Egypt's Other Political Elite

DOI10.1177/106591298103400114
Date01 March 1981
Published date01 March 1981
Subject MatterArticles
EGYPT’S
OTHER
POLITICAL
ELITE
KATHLEEN
HOWARD-MERRIAM
Bowling
Green
State
University
N
1919
Hoda
Sha’rawi
led
a
group
of
veiled
women
down
Cario
streets
t
to
protest
the
British
occupation
of
Egypt.
Today
First
Lady
Jehan
Sadat
presides
over
feminist
congresses
actively
promoting
the
im-
provement
of
women’s
status,
and
a
woman
serves
in
the
Cabinet
as
Minister
of
Social
Affairs.
This
study
focuses
on
the character
of
the
post-1952
female
public
leadership,
the
successors
to
feminist
Hoda
Sha’rawi.
Interviews
were
con-
ducted
with
forty-five
women,
including
Madame
Sadat,
who
either
belong
to
the
governing
elite,
or
who
have
become
leaders
among
and
for
women.
These
women
contribute
in
different
ways
to
the
improvement
of
women’s
status,
including
engaging
in
efforts
to
improve
women’s,
as
well
as
men’s,
socioeconomic
conditions,
pressing
publicly
for
improvement
in
women’s
legal
status
through
law
reform,
and
assuming
leadership
positions
in
a
male-dominated
world,
serving
as
role
models
for
other
women.
Among
the
women
who
achieve
national
public
importance,
some
do
so
for
their
social
feminism
and
others
for
their
political
feminism.
In
some
cases,
women’s
social
feminism
has
been
politicized
by
their
assumption
of
leadership
roles.
Examination
is
made
of
these
women’s
backgrounds,
personalities,
and
the
environmental
factors
contributing
to
their
assumption
of
public
service
roles.
Are
there
particular
factors
which
lead
to
the
assumption
of
particular
kinds
of
roles?
Can
one
credit
these
leaders
with
having
an
impact
on
the
status
of
women?
The
Middle
East
is
an
area
caught
up
in
the
struggle
for
modernization
and
in
the
pursuit
of
diverse
paths
toward
its
realization.
A
number
of
studies
exist
on
changes
made
by
regimes
and
socioeconomic
factors
upon
Middle
Eastern
women’s
lives.
Among
the
most
noteworthy
is
the
Beck
and
Keddie
volume,
Women
in
the
Muslim
World,
a
kaleidescopic
view
of
primarily
peasant,
nomad,
and
lower
class
urban
women
who,
the
editors
rightly
as-
sert,
make
up
the
majority
of
women
in
most
of
the
societies.
These
authors
point
out,
however,
that
there
is
the
need
for
&dquo;studies
of
elite
women,
wo-
men’s
movements
and
of
women
in
politics
and
the
public
domain&dquo;
who
are
most
likely
to
set
the
pace
for
change
in
women’s
status.’
In
fact,
few
case
studies
exist
on
the
women
leaders
in
the
national
arena
in
these
Middle
Eastern
societies,
and
no
studies
exist
on
the
post-1952
period
in
Egypt
save
the
more
general
studies
documenting,
for
example,
the
impact
of
education
on
women’s
participation
in
the
labor
force.2
’Lois
Beck
and
Nikki
Keddie,
Women
in
the
Muslim
World
(Cambridge:
Harvard
University
Press,
1978).
For
the
Middle
East
Area,
see
also
Elizabeth
Fernea
and
Rasima
Bezirgan,
eds.,
Middle
Eastern
Muslim
Women
Speak
(Austin:
University
of
Texas
Press,
1977)
which
takes
a
somewhat
different
approach
from
Beck
and
Keddie.
Fernea
and
Bezirgan
present
women
in
different
walks
of
life
who
speak
for
themselves
on
the
impact
of
socioeconomic
changes
upon
their
lives.
While
useful
for
gaining
insight
on
how
these
women
of
diverse
backgrounds
and
inclinations
saw
themselves,
one
should
not
look
in
this
volume
for
a
critical
study
of
the
Egyptian
elite
women’s
role
in
public
life,
although
Aminah
al
Said’s
article
represents
the
writing
of
one
of
these
elite
women.
For
another
recent
case
study
on
a
rapidly
changing
society
see
Carla
Makhlouf,
Changing
Veils
(Austin:
University
of
Texas
Press,
1979),
which
is
on
urban
women’s
experience
in
undergoing
social
change.
2 See
Audrey
Smock
and
Nadia
Haggag
Youssef,
"Egypt:
From
Seclusion
to
Limited
Participa-
tion,"
in
Janet
Zollinger
Giele
and
Audrey
Chapman
Smock,
eds.,
Women:
Roles
and
Status
in
Eight
Countries
(New
York:
Wiley,
1977),
and
Safia
K.
Mohsen,
"The
Egyptian
Woman:
Between
Modernity
and
Tradition,"
in
Carolyn J.
Matthiasson,
ed.,
Many
Sisters
(New
York:
The
Free
Press,
1974).

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