Often ignored in U.S. discussions on Egypt is how protests led by labor unions—many women-based labor unions in the manufacturing cities of Egypt—have catalyzed the Egyptian revolution (Paul Amar, 02-05-11). The women now holding down Tahrir Square as we speak—are of all ages and social groups and their struggle cannot be explained through Orientalist tropes that reduce Arab women to passive victims of culture or religion or Islam.
Up until the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, several Arab American writers used the trope “invisibility” to refer to the place of Arab Americans within dominant U.S. discourses on race and ethnicity. A common theme in this literature was that while most government definitions classify Arab Americans as “white,” popular U.S. discourses tend to represent “Arabs” as different from and inferior to whites. Exemplifying this perspective, Helen Samhan referred to the racialization of Arab Americans within U.S. government racial schemas as “white, but not quite” (1999); Joanna Kadi argued that Arab Americans are the “most invisible of the invisibles” (1994); Therese Saliba published the essay “Resisting Invisibility: Arab Americans in Academia and Activism” (1999); and Nada Elia used the trope “the white sheep of the family” to analyze the ways in which Arab American women have been positioned among U.S. women of color feminist movements (2002).