Jan. 17th, 2011
Women in Tunisia’s Revolution.
Yes, social networks had a huge role to play, as did bloggers and sites such as Nawwat. However, to suggest that social media "caused" the revolution, is ridiculous to say the least, and to call this the first Wikileaks revolution is to suggest the Tunisians were not informed of what was going on in their own country and needed to be told that the Trabelsi clan was corrupt. It also ignores the role of pan-Arab satellite TV, which was at least as important as the internet, as was recognized when activists acknowledged Al Jazeera for its part in presenting the story as a people's struggle, rather than dismissing it as "unrest" over unemployment.
In focusing on the new media and its part in the uprising, the English-language media has diverted attention away from the people in the street, other than as an undifferentiated mass of angry Arab men. With so many deaths, and the revolt starting in more conservative regions, perhaps there were initially few women on the street. The lack of attention to the role of women may partly be because Tunisia’s revolution focused on issues, with little attention paid to the importance of circulating images of "liberated" women to get the West on its side. In Lebanon's Cedar Revolution, activists consciously created a particular image of liberal secular youth in revolt, a campaign one blogger extended to Tunisia recently, in a compilation of "Tunisia's revolution babes." Obviously, Tunisia’s revolution babes do not include older women or the hijabis, who were excluded from public spaces during the regime and had one more cause to celebrate the fall of Ben Ali.