A very interesting workshop was organized on November 24-25 by the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo (NVIC) titled: “Female Actors in Islamic Public Sphere – Increasing Significance through Increasing Mediatization.” This was a great conference, and I wish I could recap it all for you. But I’ll keep my review to the media-related panels.
Maria Roeder from Mannheim University discussed how private life could be highly political: she raised the questions of who is defining what is public and what is private, and also who speaks in the talk shows, because half the speakers only represent themselves, and in terms of gender, males to females ratio is 100 to zero:
“The dominance of male actors is a trend in such shows, there’re high barriers for female voices in political talk shows.” She continues: “The concept of public sphere empowerment is highly connected to the female almost-absent appearance and involvement in talk shows.”
She then explained that there’s a big problem when one tries to identify what is “private” and what is “public:” “The whole idea of domestic violence being private matter makes it harder to be considered as an issue to be discussed by the public sphere.”
Roeder thinks that increasing the mediatization of life world opens new spaces to public participation, which leads to increased female voices. Blogging helps in circulating news and actions away from the government and official spheres, lowers the barriers in economical terms, and does not take into account who you are, which leads to more gender equality. Though the fact remains that the Arab blogsphere is still dominated by males, at certain ages, half the bloggers are women. She then used the example of Ghada Abdel Al, the Egyptian blogger whose blog “Wanna be a Bride” was published as a book and turned into a TV series starring Tunisian actress Hend Sabry.