Lingerie Revolution .. !
In commemoration of the 9th anniversary of Egyptian Jan25th revolution this week, , .. there is another revolution that not a lot of people talking about, The lingerie revolution!! Where Egyptian women may not have political choices, but they have plenty of choices of lingerie.
Muslim woman dresses gained lots of attention in the west since orientalist brought their pens, notebooks, brushes, and prejudice to the middle east. However, nothing got as much attention as the hijab and women’s hardcovers. Hijab has been used as a political symbol of resistance, or religious symbol, modesty, or adherence. In the Egyptian Revolution of 1919, women demonstrated side by side with men and used their hijab as a symbol of resistance and defiance to the British occupation much as they did in Jan25th, revolution. Women with hijabs, Niqabs, skirts, none hijabs, mothers, daughters, wives, and youth played a major role along the side of men, brothers, fathers, and friends in Tahrir Square. January 25th revolution was sparked by the 26-year-old Egyptian activist Asmaa Mahfouz, who posted a video log online urging people to come down to Tahrir Square and protect the “corrupt government” and rally from toppling dictator Hosni Mubarak. Her passionate call ultimately helped inspire millions of Egyptians to go out in the streets on January 25th. Ms. Mahfouz’s message was mainly targeting men, and she appeals to men’s chauvinism and sexism, not their patriotic fervor. Started her message with… “I, a girl, am going down to Tahrir Square, and I will stand alone. And I’ll hold up a banner. Perhaps people (men) will show some honor,” Mahfouz said. This week marks the 9th anniversary of the Jan25th revolution. Things changed a lot for women ever since. On International Women’s Day, one million women march in Tahrir Square not to topple a military dictator but this time to topple the oppressive hijab and protect women’s rights. The women’s march ironically was met by countermarch mostly men asking women in Tahrir to go home and be a woman. As it was reported. “A counter-protest made up of main men objecting to the call for a new constitution allowing women to stand for the Egyptian presidency harassed and intimidated them.”… found themselves surrounded. They chanted “the people want to bring down women” – a variation on the “the people want to bring down the regime” chant that became the Egyptian revolution battle cry.” Salah Diab, an Egyptian, businessman and the owner of the daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm Wrote: “Since there is talk of renewing or developing the religious discourse, could we perhaps launch a campaign calling for the removal of the hijab.” “The problem is that hijab has become subconsciously categorized as ‘low class.Hence, it is banned in places that cater exclusively for the high class,” says Dina, who studies Kinesiology at York University in Toronto., “The majority of women in Egypt still wear hijab or a variation of headcover, around 80 to 90%, but women may wear conservative cloth in public, but in private it is a whole new world. A look at the shop fronts in downtown Cairo as lingerie shops can be found all over the busy downtown market. Scantily clad mannequins in shop windows stare down at the onlookers in the streets. Downtown Cairo, which once attracted intellectuals, writers, poets, and political activists, is now the culture of consumerism with the crowded center filled with a plethora of shops and consumer attractions. Clothes, shoe shops, and malls mix with fast-food chains, fruit juice bars, and, most of all, lingerie and undergarment shops. Nowadays, it is not uncommon even to see bras and lingerie displayed on every street corner and in the windows. Inside the store, well-dressed saleswomen quietly help customers to choose their sexy lingerie and panties. The young woman whispered her preference to her fiancé, who explained, “We are getting married, and I need her to look her best on the first night,” breaking into a smile. Overall, though, the atmosphere inside the store is subdued as customers wander around and whisper to each other as if they are in an adult sex store, hiding their anxiety with childish giggles. The middle-class woman may still buy her undergarments in private from Victoria’s Secret inside a store in the downtown Cairo lingerie shop, or at a mall. However, on the east side of Cairo in an impoverished neighborhood, at the lingerie market. The traditional Egyptian woman is buying her lingerie under the gaze of the public eye. You can see women’s lingerie sold in the open market; women dressed in their hijab buying cheap lingerie sold on carts scattered everywhere. The carts were covered with colorful and fashionable Chinese-made bras and skimpy underwear. Ironically, this lingerie sidewalk shop, unlike the ones in downtown, virtually all of them, were run by men; women don’t sell underwear in public, but they buy them almost exclusively. For those women, buying lingerie in public is, seemingly, self-expression and a social experience after years of suppressing their sexuality under the weight of a modest culture. Naturally, flirting is a big part of the lingerie-buying bargaining game, where sexual euphemisms are not a social taboo. The lingerie carts are everywhere, surrounded by a few women in their long garments and hijab, sorting and holding up lingerie in their hands, confidently checking sizes and style. They scrutinize the wares oblivious to the piercing public eyes since there is no privacy and no dressing room on the sidewalk lingerie shops. Here, they rely on the salesman expertise, a middle-aged dark-skinned man, he was cool, respectable, and helpful, conversing with a slightly full-figured woman as he casually handed her a thong, as if he was handing her a Kleenex. “That is too small,” she shrugged. “Not at all. It is your size,” he assured her as if he knew something! She smiled, steered his hands away, and continued her quest for the right-fitting undergarment. I approached the lingerie cart and curiously asked the charming salesman Why, women buying all these sexy undergarments,?. “for women, what is “under” is more important than what is “above,” the salesman jokes, which got a soft smile from his customers. Contemporary lingerie can be whatever the modern woman wants it to be, and women have more choices now than at any time in history. Here, there is lingerie for all situations and intentions, including lingerie that was strapless and backless. Also offered were the sexy thong, teddy, as well as a wide choice of everyday bras and panties. Egypt, with all its political turmoil and anxiety, now offers the woman an escape into a lingerie shopping experience, something which has been ignored for a long time. Now, under the El Sisi military regime, Egyptian women may not protest in Tahrir Square, but at least they can freely buy their own lingerie.
Ahmed Tharwat/ Host of Arab American TV show “BelAhdan”
His articles appear in national and international publication
He blogs at “Notes from America” www.ahmediatv.com