Egypt’s first female president

Mbabane, Swaziland | 20 August 2014
Bill Snaddon

I know it’s been a few months since Egypt’s “election”, but let me join in the chorus and congratulate Ms Sisi, Egypt’s first female president.

In fact, it is such a moment in the history of that large North African country that a song is required to mark the occasion. Future generations must know and remember the deeds of this mighty non-man.

If I borrow the tune from an old football song, the lyrics might go something like: Join in the chorus and sing it one and all, join in the chorus, Ms Sisi’s on the ball, join in the chorus, we’re champions you’ll agree, Ms Sisi is our champion, just you wait and see.

To avoid any accusation of plagiarism or the threat of being hauled before the courts on charges of copyright infringement, let me state upfront: I stole some of those lyrics from the theme song of the North Melbourne Kangaroos, a rather lacklustre Australian football team.

Let’s hope that any bad juju from North Melbourne’s theme song is not transferred onto our dignified new female Head of State. Now I almost stopped myself from writing female in the previous sentence. I generally find it patronising (even when I’m not the one being patronised) when a person’s sex is highlighted above their achievement (this might be why I’m an aid worker: I get offended on behalf of people I have never met).

For instance, if a headline reads, “Female pilot flies plane”, does it not put her gender above her achievement? I might be reading it wrong, but it just seems a bit odd. But of course I’m not that naïve, the headline is meant to portray women in a good light, emphasising that women, as well as men, can do difficult tasks.

Following this line of thought, I can’t wait for the day when I read the headline, “Man gives birth”; then man might really understand the meaning of difficult task.

Similar to over-emphasising gender is the over-emphasis on race. When a headline reads, “Asian has sex in toilet”, I often wonder what Asians think about it?

My question is: What if another race is put into that headline? “White has sex in toilet?” “Black has sex in toilet?”

What if all three are put into the headline: “Asian, White, Black have sex in toilet.” Now that newspaper would sell.

Now I’m being childish. But you do get the gist.

Let’s come back to Egypt’s first female president – the fearless Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (wami).

After hearing the name on the radio, and learning that she had once been the country’s military chief, I decided to Google this most decorated of modern leaders.

Well, can I tell you, I got the shock of my life. Sisi Wami, in fact, is no “Sisi” at all.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is a man. I felt deceived. Betrayed. How could the Gods play such a cruel trick on me?

It didn’t stop there: I wasn’t just wrong on Sisi’s sex.

If Mr Sisi had actually been a woman, she wouldn’t even have been the first female Egyptian Head of State. Google went on to give me quite the education.

The internet told me that “it was not rare for women to gain the throne in Ancient Egypt”.

Cleopatra VII, of course, who lived from 69BC-30BC, being the most famous female Egyptian leader. Not for the first time, then, I was wrong on all counts.

(The sad thing is, one may struggle to write this column in Egypt because you would most likely go jail for offending the feelings of this Great Man Sisi. Sing it one and all!)

This column was originally published in the Times of Swaziland on 20 August 2014

#35_Egypt's first female president_20 Aug 2014


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