Recently I was blessed to go to Egypt, a place that I have longed to go to ever since I was a little girl. It truly was everything I felt it would be except for one thing-the value or devalue of women. Of course there is the unimaginable beauty of Egypt with it’s breathe taking views of the Nile River from Cairo to Luxor, the Pyramids in Giza, Karnak and Luxor Temples that boast the resting places of the Pharoh’s of Ancient Egypt. Across the river is the West Bank which houses the Valley of the Kings and Queens of the Ancient Egyptian ruling families. But the strong presence of the Islamic stronghold cannot be denied or ignored. It’s near the temples, across from the pyramids and on almost every street and along with that is the ever present judgement the watching of a women’s virtue or the oppressing of who she is. Because of the the revolution most of Egypt’s youth and older spend their days in coffee shops and riding four or five on a motor scooter with no place to spend their time doing something productive or to enhance there knowledge and make a better life for themselves or Egypt for that matter. Having all of this time on their hands, they prefer to spend it judging women and screaming out obscenities to them as they cowardly speed past on their motor bikes. It really doesn’t matter how women are dressed, of course if you are showing even a little too much of your arm you will be ridiculed severly, but covered women are not excluded from this type of harassment. This public display of humiliation is so pervasive it’s done in what I call “Egyptian Style”.
I went out and experimented one day and wore a sleeveless shirt because I was told that for ME it would be different because I am not Egyptian, so I decided to try it out. Well, suffice it to say I couldn’t walk down the street with out kissing noises, degrading comments and men actually trying to run me over because I was showing too much skin by baring my arms. One man who was riding a motor bike with what looked like his seven year old son in the back, made a comment with his son following right in his footsteps, literally being groomed to harass and degrade women in public. I couldn’t help but think how it’s not much different in the United States, I mean the way may not be the same but the outcome is. Even though here in America women are not told how to dress it still doesn’t stop men for harassing women who may not even be dressing very seductive or from raping them for that matter. So much emphasis is put on how the woman is dressing and what “SHE” should be doing but no one is paying attention to the hateful ideology of where this thought process originated from. Religiosity and fundamentalism create a sexually oppressed and depraved male society that looks for ways to lash out and the perfect punching bag? Women. We do the same here in the states, when a women is assaulted or raped she is blamed for what happened to her by society, the police, and the court system, she is even judged by other women looking for acceptance of purity and modesty when in fact they could be the next victim. They don’t seem to want to understand that it’s not always about how you look or dress, it’s just the mere fact that you are a women.
Women’s human rights in Egypt are heavily guarded, no one can just speak with anyone. As a gentlemen told me in Tahrir Square, there must be a letter of recommendation or reference from a government agency along with a specific person’s name and phone number and even then they want to know exactly why you want to speak with them. There is somewhat of an approval process, and again all eyes are watching. So it’s not surprising that women have not been able to move forward and why they have adopted and attitude of indifference and anger at what they see as being women’s human rights or lack there of. So I asked myself, in the United States women still have the power to change society’s attitude towards women so why are they helping the re-victimization process instead of standing up and speaking out? One possible explanation could be that they suffer from the same brainwashing that women who are religiously oppressed do, the survival syndrome. Believing that if they point the finger at other women and gain acceptance that they will be held in a high standard and therefore respected and those that are not adhering to society’s standards would be outcasted and brought low to never reach that point of really being a woman. But all that does is create division, animosity, and ultimately self-hatred. Let’s break the cycle and have our own revolution “Sisters Style”.