Was Tahrir Ever Utopia?

The sit-in in Tahrir the first time around was nothing short of Utopia. Or so it seemed to many of us.

People from all classes and backgrounds of a segregated, elitist, and classist society stood side by side, shared food, discussions, and jokes, and took bullets for one another.  Everyone looked after everyone else (though it got a bit chaotic during the larger protests on Fridays and Tuesdays). Women were not harassed. People were cleaning up after themselves. Medics volunteered their time and risked their lives to save lives and help those who have been injured.

I had hoped that we would be able to take this unspoken code of ethics we developed in Tahrir out into our everyday lives. Making our everyday lives utopia was not what I was expecting or hoping for, but I was hoping for a drastic improvement, a few steps towards a more permanent utopia.

Soon after, I realised that I was looking at the world through rose tinted glasses. We need another revolution specifically to clean the garbage and stop littering, and another revolution just for sexual harassment.

We took to Tahrir again, and I was looking forward to reliving this utopia. But I have not been able to find it. I am disappointed now that we are back to the square, we are unable to achieve the utopia we once had there.

I was harassed several times in Tahrir the last days. Even carrying supplies to the field hospitals, I was harassed. Now,  are these thugs or police in civilian clothes, or normal agenda-free Egyptians (those who only have the “harass-women-agenda”)? I could not tell.

I wonder today, was Tahrir ever utopia? Or did we just want to see and experience utopia, and we thus imagined it? I feel that perhaps it was not as perfect as I remember it being. I just remember the perfection because of the circumstances then. Was I blinded by hope and optimism?


To Cut or Not To Cut: That is a Free-Willed Woman’s Decision

(This post was originally posted  on 1 April, 2011 on my first blog).
I had heard and read about labiaplasty before, but I recently watched a documentary (Perfect Vagina, 2008) that resonated with me. I had been discussing and reading about Female Genital Mutilation, and it seemed to me that FGM and labiaplasty were not very different.
I hate to compare a crime that is forced upon unconsenting young girls, one that is dangerous to their health; with a practice carried out by consenting women who are making their own decision regarding their own bodies in order to feel better about themselves and to improve their sex lives, thereby empowering themselves.
But I am going to anyway.
Labiaplasty is the surgical reduction of the labia major and/or labia minora .While some women may have their labia “trimmed” due to medical reasons, such as damage during childbirth, most women who opt to have labiaplasty do so for aesthetic reasons.
According to the World Health Organisation; “Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”
Which sounds to me as though labiaplasty fits under FGM. But is labiaplasty a form of FGM and should therefore be banned?
Supporters of labiaplasty – as well as supporters of aesthetic plastic surgery in general – say that women undergo labiaplasty to feel better about themselves, sexually and physically.  It is not FGM, which is forced upon women and effectively deletes their hope for pleasurable sexual relations.
I say to that, young women in communities that practice FGM are often too young to understand the implications of FGM, and many of them see it as a rite of passage that makes them “big girls”, aims to and control their sexual desires, in their mind a good thing. If given the choice, they might choose FGM, something they see as empowering. It protects them from lascivious acts and ensures that they find a husband.
Their societies force them conform to what other women do, so they can fit in better.
Many women who undergo Labiaplasty suffer from pressure as well, from peers and sexual partners. Through various media, such as scantly clad models which we all know are not representative of what a woman looks like, women form ideas of what a perfect vagina looks like: shaved, in proportion, disturbingly looking like a little girl’s. They go under the knife to reach this aesthetic ideal they see.
Their societies force them conform to what other women do, so they can fit in better.
This brings us to the question of free will – what is it? It requires education and independent decision making. Young women who undergo FGM are not educated about it, and about sexuality. Their decision making ability in this matter is therefore nonexistent. This is the difference. Women undergoing labiaplasty should be educated, and fully understand what they are doing. With the knowledge they need in their hands, they should be able to make a pragmatic decision, and the right decision as to whether or not they need labiaplasty, and whether or not to under go it.
“Women come in all shapes and sizes” it is often said. Genitalia do as well. It is very easy for me to say that women with non-porno-star-looking-labia should love their bodies, and accept them without mutilating them, but I am not in their shoes. I can only hope that before they go under the knife, they are sure it is their own decision , and that it is an educated decision.

"The Great Wall of Vagina: Changing Female Body Perception Through Art" is an art exhibition where four-hundred women from 20 countries, aged 18 to 76 had heir vaginas cast for this project. The casts are displayed in large panels, showing the varying shapes and sizes of labia. According to the artist, Jamie McCartney, the project is all about saying to women “Look! This is what normal women look like!” For more info. http://www.greatwallofvagina.co.uk. Check it out, it is really cool and has a short video on the project. The exhibition will premiere at the Brighton Festival in May 2011.