Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 September 2019

Egyptian playwright Dalia Basiouny: the #MeToo movement is hurting women in Egypt

Basiouny was speaking at NYU Abu Dhabi during a discussion titled 'Now Africa! Contemporary African Women Playwrights'

Dalia Basiouny, far right, spoke about the #MeToo movement. NYU Abu Dhabi
Dalia Basiouny, far right, spoke about the #MeToo movement. NYU Abu Dhabi

Prominent Egyptian playwright Dalia Basiouny has claimed that the #MeToo movement is "hurting" women in Egypt.

During a discussion at The Institute at NYU Abu Dhabi, Basiouny, who wrote the play Solitaire and is a recipient of the Fulbright Arts Grant, said: “Unfortunately where I come from the #MeToo movement is hurting the women, more because as soon as a woman makes [an accusation] public, society accuses her.

“A couple of women were arrested by the government for sharing something on Facebook because they are [allegedly] ruining the reputation of the country.

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“There is a gap between theoretical knowledge and what happens in daily existence. With the #MeToo movement, I assumed something major was going to happen, but nothing really happened apart from talking about it.”

Basiouny was on a panel with two other playwrights – Celma Costa from Mozambique and Asiimwe Deborah Kawe from Uganda – for the discussion.

Referring to Oyeronke Oyewumi’s 1997 text The Invention of Women, Costa explained that in Yoruba languages there isn’t a word for identifying one’s gender. She argued that we must question whether the concept of feminism was imported to Africa.

Celma Costa speaking at NYU Abu Dhabi. Photo: NYU Abu Dhabi Institute  
Celma Costa speaking at the discussion. NYU Abu Dhabi

“If people are not identifying themselves by their gender or are not using gender as a factor that influences how they live, then they also need to question the arrival of feminism in Africa,” she said. “Feminism, not as a way of existing, but as a way of thinking, is something that also arrived [in Africa] on a boat.”

“This really changes how I communicate the idea [of feminism], not only in my art, but in my whole way of existing. It means that not everyone is going to be feminists in the same way that feminists are in the US; [and] not everyone is going to be feminists in the US as they are in the Middle East.”

By way of illustration, Costa, whose plays include No Joke and Chairs, said: “Being from this generation and seeing this wave of feminism is very nice, but it’s not the same language that my grandmother, for example, speaks.

Asiimwe Deborah Kawe speaking at NYU AD. Photo: NYU Abu Dhabi Institute
Asiimwe Deborah Kawe speaking. NYU Abu Dhabi

“Often when I’m in family situations and we have all these different conflicts and ways of advising women at home, I want to have my say, I want to advocate and reaffirm myself. [But] often I have to take a step back and listen.”

Kawe, artistic director of the Kampala International Theatre Festival, added: “If I was to try to translate that word [feminism] to my mother, who doesn’t speak English, what would I say? But you know that there are choices she has made in her life that are very, very feminist."

Updated: December 12, 2018 09:38 AM

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