Gender Trouble in Egyptian satire

The latest episode of the program “the program” from noted Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef is creating quite a stir in Egypt this week. Airing on Thursday night, the episode was the first of season three, which begins after a nearly four-month long break  coinciding with the popular coup d’etat/revolution that replaced former Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi this past summer.

Since Mursi’s fall, popular attention has gravitated to the head of the army, Abd al-Fatah al-Sisi, as the man responsible for executing the people’s will. “Al-Sisi mania” has swept through Egypt and provided a cover for the grim reality of the killing of hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters by the army this past summer.

Many of the civil society groups that have sprung up supporting the army’s violent dispersal of the protests–including the group “al-Sisi for President” and local chapters of the 6th of April movement–have now submitted complaints to the attorney general accusing Youssef of “insulting the army and its leaders.” Ironically, these are the same charges which Mursi used as a pretext to throw Youssef in jail temporarily last April, and which the current regime has officially decreed to be an illegitimate basis for censorship.

So how do we explain the backlash? Returning to the episode itself can help to highlight its subversive potential. Continue reading

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