20-year-old Egyptian college student and blogger Alia Mahdy El-Mahdy initiated a global debate after posting a nude picture of herself on Twitter on Thursday, 17 November. According to CNN reports, the photo quickly got over a million page views and caused a national outcry in Egypt. Mahdy claims that spreading the picture online is her way to challenge the restriction of freedom currently imposed on women in her home country.
Mahdy’s photo shows her facing the camera wearing nothing more than a red ribbon in the hair, thigh-high tights, and red ballet flats. Another version of the same photo appears on the girl’s blog in which her eyes, mouth, and genitals are covered with yellow rectangles that according to Mahdy represent censorship of knowledge and sexuality Egyptian women are exposed to every day.
Mahdy took the nude photo herself and put it on Facebook and on her blog before a male friend decided to post it on Twitter with the hashtag #newphotorevolutionary.
The 20-year-old argues that since Egyptian women are strongly pressured by the political authorities and society to wear a headscarf, the nakedness becomes a powerful weapon of political resistance against this social injustice. In an exclusive interview with CNN, Mahdy says, “I am not shy of being a woman in a society where women are nothing but sex objects harassed on a daily basis by men who know nothing about sex or the importance of a woman.”
Mahdy states that many women in her country wear the veil because they see it as the only way to escape such harassment and she thus expresses hope that, although highly unlikely, her picture will help to initiate a social revolution in Egypt in near future.
Mona Eltahawy, a lecturer on Arab issues, also links Mahdy’s actions to the general repression of women rights in Egypt. In her article in the Guardian she highlights the sexual harassment incident in Cairo last March when the ruling military junta forced female protesters to undertake “virginity tests.” Eltahawy argues that the method was a “cheap tactic to humiliate and silence” women. Eltahawy also points out that these women have not received enough public support online and that only a drastic action like that of Mahdy’s can turn public attention towards the unfair treatment of women in Egypt.
Regardless of the motives behind it, the publication of Alia Mahdy El-Mahdy’s nude photo certainly draws people’s attention to the social issues such as gender inequality and moral injustice in her country today. And only time will tell whether or not Mahdy’s actions will help her achieving the aim to spark a social revolution in Egypt.
Do you believe that online publication of a girl’s nude photos is an efficient way to fight sexual repression against women? Do you think Mahdy’s acts can be justified?
By: Maria Verbaite
HGN Features Journalist, London Campus
Photo Source: Ushbah Abid, HGN Photographer, London Campus
Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 11:06PM