Elevate Difference

Gender and Class in the Egyptian Women’s Movement, 1925-1939: Changing Perspectives

Gender and Class reads like the last reference book in a lengthy series about the Egyptian women’s movement. I came to this review ready to learn something about a time in history that most people probably know very little about. I came away learning only a few ‘vocab’ words from the glossary.

Cathlyn Mariscotti’s book reads more like a thesis essay reflecting on a scholarly course the audience has taken rather than a text written for the general reader. Every fact Mariscotti references relies heavily on other texts to get her point across. The main comparison and crux of the book is that Western feminism is extremely bourgeois and did not entirely help lower class women in Egyptian, such as the peasant fellahin.

This seemed to be an interesting idea at first mention, but after reading on, the reader realizes Mariscotti has laid all of her cards down on the table too early in revealing her argument, and all within the first twenty pages. This made for rather tedious reading of the rest of the book.

The text is a general criticism of the feminist movement as a whole, including Global North countries, such as the United States, Mariscotti does not make learning about the Egyptian women’s plight with this issue easy or entertaining to read. I was so overwhelmed by snippets of facts and parentheses telling me which books I could find and read about these facts; sadly I absorbed next to nothing about this largely overlooked period of history. In the end, all I learned about the Egyptian women’s movement was that I need to seek out other books to do so.

Written by: Jen Klee, March 4th 2009