Female Genius

For your pedagogical or personal pleasure — a list of female geniuses.

This list was generated by facebook friends in response to the question – “who do you consider a female genius?”

The idea was to foreground the gendered use of the term “genius” on the assumption that the term is ordinarily not socially constructed to include women.

A very interesting list came about nonetheless, and we would like to share.

Please feel free to add you additions in the comments!

And without further ado…




Mary Anderson

CoCo Chanel

Amelia Earhart

Edith Flanigen

Helen Free

Erna Schneider Hoover

Stephanie Louise Kwolek

Mary Walton

Oprah Winfrey



Alice Coltrane

Ella Fitzgerald

Umm Kaltoum

Nina Simone

Mary Lou Williams


Mystics/Mystical Poets/Religious Figures

Rabia al Adiwiyya

Fatima Qurrat-al-Ayn

Mother Theresa



Hannah Arendt

Judith Butler

Simone De Beauvoir

Silvia Federicci


Grace Humiston

Julia Kristeva

Margaret Mead

Maria Montessori

Ayn Rand

Gayatri Spivak

Mary Wollstonecraft

Political Figures/Advocates/Radicals


Elizabeth I

Indira Ghandi

Emma Goldmann

Hellen Keller

Khadija bint Khuwailed

Aun Sang Su Kyi

Rosa Luxemburg

Golda Mier

Elenor Roosevelt



Patricia Billings

Rachel Fuller Brown

Marie Curie

Gertrude Belle Elion

Rosalind Franklin

Elizabeth Lee Hazen

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin

Grace Hopper

Ada Lovelace

Barbara McClintock

Emmy Noether

Ann Tsukamoto

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow


Visual Artists (painting, film)

Louise Bourgeois

Claire Denis

Eva Hesse

Frida Khalo

Writers (Poetry and Prose)

Maya Angelou

Willa Cather

Emily Dickensen

Assia Djebar

Nawal El Sa’daawi

Forugh Farrokhzad

bell hooks

Ursula K LeGuin

Toni Morrison



Gertrude Stein

Wisława Szymborska

Alice Walker

Virgina Woolf

May Ziade





The Last Straw — Cri de cœur from “That Older Generation”

By Yasmin Amin

Old man and woman, flower, referrendum

Khalas! I have reached my limit, and the last straw is the reaction to the referendum. Maybe it is because I fall in that age group of those over 50 who are being criticized to death for voting yes.  Or maybe it is because  I am one of those held responsible for everything that has gone wrong with the revolution.  Or maybe it is because I see things differently because there are at least 30 years of life-experience between myself and all those enthusiastic liberal young hip/cool journalists, analysts, professional revolutionaries, and “experts” on Egyptian politics. Or maybe it is because I am being realistic rather than idealistic or revolutionary, or because of what a friend so aptly and perfectly summarised as:

“It’s so easy to take the moral high ground, fire the witty and biting sarcasm, rubbish the referendum, condemn the army, the government, and the ever so stupid credulous masses, oh and the crass media. It’s so depressing how out of touch you are Mr&Mrs MHG.“

Because I have had enough, I criticize today the deconstruction of everything, the overly critical stance, the use of all the right keywords like “fascists”, “bigot”, “militant” “fanatic”, “military dictator.” The problem with all that criticism — even when warranted — is that it are not accompanied by  any solutions, ways out or steps forward.   If they took an obvious stance they’d have to be held accountable later.

 Muslim Brotherhood

The referendum was not about sticking two fingers up at the Brotherhood or expressing varying levels of confidence/adoration in/of the army or a declaration of unconditional support and undying love for Sisi as this article, for example, by journalist Sarah Carr stated.

This article also stated that the Muslim Brotherhood should have been left longer to prove their spectacular inability.  This is wrong and not a real position, since their authoritarian tendencies and incompetence were exposed  quickly and the Egyptian people moved against them when they had the chance on June 30, 2013.  This is historical fact, and it’s not really saying anything to argue for a theoretical possibility that has never existed.

Furthermore, the Muslim Brotherhood likely would not have been voted out in the next elections, because most likely there would not have been a next election. Hamas, a Brotherhood offshoot, has been controlling Gaza since 2006, when they were voted in. Accordingly, legitimacy is not only given by the ballot boxes, because since 2006, ballot boxes in Gaza have not been seen again. Anyone speaking against Hamas openly in Gaza faces their wrath.  Nathan Brown describes here how opposition parties are restricted from performing public activities.

I do not buy into conspiracy theories in general.  But I do buy that a secret global organisation would only have its own best interest at heart and the Muslim Brotherhood have declared often enough that their aim is to rule the entire Muslim world. They already rule in Turkey, Sudan, Gaza, are about to rule in Tunis (if it was not for the fierce opposition) and they have strongholds in Somalia, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria and even in mainly Shia Bahrain.

Double Standards

There are way too many dead today in Egypt and not only through police brutality or army heavy-handed crack downs. Human rights defenders have rightly criticized the Rab3a massacre, but have remained silent about those slaughtered in cold blood in Sinai coming home from their conscription/service. They have remained silent too when Muslim Brotherhood students set fire to university buildings with guards in them, or threw an Amn Markazi soldier off a roof, or hit and disrobed a female professor, and the list goes on. It seems that human rights in Egypt should be renamed Ikhwan rights, or maybe anyone who is not Muslim Brotherhood is not human enough?

The double standards annoy me. I am against spilling blood, any blood for that matter, but going back to Rab3a and Nahda, after a 47 day sit in and repeated antagonism by the Brotherhood from daily marches blocking off streets and holding an entire neighborhood hostage to praying on the 6 October bridge just to paralyse traffic and that too in Ramadan, they surely did not expect to be sent home with flowers and balloons. Their leaders could have made different choices, but the victim mentality and rhetoric used for decades underground seemed attractive and luring to score more points, if only internationally. What do they care about the poor from the villages hired to inflate the numbers? When push came to shove none of the actual leaders were found in either Rab3a or Nahda. They left early enough, maybe in ambulances or under niqabs, both of which they used before, leaving some armed elements to shoot at the police to ensure retaliation.  We knew for weeks there would be a violent dispersal — why didn’t they leave?

What is the Referendum About?

The referendum was for stability.  It was a condemnation of previous mediocre performances, including of the so-called elite, intellectuals and liberals, who failed everyone in every way. They failed to organise, unite, think of Egypt first and not of own agendas or ambitions. The former National Salvation Front needed to be saved, most of all from its own members’ egos, inefficiency and political opportunism.

This referendum was not a mandate to re-establish a police state, because at the height of its power Jan 25th 2011, this police state could not stop the masses. Nor did the referendum  sign over power to the military unconditionally. Nobody has forgotten the forced virginity tests, which are linked to Sisi, nor the civilians tried in military courts, nor the massacre at MASPERO, nor all those still languishing in jail joined by many others since, nor the blue bra and all what it stood for. But the military is not all SCAF and not all bad and not every general is a villain.

Maybe lots of people over 50 romanticize Nasser, another military man — only a Major  though –and like Schleifer reminds us of the welfare state he created, however flawed. People from my generation also remember the Nasser era’s flaws all too vividly — the shortages, the dawn visits, the atmosphere of distrust as well as the fiasco that is the High Dam ruining Egypt’s agriculture.

I personally hope for a civilian leader that has Egypt’s best interest at heart. Looking around, I do not find such person. Those who ran for the presidency last round got us into this mess, because we had to choose between bad and worse, insult and injury, political opportunists and incompetence. Maybe we have Mubarak to thank for that, but I am waiting for the day where Egyptians can make a real choice from among good options and not settle for the best of bad options between military or Islamists.

 Why did Egyptians Vote as they Did?

The current nationalistic hysteria and flag waving is not only caused by media manipulations, dissemination of panic or the famous George Bush concept of “us vs. them” or copying the USA’s “war on terror”. It was born, very frankly, out of fear of losing our Egyptian identity, a unique one that survived centuries and gained in the process and strengthened with each addition. Egypt has always assimilated invaders and made them adopt a certain Egyptian-ness. Alexander became Pharaoh and worshipped Egyptian Gods, the Muslims adopted Sham al Nessim celebrations as well as the 40 days of mourning originally from mummification.  The list can go on and on. Egyptians assimilate and eventually even welcome anyone who does not try to force anything on them.   Sadly it was the Brotherhood and their Salafi, Jihadi bedfellows who exasperated Egyptians by shoving their rotten ideas and practices down our throats.

The alleged low turnout of the referendum was actually higher than that of the Islamist constitution referendum, even if it was boycotted by the so-called revolutionary youth, activists and mostly Brotherhood or their sympathizers. Those who voted ‘NO’ have all my respect because they are the assurance that constitutional flaws will be fixed in the future. There were 3% courageous enough to vote NO and not just whine or criticize. Criticism leveled at the constitution centered around the rights granted to the military , such as military court trials for civilians.  Of course this provision was present in the Islamists’ 2012 constitution, along with the insistence that the minister of defense be a member of the military and the military budget essentially be under their control.  We can all complain about these provisions, but we cannot claim they are new or evidence of a new descent into military fascism.

Finally, for more of a sense of how difficult it was to come to a compromise on the constitution, this interview (in German) with a member of the 50 committee is enlightening.

Hoda ElSadda reveals the circumstances under which the committee worked: the internal heterogeneity, the street fights around them and deadlines necessitating a makeover of the 2012 document rather than starting from scratch. Despite all the difficulty the new document is vastly improved in terms of rights for the people and duties for the government. At the end of the day it is not really about what is written in the constitution, but about who will implement it and how and the laws passed to regulate its various articles.


The government of Prime Minister Beblawi might not be a perfect one, but nobody seems to remember how difficult it was to get anyone to accept a place in it in the first place or be accepted by the ever contrary Hizb al Nour, courted to fill the Islamist slot, or to remain and not run away at the first hurdle or continuously threaten to resign. The government is facing so many problems from daily riots, labour strikes, sabotage, deliberate destruction to diminished incomes on tourism and other fronts. Yes, infusions of cash from certain Gulf monarchies has helped, but Egypt cannot live on hand-outs forever and nobody is willing to hand out endlessly.

So please, stop this loud overly critical screaming and sit down, calm down and think. Do not just criticize and deconstruct, because that is easy. Come up with ideas and how to implement them. Give the older generation the benefit of the doubt, because we are not just outmoded, outdated fearful people seeking security. Try to understand that we too have a vision and we have our reasons. Omar Suleiman said in an interview that Egypt is not ready for democracy. While I disagree with that, I believe we have a long way to go. It will not happen overnight or in 18 days like those of Tahrir. The first step towards democracy is to listen to one another, accommodate different views  and work together. Otherwise we will all lose!

At the moment, the situation is absurdly out of control and ready to explode again, More and more people are disillusioned or angry. But we cannot rebel ALL the time against everything. Ideally the binary situation of either the monstrous demonized Muslim Brotherhood or the equally monstrous military dictatorship should be broken up by introducing a third option, a secular and/or liberal moderate entity able to work with both with no personal ambitions or agendas.

Yasmin Amin is currently a PhD candidate at Exeter University, researching “Humour in Prophetic Traditions.” Yasmin has more than 20 years of experience in the corporate world, working in various capacities in the educational, financial and state technology investment board sectors in Egypt. Married with 2 grown up sons, she currently lives between Cairo and London.

The Egyptian Military, Regional Chaos, and the Three Year Anniversary of the Revolution

By Sarah Eltantawi 


Today, for reasons that many people find exceedingly obvious, the Egyptian military is being subjected to sustained attack by terrorist groups.  Many Egyptian activists and analysts of Egypt, highly critical of military rule in theory and now in practice, point to the massacres at Raba’ this past August and say that an increase in terrorism is a natural reaction of revenge.  However, when the city of Mansoura was bombed on December 24, these same people were quick to say the Muslim Brotherhood had nothing to do with it.

So which is it?  I have been unsettled by people who have denied that the Muslim Brotherhood could have had anything whatsoever to do with the Mansoura bombing, which was a major act of murder on Egyptian soil. Though Ansar al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the bombing, Islamist groups are using “the coup” as a pretext to destabilize Egypt, and, unless we except what I think is the artifice of an absolute analytic firewall between Islamist groups, the more obvious interpretation is that such groups are political and ideological allies.   Thus it is unclear precisely what role the MB plays privately to encourage terrorism on its “behalf”, or what, if anything, the organization is trying to do to stop it.

“But what about the military!” you are asking, for surely, if we look at Raba’, they are murderers too, as well as vicious jailers of activists and journalists.  I can’t argue with you there, but I can point out a few things that make me very concerned about sustained attacks on military rule **at this particular moment in Egyptian history** without putting forth any viable alternative.

The critique comes from several sectors within the Egypt commentariat.  Much “anti-coup” rhetoric is implicitly premised on a desire to weaken the Egyptian military.  Islamists or sympathizers (who are suddenly the World’s Best Democrats) regularly underplay or deny the fact that that the military are currently dying in the scores to defend Sinai.  Amazingly and tellingly, in some cases (recalling recent discussions I’ve seen on social media), I’ve seen some “anti-coup” folks deny that Sinai is strategically important at all to Egypt, with one “anti-coup” Egyptian opining that Sinai was a “piece of shit” that “no one would want to live in” and one American academic suggesting that Sinai should be “given to Hamas” in a fit of leftist anti-imperialist virtue  (I’d love to see anyone casually suggest the south of France should be given to Italy with a straight face.)

However,  minorities within the anti-coup camp also include outraged leftists, human rights advocates, and revolutionaries, who rightly observe that a counterrevolution has been waged and that hopes of reforming the security state (never done by Morsi) are looking more and more dismal.  Where I feel uncomfortable with their relentless critique is that when I look at the current state of Syria and Iraq, I despair of Egypt’s prospects if it were to lose it’s last major legitimate national institution.  The country would collapse and be rife for Islamist invasion while the revolutionaries would be forced to take up arms (Syria) and/or it would split up into factions controlled by outside powers and patrons to a greater extent than it is today (Iraq and Syria.)

At this point another question needs to be seriously asked and answered:  if not military rule (today, January 12, 2014), then what instead?  If not this constitution, then what instead?

I am not trying to employ scare tactics.  I oppose the brutality and excesses of the Egyptian army.  I oppose military trials for civilians.  I oppose their graft, corruption, and domination of the Egyptian economy.  I oppose their cheap propaganda.  I oppose the massacre at Raba’a (and I also think the MB could have made several different choices in and around that event.)   In fact it is my position, which I think is strongly backed by historical evidence, that the military establishment and the Islamist opposition have grown into a two headed monster that need each other to thrive and survive. June 30 was about Egyptians making a choice between the two, and they made one choice over another. July 3 was about both sides going totally zero sum and screwing everything up as they seem programmed to do.

However, I can not deny certain facts.  Islamist groups are highly organized and are willing to come to each other’s aid in a time of need (again, witness Morsi’s ‘rally for Syria’, which I think was the moment where we really saw how those alliances could shake up in Egypt. Also witness Hamas in Sinai, and the reaction of Hamas supporters to Morsi’s downfall). Given the power of these non-state actors, who certainly have guns as well as powerful patrons, I think we can start to see what fuels Egyptians’ “paranoia” on this topic. While the SWEEP OF FASCISM explanation is tittalating and in some percentage true, this smear masks important decisions taken by people who understand that there come times in life where you have to make a choice.

Now that the third anniversary of the revolution is upon us, you will read many comments that argue:  “this could all have been avoided if those millions of people had just made a different decision on June 30.” But this is absurd in multiple ways. First, they simply didn’t! Second, how do these analysts know? I mean, really know?  Third, in what sense that is not absolutely technical (namely 1.3% at the ballot box against the old regime), were the Muslim Brotherhood “democrats” who were prepared to act democratically and inclusively as opposed to enact a slow policy of total usurpation of Egypt and its institutions?  What would people be saying then, if that project had continued?  I’ll venture a guess, since the loudest voices on the left criticizing the army today tend to be the same voices that never gave Morsi a chance for five minutes:  they would be apoplectic.

Other questions we are left with today in January of 2014, are:  how do we reign in the miltary’s ruling authoritarianism?  This is an especially relevant question given that one such figure seems all but set to win the presidency.   Next, is there a professional class willing to take power in Egypt who prioritize serving the country over their own interests?  Are the revolutionary youth willing and able to assume the responsibilities of state power?  As we hear a lot about the failure of democracy in the next few days (disingenuous) and the military’s authoritarianism and brutality (true, but not the whole story),  what I hope we hear more of is serious thinking about how to move forward and an identification of who is willing to take on the truly thankless task of making sure Egypt does not descend into chaos.