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Waiting for Alia

[Magda Alia al-Mahdy; Self Portrait] [Magda Alia al-Mahdy; Self Portrait]

It is quite easy to see a woman naked. In fact, naked women are always only an internet search, an art gallery, a television show, or film away. The semi-naked, alluring female form is even more pervasive. These images stare at us from billboards, music videos, and television advertisements asking us with their flesh and their “fuck me” expressions to buy more and more things. Yes, images of naked women and/or semi-nude women are everywhere, including in the Arab world. They are meant to be consumed. But an image of a twenty-year-old university student nakedly staring down a self-timed camera with her legs spread incited death threats this past week in Cairo. After Magda Alia al-Mahdy circulated her photo on her blog, both conservatives and liberals attacked her for her immorality. While Islamists and other conservative socio-political groups have gone as far as to call her a “devil,” the liberal left has publicly disowned her, stating that they do not accept “atheists” in their movement. In private, many of the left-of-left Egyptian activists claim that Alia has committed a strategic crime that could potentially set the women's rights movement back years, if not decades. While this last claim may be true, I would like to question what exactly it is that makes Alia's self portrait so threatening, not just to the moral fabric of a largely Muslim society, but also to the ways in which female bodies are a site of political control and of capitalist consumption.

The idea that female bodies are sacrosanct, and that somehow they are “protected” from overt sexualization in Egypt is false. Contrary to what many of Alia’s detractors and what many commentators on the Arab world have said, female bodies have long been the site of struggle, interrogation, harassment, and commodification throughout the region. In particular, Cairo is famous for being the premiere public ass-pinching, breast-grabbing, and body-rubbing capital of the Arab world. The fact is that a woman (unveiled or not) cannot walk down a crowded Cairene street or take a public bus without expecting, and thus constantly guarding herself against, sexual harassment. In recent months, females involved in protests at Tahrir Square were subjected to “virginity tests” by the military junta. The “virginity tests” were administered via the age-old method of inserting two (male soldiers') fingers into each woman's vagina. These women were violated in order to ascertain whether they had engaged in consensual sexual activities. Of course, the real point of these virginity tests is not to actually see if someone is a virgin. The point is to humiliate, threaten, and to demonstrate and reassert control over a body and through that individual body, the body public and the notion of “public morality.” The point is to terrorize, and the aim of terrorism is always to instill fear (and hope that that fear will incite self-policing) in a civilian population. Sex as terror has been used in Abu-Ghraib, at Guantanamo Bay, in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, in Libya, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Argentina, and in U.S.-occupied Afghanistan. When it comes to female and non-normatively gendered male bodies, physical violation is commonplace not only in police cells in the Arab world, but in jails across the world. These violations are always public (even in the insidious form of the public secret), because the point is to demonstrate the impunity with which these citizens’ bodies can be violated by foreign and local powers

Of course, the female body is not only a site of political control and the regulation of patriarchal public morality. It is also a primary vehicle for making money. The horizontal and vertical cavalcade of visual imagery and signage that is ubiquitous throughout the city will have awed anyone who has been to Cairo. In Cairo and in Beirut, the little sister with a Napoleon complex, the public display of the sexualized female body is everywhere. Women in various stages of undress writhe and pose in film posters, advertisements, and publicity campaigns for female pop stars.

[Advertisements for lingerie in Beirut, celebrity billboard in Cairo]

 In these images, the point is to titillate the viewer. More crudely put, these images hope to make the viewer/consumer think about sex and/or about what it means to be “sexy.” The trend is even more extreme in music videos, where women in various stages of undress slink up and down poles, swing around in slings, and are doused in water as if it were some sexy form of water-boarding. The three videos below are only representative of the fact that in many of these videos, it is unclear what exactly is the product; the music or the body. Two of the videos feature non-Egyptian singers “singing” in an Egyptian accent, signaling the fact that these videos, and this music, will sink or swim based on how it “performs” on the Egyptian market, the largest in the Arab world. 


[Above: The singer Maria demonstrates how to lick different objects and insert others in your mouth. She then lays naked in a tub full of milk. Then cereal is dumped all over her, just in case you forgot that she is there for your consumption.]
 

[Above: Haifa Wehbe stars in a peep show. Slings and striptease are involved.]
 

[Above: Joe Ashkar is always "mhaypar," a word not accidently close to "mhayyaj," Lebanese parlance for "horny." Lesbianism and  group sex is insituated. Everybody gets wet.] 

Before we condemn or praise Alia's decision to take a naked picture of herself and circulate it as either revolutionary or not we must understand the context in which her statement was made. It is not a context where the nude female form is foreign, and it is not a context where people don't talk about sex. In fact, sex is at the center of much public anxiety and government policy. This is not surprising, given that at times of great social upheaval, much of a public's anxieties about political change are fought on the terrain of sex and gender roles. But it is surprising that an adult woman's decision to take a nude picture of herself and publish it on her blog has created more controversy across the political spectrum than the fact that Egyptian soldiers were administering “virginity tests” with their fingers on and in female protestors. It is less surprising that a photo meant to challenge, not titillate the viewer, has inspired more rage than film posters that pose a naked woman trying to escape the strategically placed grasps of a man, who is posed as a would-be rapist.

[Left: movie poster in Cairo. Right: Magda Alia al-Mahdy in her bathtub.]

On her Blog Magda posted this commentary under her now infamous full frontal photo.

Put on trial the artists' models who posed nude for art schools until the early 70s, hide the art books and destroy the nude statues of antiquity, then undress and stand before a mirror and burn your bodies that you despise to forever rid yourselves of your sexual hangups before you direct your humiliation and chauvinism and dare to try to deny me my freedom of expression.
 

Alia's picture does not play by the rules, and this is why both liberals and Islamists have condemned her. She is not “waiting” for the “right moment” to bring up bodily rights and sexual rights in post-Mubarak Egypt. She is not playing nice with the patriarchal power structures in Egypt. She is not waiting her turn. Her mouth is not open and pouting. Her breasts are not large. Her eyes are not hungry or afraid. She is not wearing high heels. Her vagina is uncovered. She is not selling anything, and she is not trying to turn us on. Her use of fishnet stockings appears to be a commentary on the clichés of commodified seduction. Her nudity is not about sex, but it aims to reinvigorate a conversation about the politics of sex and the uneven ways it is articulated across the fields of gender, capital, and control. She is staring back at us, daring us to look at her and to not turn away. Daring us to have this debate.

40 comments for "Waiting for Alia"

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On the button.

now we need an Arabic version, Maya.

madarab wrote on November 20, 2011 at 06:24 PM
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I Vote for the Arabic version too. And I vote for her face in that picture.

Kinda wrote on November 20, 2011 at 06:47 PM
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Maya, thank you! You surgically pinpointed the terror aroused by this photo. It was not a man's will. it was her own full will. she took control. that scares the shit out of everyone!! flipping the table, shuffling the cards! not one wants that...

Abeer wrote on November 20, 2011 at 06:50 PM
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I agree with ye ias far as the fact that what she did was nothing unfamiliar to us, espcially given the fact that the internet seems to be about nothing more than naked women to most people. However, I do believe the reason she has so been ill-received is simply because she is NOT making a "fuck me" face. It seems our society justifies nudity and sexual appeal as a marketing tool but not as a form of self expression.

Anonymous wrote on November 20, 2011 at 07:26 PM
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ran should be added to the list of countries where violation of women's bodies ,Particularly rape inside prison is a common state practice. Virgin female political prisoners were raped the night before their executions in the 1980's.. All in the name of religion and piety. There have been aslo cases of rape in the aftermath of 2009 protests/arrests. And of course, covering/controlling women's bodies has been the cornerstone of this regime since its inception some 32 years ago

Malihe wrote on November 20, 2011 at 07:54 PM
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That should be " Iran"..

Malihe wrote on November 20, 2011 at 08:15 PM
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There is nothing revolutionary or political about getting almost naked, wearing thigh highs and RED shoes. Her thoughts on the photo (in her CNN interview) are ridiculous. She claims she likes to "be different" but she is doing nothing but objectifying herself. She is misguided and her self-expression is nothing more than a ploy for attention.

Samira wrote on November 20, 2011 at 10:37 PM
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Very clear… she is possessed by demons…

Ezhil wrote on November 21, 2011 at 02:30 AM
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Thank you for saying that brilliantly. You might be interested in my post about that http://nadatalks.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/now-that-she-got-your-attention-listen-to-her/

Nada Akl wrote on November 21, 2011 at 03:53 AM
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Thank You Alia! You gave us a dose of freedom. Brava!

Lebanese Woman wrote on November 21, 2011 at 04:14 AM
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Gr8 article! bravo Maya!

sam wrote on November 21, 2011 at 06:11 AM
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aaaaa... I'm pretty sure that you're not supposed to post nude pics of yourself no matter who you are. It's not a question of having the liberty of posting them or not, but it's more of a you don't want that kind of attention, the negative one. Whether it was models or pornstars, they get paid really big to get naked, and not all of them accept getting full nude (I'm just talking about models, no pornstars). taking pictures of yourself and posting them is somehow disturbing, because you're being the worst type of attention-seeker. Please let's not be that type of people who will encourage a person to do whatever they want, because life isn't that way. Let's focus on equality or maybe the right for women to divorce a guy and inherit the same as the guy or anything that is hurting humanity. Those issue matters, not fighting for a girl because she felt like taking pictures of her self and showing her feminine parts and how the world shouldn't condemn her. What if one day she regretted posting this picture? she can never take it back. Once on the net, it stays there. And to however likes what Alia did to herself is just being really really, and I mean really, an Idiot.

Mohammad Nasereddin wrote on November 21, 2011 at 08:35 AM
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The obvious truth about sex certainly can be lost in all the advertising and moralizing, and it definitely is lost in weak intellectualizing. Hugh Hefner presented Alia’s arguments in the late 1950s and 1960s, in his “Playboy Philosophy,” meant to remove the mystery and the magic, in a pretense of evading the tensions, which Playboy Magazine thrived on exploiting, along with zillions of others – sexual tensions which can absolutely never be removed from sex, thank God, no matter how hard Alia and others try to “liberate” us from them. Sex is a natural mystery at the very heart of Life itself – at the root of all our deepest tensions, particularly since the sexual parts are brilliantly located in the most hygienically dangerous places, as nature itself, including God, establishes in the most brutally obvious way, the requirement of immaculate trust and love, which also soon proves necessary in any lasting sexual relationship, in countless other ways. Yet that crucial and scary anatomical fact is overlooked in all the straining rationales of our numb sexual “liberators,” because they simply are way too disconnected from nature – way too squeamish – to deal with it frankly. Honesty has never been part of their spiel, not necessarily because they’re dishonest, but because, in any case, they’re so incredibly disconnected from natural reality – and from any tender sort of instinctive sensitivity. Yes, sorry, but sex IS sacred – in its own right, irregardless of religious or libertine dogmas. The human is by far the most sexual mammal (on land anyway), and it’s unique in its ability to get naked – and so to expose all those nerve-endings and attention-grabbing anatomical features – yes, INHERENTLY and NATURALLY and OBVIOUSLY attention-grabbing – the the shakings and shimmerings so reminiscent of ornithological mating-dances. What is perfectly obvious and sacred to the natural animal in us is strenuously ignored by our mechanical-minded sexual “liberators,” or it’s lost under the too-common layers of neurotic desensitization to our original being. The fact that sex is exploited massively does not reduce its incomparable natural value or its priceless “moral” values: it stands, instead, as a forever-frustrated exhibition of them. Let’s not let false righteousness – from EITHER side of this “debate” – obscure the fact that “moral” actually has less to do with “right or wrong” and way more to do with the deep fabric of truth and meaning – which may be difficult for “civilized” humans to appreciate, but still remains essentially and immeasurably good.

Dave Kersting wrote on November 21, 2011 at 09:07 AM
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"I agree with ye ias far as the fact that what she did was nothing unfamiliar to us, espcially given the fact that the internet seems to be about nothing more than naked women to most people. However, I do believe the reason she has so been ill-received is simply because she is NOT making a "fuck me" face. It seems our society justifies nudity and sexual appeal as a marketing tool but not as a form of self expression." Best comment ever!! It's an expression of God's MOST WONDERFUL CREATION!!!

Feminist wrote on November 21, 2011 at 11:59 AM
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I see no freedom of expression here, i see a chase for fame. There is no dignity in public nudity, be that for men or women, same thing. However, there is more sexual inuendoes in the 3 clips than her pic. And I think the virginity test is WAY more humiliating than that pic, Alia only humiliated herself but the Army officers inserting their fingers into women's vaginas insulted the entire Female Gender and they should be ashamed for this physical and intellectual terrorism, FREEDOM isnt in nudity, freedom is in laws tha govern huma dignity for woman as equal humans of society. EVER animals have their bodies covered with hair, to walk around of pause publicly naked makes us less than animals

f.d. Dinunz wrote on November 21, 2011 at 12:15 PM
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Hats off to this young lady. She has more guts than any man to challenge age old chauvinistic views about women.

Srinath wrote on November 21, 2011 at 01:22 PM
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Brilliant, though she's going to jail I think. For those asking what the point is, it's sexual freedom which carries a whole different meaning in this part of the world because it conflicts with the religious morality of our culture. To simplify, once she became an adult, her sexuality is no one else's business. That is not to say pushing nude pictures of herself is right, but it is certainly a devastatingly effective in-your-face way of stirring the debate. See how many comments there are on this post, how mainstream news sites like CNN picked up the story. As I see it being more open about sexuality is more healthy for society because it's going to express itself anyway, and half those feigning shock at such things have done, seen, and sought much worse in their youth. Oh the hypocrisy!

Hani Obaid wrote on November 21, 2011 at 06:43 PM
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Come on people those whose supporting her are u for real, i know its differ from country to country but at least we are in the same region and almost similar culture,,,if we start disrespecting our values how the others want to respect us, just because we gave up on something inherited in us and imitate their less morally principles...

Jaz wrote on November 21, 2011 at 10:11 PM
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To Dave Kersting,

Thank you for such an illuminating comment. One of the most profound things I've read in a very, very long time.

herb wrote on November 22, 2011 at 09:17 AM
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This is a really well-written and thoughtful article. The point is, I believe, that Alia's body and Alia's sexuality are hers and hers alone, to do with as she pleases. The outcry at this photo is exposing exactly what she wanted it to expose -how the female body is in essence not really her own. The female body belongs to society and male ideals, and THAT is why Alia's photo is so controversial. She is throwing off male dominance and showing that SHE OWNS HER BODY and if she wants to post nude photos she should very well be able to do it!

This was a very powerful statement Alia, thank you! Your sacrifice is recognized and appreciated by women across the world.

And @Jaz - the 'morals' you speak of are whose morals? Why is a photo of a nude woman considered immoral? Alia obviously doesn't believe it to be immoral, so why would you try and dictate what she does with her own body, when it affects no one but herself?

Claire wrote on November 22, 2011 at 10:13 AM
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Again, a great article, but enough of the leftist bullshit! This has nothing to do with capitalism and the absurd term "consumption" is irrelevent. Female sexuality has been a social issue for so long, and in so many diverse cultures throughout history, that the attempt to cram the argument into the Leftist party line is disingenuous. Everything is contextualized within the agenda of the Left and in doing so the reality of the cultural phenomenon is lost. Yes, this girl is unbelievably brave, but she might also just be a compulsive exhibitionist- I don't know, yet, and neither do you. But pretending that female nudity is common in the Middle East and the Arab world is absurd. Three are pockets of limited sexual expression such as in Beirut and Cairo, but step out of those cities and where do you see it? The issue is far older, and capitalism and so-called post-colonialism, have nothing to do with it. But because of your allegiance to the party, any such thought process is proscribed and stamped "essentialism". Nonetheless, you cannot address this issue with the superficial party politics of the Left's stock "capitalism and exploitation" discourse, neither can you address it strictly in Isalmic terms either. There is something deeper at work, but such discussions aren't sexy to the Left, they don't "kiss the ass" of the Political Commissars. This is such a great website and you address such excellent issues (by the way, it was the virginity tests that made the news here, not this photo). But the red opiate haze is so thick..

Gerard wrote on November 22, 2011 at 12:20 PM
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The obvious truth about sex certainly can be lost in all the advertising and moralizing, and it definitely is lost in weak intellectualizing. Hugh Hefner presented Alia’s arguments in the late 1950s and 1960s, in his “Playboy Philosophy,” meant to remove the mystery and the magic, in a pretense of evading the tensions, which Playboy Magazine thrived on exploiting, along with zillions of others – sexual tensions which can absolutely never be removed from sex, thank God, no matter how hard Alia and others try to “liberate” us from them. Sex is a natural mystery at the very heart of Life itself – at the root of all our deepest tensions, particularly since the sexual parts are brilliantly located in the most hygienically dangerous places, as nature itself, including God, establishes in the most brutally obvious way, the requirement of immaculate trust and love, which also soon proves necessary in any lasting sexual relationship, in countless other ways. Yet that crucial and scary anatomical fact is overlooked in all the straining rationales of our numb sexual “liberators,” because they simply are way too disconnected from nature – way too squeamish – to deal with it frankly. Honesty has never been part of their spiel, not necessarily because they’re dishonest, but because, in any case, they’re so incredibly disconnected from natural reality – and from any tender sort of instinctive sensitivity. Yes, sorry, but sex IS sacred – in its own right, irregardless of religious or libertine dogmas. The human is by far the most sexual mammal (on land anyway), and it’s unique in its ability to get naked – and so to expose all those nerve-endings and attention-grabbing anatomical features – yes, INHERENTLY and NATURALLY and OBVIOUSLY attention-grabbing – the the shakings and shimmerings so reminiscent of ornithological mating-dances. What is perfectly obvious and sacred to the natural animal in us is strenuously ignored by our mechanical-minded sexual “liberators,” or it’s lost under the too-common layers of neurotic desensitization to our original being. The fact that sex is exploited massively does not reduce its incomparable natural value or its priceless “moral” values: it stands, instead, as a forever-frustrated exhibition of them. Let’s not let false righteousness – from EITHER side of this “debate” – obscure the fact that “moral” actually has less to do with “right or wrong” and way more to do with the deep fabric of truth and meaning – which may be difficult for “civilized” humans to appreciate, but still remains essentially and immeasurably good.

Dave Kersting wrote on November 23, 2011 at 02:44 AM
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great article. really fantastic work.

Kevin Chamow wrote on November 23, 2011 at 04:13 AM
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Isn't Alia's posting of her nude body playing into the objectification and sexualization of the feminine body? Seems like nothing new at all and a repeat of western feminism's old ideas of liberating the woman. Western feminists have themselves developed critiques of this. It seems Alia and a defense of Alia's actions are somewhat reinscribing the issues we have with women's liberation. This doesn't excuse the fanatic responses. But then again, the fanatic responses don't expose anything because a 5 year old would have expected such responses. She's free to express herself, but her expression doesn't seem to move towards liberating women. It seems to take us back to the same objectifications that have kept women locked up in the first place. Good art. Bad politics. In fact, in a grotesque way, the response being so aggressive, at least from liberal and women's quarters, is a positive development because I read it as people not wanting to go down this same path towards liberation as tried in other places (with limited success).

John wrote on November 23, 2011 at 03:32 PM
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I don't think it's playing into the objectification and I think Maya illustrates why. Her posture, her exposure, her facial expression; these aren't alluring in the "typical" way. Just because this isn't the first time we've seen something like this doesn't mean it doesn't take away from the courage needed to knowingly stigmatize yourself for something you genuinely believe in.

Kevin Chamow wrote on November 23, 2011 at 05:05 PM
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I posted a comment few days ago showing my disagreement with what has been said in this article and making sure it doesn't violate any ethical issues. Does it mean that you only accept comments agreeing with your own egocentric opinions? I know the comment won't be published but I know it will be read so its an opportunity for you to question your credibility.

Osama wrote on November 24, 2011 at 03:05 PM
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Dear Osama,

We just searched our entire comments log and there was no comment under your name or email on this article.

It is either one of two things: you used another name and a non-working email address, or your disagreements included personal insults/obscenities.

Please resend your comment under your name. We will publish it if it doesn't include personal insults. As you can see from the comments, we've published many comments that disagreed with the article or with Jadaliyya.

Ma tkhaaf. Send it along. Shatir.

Jadaliyya Editors wrote on November 24, 2011 at 05:12 PM
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First, I must express my thanks for Jadaliyya as they published my comment and in clarified potential reasons why my previous comment did not appear in the comments streams. It is a place that I like and I enjoy reading diverse articles with different views.

- Comment: first up I'd like to say that I fully agree with the "social problems and complexities" that exist in Arab and Muslim societies. Then I sharply disagree with what she has done for many reasons. In respect to my agreement, I think she is right, so is the article, from the perspective that what Aliaa has done should open up new venues to reflect upon sexual behavior in eastern societies, in this case the Arab world. I don't think it is healthy to remain silent and by that I mean remain scientifically and culturally blinded by the naive understandings that talking about sex is unacceptable and socially disguised. The fact that people are unwilling to discuss these issues (e.g., in schools or universities) is socially counterproductive and it is the main reason why we find so many people in the Arab world calling for Aliaa's death! Silence and ignorance leads to extreme thinking and behavior. The article here also raises this issue and it is appreciate.

In respect my disagreement, I tend to be philosophical to avoid the common discourse on such issues where people purposefully indulge religion. So Aliaa's main problem as I understand it is: freedom of expression! So what is freedom? and what is expression? and what is freedom of expression? In what form can we express freely? How can we express freely? These are very abstract notions that have no clear or at least concise definitions. They are however commonly consumed in eastern societies and imported from western societies. People, who call themselves civilized and open, often use arguments like: in the civilized world they do this and this, they have freedom, they can do whatever they want...Therefore, these notions are often imported (when we speak of course about Arab societies) and understood from a western perspective even though sometimes applying them locally can take a different form and context. I saw naked people in public gardens in Europe posing for artists to be drawn. I can understand that. But some others might take it different and apply it differently. My point is that we lack an understanding of what an express is and how can we express it? And this is where I disagree with Aliaa. She feels socially discriminated as a female, she feels sexually abused, etc...then she posted naked photos of her. Is that the right expression? Does this achieve what she wants? or even someone would ask why would she use her body to express herself? I think what she has done reflects a lack or no understanding of freedom of expression. Why? First, freedom involves responsibility. Freud said: "Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility." This suggests responsibility and her naked photos in no way entail such responsibility. Second, freedom is nothing without ethics and morals. Aliaa has attacked specific groups and beliefs in order to argue and reason for her behavior. As such, her behavior was unethical and immoral. Also, she abused herself as a female since she used her body to express herself the same way the society, she claimed, has abused her. This also reflects her lack of understanding the notion of expression. Third, I think if I want to be free I would abide with the rules that exist in the society. Every society has its norms and values and every individual should show respect. I have a firm belief that freedom of expression should be guided by virtues, morals, and ethics. The lack of respect Aliaa has done to her own body is just a moral and ethical decline. Finally, comparing Aliaa's naked photos to those ads available in every street in the Arab world is just an unreasonable way to justify Aliaa's behavior. People do get angry when they see them. I know people in my home country who have no TVs at home because they want their families to see such ads on the TV!!! The fact that they are there is something related the dominant political system which allows such photos to hanged in public places. People have nothing to do with this but still they deny them. The bottom line: Aliaa might be brave, not because she posed naked in public, but because she made explicit the discrimination against women in Arab societies. But what Aliaa needs is to go ahead and try to learn what expressions means. She might be when she becomes 50 like me realize that she expressed herself in the wrong way.

Osama Mansour wrote on November 24, 2011 at 06:29 PM
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This is the first time that i hear abt those virginity tests. It is impossible that egyptians wi stay quite abt smthn like this in media. It did not happen and u r incorrect. Check ur facts first

Ss wrote on November 25, 2011 at 08:51 AM
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Zionists in occupied Palestine were VERY happy to support this act. I wonder, why? Might be because it has NOTHING really to do with women liberation but something to do with Orientalist/Zionist propaganda of White Men saving brown women from brown men?

Imperialists/Zionists are very eager to use "feminist" whitewashig for their crimes - from Afghanistan to Palestine.

lidia wrote on November 26, 2011 at 05:28 AM
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i think she is childish and tremendously ignorant. her CNN interview confirms this. she could have at least prepared a more coherent script for the media.

soy wrote on November 27, 2011 at 03:16 PM
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Thank you for this excellent discussion. I had seen news about Alia but didn't have information and context. This is most informative.

She is posing on her own terms, under no ones thumb. If this can only be read as objectifying, that just shows how the culture of sexism around the world locks us into certain interpretations. The way out is through equality, then we can have true freedom of expression.

Hats off to Alia making an incredibly brave and important statement.

Patricia wrote on November 28, 2011 at 09:05 PM
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for ss: about the virginity test, i guess u r the only one in the world that dont know about it. you should check your facts and walk out of the bubble! just google it! http://www.conservativerefocus.com/blog5.php/2011/05/31/democracy-or-tyranny-in-egypt-authorities-admit-to-forced-virginity-tests-and-severe-beatings, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/egypt/111121/against-all-odds-%E2%80%98virginity-test%E2%80%99-victim-awaits-her-v, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/egypt-admission-forced-virginity-tests-must-lead-justice-2011-05-31

Branca wrote on December 03, 2011 at 05:57 AM
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Bullshit.

Kareem wrote on December 07, 2011 at 02:15 AM
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I was at the beach today(Haulover Beach) and saw dozens of nude women (and men). So What!!!!

larryF wrote on December 10, 2011 at 07:16 PM
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Edouard Manet is often credited for pioneering the first recognizable break from the dominant patriarchal traditions for rendering women as passively idealized objects – i.e. nudes. With his 1862 oil on canvas, Olympia, Manet broke with the standard practice of delivering a passively reclining female nude for the unfettered pleasures of the male gaze in the Salon. What disturbed the audience of the day, however, was not the nudity per se, but the young woman’s gaze. The fact that her eye’s met that of the male viewer (perhaps voyeur would be more appropriate, but let’s give the gentlemen the benefit of the doubt…or not) so shocked these poor fellows that they suddenly realized the woman was a living breathing human being. They could no longer look upon her with the same effortless satisfaction-the reflexive turn had shattered the spell. Olympia was not a nude at all-she was naked. And with that realization the predominantly male gaze had to acknowledge itself in the company of this young woman. Thankfully we have come some distance since the Paris Salon and we have many great contemporary female artists struggling with the task of rendering their bodily and emotional experiences through artistic expressions. Frida Kahlo’s self portraits probe the angst-ridden dreams of a woman in physical pain, transgressing stereotypical notions of beauty while confronting her own physical imperfections and disability. Kiki Smith’s full body sculptures wrestle with highly gendered issues of purity and danger through various forms of bodily fluid. Excrement and breast milk issue forth from various orifices of naked figures in a number of less than flattering poses. Rebecca Horn’s work, often encompassing a dimension of performance, incorporates feathers and various other organic materials within various prosthetics. Horn’s prosthetics are meticulously constructed and often highly mechanical and despite whatever beauty they may embody as objects, they invoke a sense of bondage and an existential struggle with the environments they seem intended to navigate.

To varying degrees all of these artists have been involved in a personal and political exploration of the female body. What I find interesting about Alia’s self-portrait however, in so far as it contributes to this trajectory of thought, is perhaps less related to the image itself than to its performance and the medium of its communication. First, Alia being socially and politically situated in Egypt and taking a naked picture of herself imparts the image with a particular significance. The stockings, red shoes and bow, the long flowing locks, are all at odds with her expressionless gaze and casual pose. There is an overt tension here between the nude and the naked, the sexual object and the sexual objective. But even more interestingly, I think, is the phenomenon of the blog itself. Worlds are colliding online every day, but so often we take it for granted. Here Alia’s personal artistic expression transgresses boundaries of private and public spheres. The public responses to her act of posting this image are, I suppose to be expected. Thankfully Maya has done a valiant job of articulating the politics of control involved – not to be under estimated. However, beneath this level of analysis there is perhaps a quieter, perhaps naïve, but no less important, narrative to be gleaned. A young woman probing the limits of her own sexuality, personhood and identity through an exceedingly powerful medium of communication that isn’t going to wait for a world that is mired in struggles to negotiate historic religious, social and political norms.

fLuke wrote on December 13, 2011 at 07:20 PM
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When a 52 year old woman who has borne three children, with a Caesarean scar or a mastectomy scar, & maybe a kalashnikov instead of fishnet stockings, posts her nude picture on the internet, I'll applaud something revolutionary... I agree that Alia was brave (and perhaps a bit of an exhibitionist too, who knows) and took a great risk, but female youth and beauty have the "right" to be visible , or to claim visibility, when invisibility is mandated for women who look like -- the opposite numbers of the world's heads of state.

Umm Nuwass wrote on December 18, 2011 at 11:21 AM
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I think her posting of her nude photos was brave, even suicidal, in such a society.

Sergio Arango wrote on July 02, 2012 at 01:15 PM
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good Aliaa good Aliaa good Aliaa good Aliaa

asd wrote on July 11, 2012 at 04:38 PM
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Say what you will about Aliaa ,but still , she's one of the bravest women I've ever heard about because it takes a true believer in the civil rights to do what she did knowing the risk of it and how our society will react to it .

Derp Derpson wrote on July 21, 2012 at 11:07 AM

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