Aliaa, what a nice name, good physical features, I mean young, fresh and blossoming only with a strong and probably negative heart and ego, surely there are many ways of expressing your feelings and motives than by showing your precious body to the whole world, what now remains for you is to start moving around NAKED. I wonder what religion you are practising, bcos NO religion promotes this sort of act neither do our (African) traditions and morals. Please find another decent way of expressing yourself, though I dont know you but I feel I like you to the level of giving you a sensible advise. Thanks and I pray for good things in your life.

Hassan Aliyu Shehu left this comment today on my post to Aliaa Magda Elmahdy. I’ve been thinking about what it means. To be choose to be nude before the whole world. As a New Yorker, the body is a commodity. Maybe that’s what freedom means. At least, here and now. In the twenty-first century. We as women are free to use our bodies for any purpose we wish, and no longer is it political because that moment in America has passed. From Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party to Kim Kardashian’s sex tape. And we talk about progress like it’s a good thing. But maybe it’s more complex than that.

But Egypt is not America, and Aliaa’s act is one that is so powerful I feel overwhelmed trying to understand what it must mean. To be a woman in Egypt today, fighting for freedom, subject to virginity tests. That’s the least of what she’s up against. Mind blowing hostility, hatred, social control. Freedoms we take for granted are subject to death threats in another part of this world.

When will the body—both male and female—be seen as a work of Nature, rather than a product of Society? Can we look with love, with admiration, with respect, or will our hearts always fill with lust, with anger, with disgust? Will we celebrate or condemn, will we wrap our fears in religion and groupthink? Will we support or fight her wish for freedom on her terms?

To be naked before the whole world is a political act when there is nothing to be sold. But once that ground has broken, something is lost and something is found. I live in a world where women use their bodies for profit, as though objectification at the hands of oneself is an honorable act. Is this the future of Aliaa’s mission? Self determination. Self exploitation. Where is the line?

I suppose it depends on where you stand.

From here I see Aliaa, a vanguard of the old school using new media to speak to the world. And by old school, I mean the cult of the goddess, a time when the woman’s body was worshiped and revered. A time when the female energy was honored for its power to bring life into the world. It was not superior, nor was it inferior, to masculine energy. It was complementary. It was yin to the yang. Two Equals One. Never tear us apart.

But we have been split, torn asunder, and the result is it takes a scream to be heard. It takes a twenty-year-old woman, a twenty-year-old girl. It takes an honest look at the nude form for us to ask What’s Going On? This is the oldest war in the world, the struggle for female self determination. Because she who controls life controls the future, and that’s a frightening prospect to many.

There is no right or wrong answer because the subject of nudity, sexuality, and the female body is a political game. Ideas are currency, currency is power. Perhaps the answer is not to be found in the examination of her ideology, but in the way she triggers us to answer for our own.

A Rebel’s Diary