Multiple Meanings, Identities, and Resistances: Egyptian Rural Women’s Readings of Televised Family Planning Campaigns

Sahar Khamis


This feminist, ethnographic audience study analyzes how different groups of Egyptian rural women struggled to construct and reflect their subjectivities and identities, both as women and mothers, while making meaning of the messages in a televised governmental family planning campaign. The study investigates the complexity of factors which formed and transformed these women’s multiple identities, and which were, in turn, reflected in their multiple readings of the televised family planning messages, as well as in their multifaceted resistances on different levels: resistance to the traditional reproduction norms embedded in their own socio-cultural context; resistance to the dominant figures in their own families; and resistance to the dominant family planning ideology proposed by the government. In explaining why and how the women in the Egyptian village of Kafr Masoud came up with dominant, oppositional, or negotiated readings around the themes in the televised family planning messages, the study pays special attention to the impact of the process of social change on the transformation of these women’s gendered identities. It also explores the effects of these women’s social networks, their household structures, the oral forms of communication in their community, as well as the collective pattern of television viewing in the village on forming these women’s views and attitudes towards the issue of family planning, in general, and towards the televised family planning messages, in particular.

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