travaillent les champs, cueillent les olives, font le pain, font le ménage, traient les chèvres, etc… pendant que l’homme tient le mur ou débat au café du village comment il faut changer les mentalités…

        Ce que j’ai dit, aussi, c’est que je connais, ou que j’ai eu à connaitre des femmes qui à l’extérieur (souvent elles se désignent elles-mêmes comme militantes et féministes) se “battent pour la cause féministe” toutes griffes dehors et de toutes leurs forces, alors que chez elles, elles n’ont aucun droit. Je ne parle pas de toutes les “féministes” mais j’ai quelques exemples en tête.
        Et mon opinion personnelle, est que le féminisme est un leurre. Et qu’il n’existe pas ici des femmes qui vivent “bien” et ailleurs “mal”. Et que toutes ici vont bien et que toutes ailleurs vont mal. Ce n’est pas vrai et ça ne le sera jamais. Ce que je veux dire, ou ce que je voulais dire et que je n’ai pas dit en fait, c’est qu’il n’existe pas un modèle unique et inchangeable de société. Les gens de par le monde vivent dans des conditions différentes, avec des croyances différentes, leurs sociétés sont forcément différentes. Même si comme je l’ai dit, le rapport hommes/femmes, ou bien le regard que portent les hommes sur les femmes ou les femmes sur les hommes est partout le même. Comme le rapport enfants/parents et parents/enfants est partout le même. C’est pour ça que Sting avait chanté à l’époque de la guerre froide “I hope the russians love their children too”.

        Mais aujourd’hui et pour cause de globalisation, on veut nous imposer un seul et unique modèle, en nous vantant le bénéfice de ce modèle et en nous cachant ses défauts. Aujourd’hui les musulmans sont montrés du doigt, parce que la femme en Islam hérite la moitié de la part de son frère. Mais pourquoi personne ne demande ou n’accuse les occidentaux de déshériter la femme au profit d’un chien, d’un chat ou d’un canard? En islam, la part de la femme est préservée par “décret” alors que chez eux, l’épouse, comme les enfants ou les parents du “défunt” peuvent se retrouver à la rue du jour au lendemain parce que le “défunt” n’aura pas jugé bon de leur laisser quoique ce soit, même s’il était millionnaire… c’est pas de l’injustice ça?

  4. I think you are wrong
    there are jobs in where females excel more than males (more than 50 percent)
    politics is a strong hold of men because that is where they want to gravitate to

    by the way the united states named their first female general in 2008
    france does not have a female general so your theory of Algeria being pressured by western states is false naa naa a boo boo.
    I really have some interesting stories on this subject so I will leave them for later

    • ilfdinar
      Well, Al Qadafi had a full army of women too! I am convinced he was not pressured by the US! LOL! Algerian interior policy is definitely very influenced (too influenced for my liking as a citizen) by the West! As long as they feed us, they sell us weapons, medicines and vaccines, they treat our rulers in their hospitals they will continue to dictate to us what to do and we’ll have no option but to obey them.

      I’d be really interested to hear your stories about the women’s rights subject! But I also have a quote from President Bouteflika which is interesting. In one of the celebrations he hosted about Algerian women (I think it was to celebrate 3id el mar2a (Women’s Day)), he said something along the lines of: “You have been given a lot of rights, now don’t ask for more.”. It was broacast on national TV.

      PS: Does your nickname mean ‘a thousand dinars?’

      • yeah it does mean a thousand dinars.
        I am kind of too lazy to type but
        just in general a few days ago Algeria became the president of the G77 group(the non aligned group 3 world group)
        diplomacy is diplomacy I don’t think that Algeria is a “dictatiee” of Europe but that does not mean they do not try to influence their southern neighbors.
        The United states seems to be trying soft diplomacy basket ball camps/ English classes and so on(Algerians seem to be hard headed)
        I try not to be too philosophical and probably have a rudimentary grasp on womens rights and the “femenist” movement

  5. When I said the woman condition has dramatically changed, I didn’t mean superficial changes. The most important one is undeniably education. 60 years ago, few algerians could access education and among the very few who had the opportunity to go to school, the number of women was insignificant. The rare girls that went to school were generally forced to stop at puberty. Women had a single possible fate : marry and have as kids as possible. In the family, it was the man who « knows » everything and then « knows » what to decide. When I was a kid, in my family, things were simple : boys were some kind of kings and girls were some kind of slaves. As a male, you wake up in the morning and ask for a breakfast that one sister will prepare and serve while an other is making your bed and the day can continue like this for everything. There was no reason for that unfair sharing of roles other than the fact that they are girls and we are boys. The most surprising thing for an external observer is that the conductor of this situation is a woman : my mother. Believe me, my family situation is not at all exceptional. BUT my sisters are now married with much fewer kids than my mother, they are very well educated and work, although some pavlovian reflex make them react if they see me hloding a fatiron (they immediately ask me to let them do), with their kids, girls are not at all the slaves of king boy. And again, the life of my sisters has nothing exceptional in Algeria. They are no more imitating their mother’s model of education. Also, the fact that they earn money changes completely the balance of power in the society.
    So by change, I didn’t mean miniskirts and night-clubs, I mean an existence as a full humanbeing managing her life.

    You say

    …her discourse is fundamentally Western…
    … Indeed, even ideas like freedom and self-determination are Western…
    … (women rights issue I mean) are Western…

    Except being from the west nothing of the principles you cite is intrinsically western. They came out in the west and had strong opponents there at that time as if they were eastern:-). I believe and hope they are universal.

    For the positive note you are claiming… I am sorry to say I havejust this reminder. إن الذكرى تنفع المؤمنين
    I am not a religious man to put it mildly but I have received as a valuable legacy some wise principles. The most useful of them is summarized in a verse that my grand-father used to bring up very often : و لا تقنطوا من رحمة الله . In a scale of despair, القنوط is worse than اليأس. It is the most common feeling shared by algerians.

    Personaly, I prefere the seculiar form : There is always a way.

    • Blackcat

      Thanks for your insightful comment. I totally agree with you that much of what women complain about as being sexism and mysogyny is actually perpetuated by women themselves! I have been fortunate as in my family my parents never encouraged my brothers to ask us to do things for them (like ironing their shirts or tidying their rooms! things which my cousins for example were always asking their sisters to do, well not ‘asking’ but ordering!). I guess these cultural default settings which are deeply rooted in our society are the cause of the cognitive disonnance one feels when we hear Arab or Muslim women advocating feminist ideas, they seem to select whatever suits them from two different and perhaps ultimately mutually exclusive worldviews.

      You say that these values are universal, I assume you mean ‘women’s rights’. I wish they were, but I do not think they are as a distinct entity. I however think they can be translated into the overarching principles of justice and fairness which are common to all human cultures. But so would being nice to your pet I suppose! The equality bit is the problematic one. I don’t think that is universal or at least not in the way it is interpreted in the West.

      Other than that, I fully agree. Economic aspects are hugely important in destabilizing power balances between the sexes. Political and leadership female role models as well are important (not only in sectors like the army or the presidency although they are more symbolic than say a leading woman fashion designer :s) and your example about mothers is pertinent in this regard. I also think that Algeria has interesting demographics in the sense that women are disproportionately represented in sectors like higher education wrt men however, this is not reflected in leadership positions in the State. I mean even women ministers we have are in charge of family affairs and culture! Well, to end on a positive note, I suppose one could say that it’s a good compromise between Eastern and Western standards 😉

  6. A Oumelkhir

    Pardon j’ai oublié un truc, concernant l’idéalisation de la révolution, oui je pense que tu as vu juste. Mais ce qui est le plus décevant c’est que nous ne sommes pas arrivés à la rentabiliser comme on aurait pu post-indépendance. C’était une occasion en or et nous avons eu un patch de bonne chance dans les années après (la nationalisation du pétrole). Je pense que c’était une méga occasion en or de ratée et peut être que nous n’aurons pas une de similaire (de par son effet sur le psychique national) avant très longtemps. Peut être que l’équivalent moderne est le foot, mais là encore don’t hold your breath yal khawa lol

  7. Hello Oumelkhir 🙂

    Je suis d’accord avec ce que tu dis: sur le plan biologique, les rapports naturels entre l’Homme et son environnement sont les mêmes partout 🙂 Mais sur le plan socio-culturel, les rapports ne sont pas les mêmes entre hommes et femmes, parents et enfants, gouverneurs et gouvernés, pays et ses habitants. Corollaire: Of course qu’il n’y a pas un modèle societal fixe encore moins un modèle ‘parfait’, il s’ensuit que il y a des corrections à apporter en fonctions des besoins de la société et des changements globaux que subit le monde. Je pense que le féminisme n’est pas un mouvement monolithique qu’on peut rejeter d’un bloc, les raisons derrière l’émergence de ce mouvement sont variées et il y a eu même des mouvements équivalents qui etaient fondés sur des principes religieux, par des hommes!

    Ultimement, je pense que c’est femmes qui devront prendre la responsabilité de leur émancipation. En tant que mouvement politique, c’est vrai que le féminisme a perdu beaucoup de crédibilité, mais l’essence du mouvement still makes sense et it is up to women to define what they want and how they want to achieve it and in the end this is what feminism is about – fundamentally. Je mets ici un link vers un article (it’s satire) que je trouve très drôle et qui traite du sujet:

    Man Finally put in Charge of Struggling Feminist Movement

  8. Must add something Oumelkhir: la biologie n’est pas fixe non plus, elle réagit à l’environnement. Eg. un environnement qui prive les femmes de l’acces a l’education par exemple sous pretexte que le cerveau de la femme n’est pas biologiquement équipé pour ça poussera la biologie vers ce sens et résultera en des femmes qui sont pratiquement biologiquement incapables de s’instruire – or so it would seem. Je pense que l’argument biologique a certainement un fond de vérité mais il convient de l’utiliser prudemment. Comme je l’ai dit, le fond du probleme est que c’est les hommes qui ont toujours décidé ce qu’est la femme et comment elle fonctionne et se basant sur leurs propres spéculations ou fantasmes ou que sais-je encore, ils ont développé des modèles variés. La biologie était de leurs côté parce qu’ils ont beaucoup de temps à tuer (ils n’enfantent pas), donc ils passent ce temps à discuter et élaborer des théories dans le café du village 🙂

    Feminism is about giving women the right to speak for themselves. Et je suis féministe dans ce sens du mot.

  9. Sans aucune volonté de ma part de relancer le débat ici…. mais tout à fait par “hasard” et au passage de mes recherches hier, par rapport au post sur le discours de Medelci, je suis tombée sur ça

    Un article entre des milliers d’autres… mais on qui nous montre bien comment la France, ou la “communauté internationale démocratique et libre” en général, dit ce qu’elle ne fait pas, ou fait ce qu’elle ne dit pas. Elle se déclare défendre les Droits et les Libertés, mais c’est juste pour ses propres intérêts et non dans un élan humaniste et altruiste comme on n’arrête pas de nous le répéter…. dans la vidéo de ton post, à aucun moment il ne s’agissait de dire que la France coloniale a œuvré à faire que la femme algérienne reste analphabète, ignorante, et à la merci de la force coloniale. Une “Fatma” qu’elle a violé, violenté, maltraité, affamé, déporté, assassiné, etc… mais, dès qu’elle a perdu la main en Algérie, elle a changé son fusil d’épaule et a commencé à pleurer les Droits “bafoués” des femmes algériennes (et musulmanes) qu’elle a elle-même écrasé….. Rien que pour ça je suis allergique personnellement à tout ce qui se dit “la-bas” au sujet des femmes algériennes ou musulmanes ou tiers-mondistes. En plus large, je suis allergique à tout ce qui se dit “la-bas” sur l’Algérie, les algériens, les musulmans, etc… Et je suis allergique à toute “recommandation” aussi humaniste (selon ce qu’ils en disent) soit-elle, venant de l’ancien colonisateur qui ne s’est pas privé de me renier tous mes Droits lorsqu’ils étaient à sa portée… Je suis asez grande pour savoir ce qui est bon et ce qui est mauvais pour moi, sans avoir besoin pour cela de passer par la France, Washington, Londres ou l’ONU…
    Et avec tout ça, ils ont le culot d’engager un (faux) débat (en France) concernant la supériorité de certaines civilisations sur d’autres, pfff…..

    • Don’t worry Oumelkhir, we’ll have many other opportunities to discuss this am sure. It is rather obvious you are allergic to feminist rhetoric and it seems the reason is that you perceive it as hypocritical coming from the West. I think that despite the hypocrisy, there are still lots of good intentions in the West (they cannot all be evil), just as there are in our part of the World. Each of us wants to do good according to our respective worldviews. At the end of the day, it is up to women like you and me to decide. And as long as you agree with this, we’re on the same wavelength. It might seem obvious to you, but it wasn’t a few decades ago, even in the West. The idea is that by giving women more choice, they’d be more likely to make different choices should they want to. Thus hopefully expressing themselves in other ways than through gender-fixed ways. This would enrich the human experience by giving women a voice in important fields such as politics, science and engineering, literature and history. That’s all. Of course if some women think they would contribute more by raising male kids who will become successful politicians, writers and historians that’s also one way of looking at it. It just wouldn’t be fair, however, to deny women who think otherwise the right to make a different choice. The West is sometimes to blame for this (wrt women who want to opt for more traditional roles), but so are Muslim countries (wrt women who want to opt for less traditional roles eg: Saudi Arabia is still convinced women shouldn’t drive or participate in politics).

  10. Two or three days ago there was a program on l’A3. The subject was women and men roles in the couple and in the society. There were two guests: a male sociologist and a female specialist of family affairs working at the ministry.

    It was very funny. The man kept repeating that everything must b agreed on between the spouses before marriage: who works, to which extent, etc. The female on her side, spent most of the time criticizing the west. She said women must handle house chores before thinking of their careers, that women c(sh)ouldn’t choose any profession, etc. Then she came up with a theory: “if, in a couple, the man spends too much time at home and the wife works too much, then there is a big risk the children would become homosexuals, like “we” see in the west”.

    One woman called just to tell this woman “raki qtaltiha lemra!”

    • I didn’t watch the whole programme but that woman was so annoying and she looked pretty pissed off too for some reason. She clearly had some beef with the West. Fascinating stuff. How ironic it would be if humanity ends up discovering that women haven’t been actively present in human history simply because they (or at least the overwhelming majority) weren’t interested in such matters and will never be! It was nothing to do with mysoginist, power-crazed men! It was women all the while. Too funny.

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