Egyptian Chronicles: #EndSH : I want to Smile

Monday, June 20, 2011

#EndSH : I want to Smile

Do not smile while sitting in taxis
This was the golden advice of my history teacher to our class in high school to avoid sexual harassment in taxis. All of us then were taking taxis to attend private lessons here and there and we were introduced to sexual harassments world. Of course during that time I do not recall that sexual harassments then were as disgusting and daring as now.
I still do not smile in taxis , in fact I do not smile while I am walking in the street anymore thanks to what I hear from remarks.
The adventures of Salwa- Lebanon
I will not speak about numbers or initiatives like Harass Map to combat sexual harassment in Egypt , I will not speak about the strict law issued by SCAF against Sexual harassment and assault. “Maximum penalty is death sentence”
I will speak about the true Egyptian ethics , the real ethics that we miss and need now more than anytime. I miss the days when a young man gets beaten for just sexually harassing a girl verbally by all other men in the street , in fact I feel these were legendary times.
Men , real men defended ladies and girls regardless of what they wore. It was not and is not about dress code , veiled ladies and girls are harassed day and night. Ladies in Lebanon are sexually harassed day and night while Lebanon is more open than Egypt. It is about the culture surrounding Arab youth now and how the media is sexualizing women in general.
You must know due to the lack of security the sale of electric Tasers in Egypt hit the ceiling especially among the ladies with the fact that the police force is still emotionally hurt and we have to protect ourselves more than before.
I just want to smile in the street while I am walking and feeling safe among people , my people.


  1. Basem (@DrVampirebrj)6/20/2011 09:14:00 AM

    Awesome! as usual :)

  2. good morning dear
    its the first thing i read in the morning amazing and can't agree more ....
    have a good day

  3. i agree with u but u cant put all the problem on men. the problem is made worse by girls sexualizing themselves, honestly if you dont respect yourself, you will invite the attention of scum, regardless of your intention

  4. oddly though when men "sexualize" themselves they are gigolos and machos. Trying to put blame on women is typical backwards mentality. Most women who gwet harassed dress modestly and are not trying to attract any attention.
    I think the main problem is people like you, whether men or even women who always try to put the blame on the victim.

  5. Dear Mr. Anon 1214

    Die in a fire!!


  6. Yet, oddly enough, in those societies where women are more 'sexualised' (to use your weird phrase) the level of sexual harassment and actual sexual assault is far lower. Odd that. To me, that suggests that the fault lies in the culture of Egyptian men. Much as I loved living in Egypt, I am happy to say that I have not been sexually harassed ONCE since leaving the country a year ago whilst it was a daily occurence whilst living there AND dressing quite modestly out of respect for Muslim culture.

  7. It is so interesting that you say this when recently another blogger in the US made the same comment.

    Maybe it is not just Egypt, but the World as a whole, allowing men to be a little bit more predatory because they think women can take it.

    Even the leering looks, when someone looks at you and they might wink or whistle or something, not necessarily saying anything... it is so bothersome!

  8. Wonderful piece as always. I also think that there needs to be attention on how sexually repressed most men are becoming. Asking women to change clothing habits is not the main issue. There are men, and they have hormones. The repressed sexuality of Egyptians is driving men insane, and turning them into these street monsters.

  9. The only reason why sexual harassment is becoming such a big issue is that even though it is only one symptom of a much bigger problem, it is one that crosses class boundaries.

    But it's not only women who are objectified as commodities under the present regime (yes, the regime is still in place); it's most people, the majority who don't have the means to protect themselves and nobody able or willing to protect them.

    Our current political/economic system is one where poor people -- including children -- can be forced to do dangerous and grueling work under inhumane conditions for starvation wages, where all sorts of vulnerable human beings can be, and are, exploited and abused at will by the rich and powerful, and where this is supported by societal values that have evolved to normalize the degradation of entire categories of people.

    Those who sexually harass women have simply internalized the paradigm of this dominant system, in which human beings are prey, from which you take whatever you can get away with.

    In the specific case of women, the media also plays a major role by regularly portraying women as commodities, accessories that men buy, and that parents (or the women themselves) are eager to sell to the highest bidder.

    This dehumanization even manifests itself in religious terms, as highlighted in the shameful squabbles between the Coptic Church and the Salafists over Camelia and Abeer and Wafa, both sides claiming these women as "theirs", a squabble that disgraces and insults both the Christian and Muslim spiritual traditions, not to mention the human and civil rights of the three citizens at the center of the tug-of-war.

    The problem of sexual harassment doesn't exist in isolation, and it can't be solved in isolation. We need a new political/economic system that safeguards all people's equal right to live in freedom and dignity. It needs to provide mechanisms to prevent any violation of these rights by anybody; not just by strangers on the street, but also by family members and co-religionists and also -- especially -- by those with wealth and power.

  10. Alice, I enjoy reading read your posts and would like to subscribe to your newsletter :)

  11. Stop complaining. Take it as a compliment.

  12. Dealing with Sexual harassment is a very easy problem to deal with no matter how stubborn or ignorant men are because once they go to jail for an extended period with hard labor, they will think twice next time round. This lesson was learned in Tunisia after the Liberation of 1956. Today all you need is strongly implemented legislation that applies harsh penalties on those who dare ignore it. Arab men have always behaved "Cowardly" towards women, it in the very nature of Arab men, its a pack mentality, since they know they are weak against each other, they show off by overpowering women and in some countries have as many wives as they could afford. Treating women badly is a control thing just like rape, Arabs countries always treated women as second citizens, and men treated them like slaves and they justify that through yet again "Islam" when in fact Islam never insinuated inequality between men and women let alone allow it, in essence Islam demanded that women be respected, and honored. The fact is this problem is an Arab legislative and cultural problem, its about the culture of men in general. In the Arab world its power embedded into the DNA of a tribal society that ignores the law and pride itself on possession of wealth, Children, live stock, and women in that order. In my study I looked at Tunisia and found glimpses of hope, Habib Borguiba the Tunisian President implemeted in 1956 what was the liberation of women, the "institution of the women movement" embedded in the constitution (Dastour). It created the women liberation legislature and of course demanded wholesale Education for men and women on an equal basis. The Tunisian legislation until recently is heavily overprotective of women either professionally or domestically and in a legal and national perspective they are both considered equal. In Tunisia it is good to be an educated women and in fact most of women in Tunisia are, but sadly not in the rest of the Arab world. So whoever comes into power in Egypt must be ready to implement very robust laws to protect women from the weaknesses, selfishness, ignorance and violence of men. Of course this applies in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the rest of the Islamic countries who continue to wrongly use Islam when in fact its about the culture of men.
    These people think Islam gave them the authorization to enslave women when in fact it did no such thing.

  13. One reader’s stories of sexual harassment in Egypt

    I have been living in Egypt for one year from 2007 to 2008 and then I relocated here in summer 2009. So in summer 2011 it will be three years that I spent here. Sexual harassment and especially street harassment was always a big topic for me, my foreign friends and my Egyptian friends (at least thefemale ones). It is really disturbing how many stories you have yourself as a woman living in Cairo and how many stories you hear from others.

    the whole article is here:

  14. and another one:

  15. I agree Sexual harassment is a big problem but so is the treatment of women in terms of equal opportunities and treatment by work colleagues. Sure, legislation is important but legislation alone and a stiff penal code wont work, it’s about attitude towards women in general. I also agree with your observation about the Tunisian law with regards to protecting women but there were some areas in Tunisia which in 1968 were off limits to Tunisian women things have of course changed since then in Tunisia, but back in 68 I shared a student year with one female Tunisian graduate who was studying one year post grad in Aeronautical engineering in France, she wanted to design aircraft, after graduation in July 1968 she went back to Tunisia but she found it hard to be accepted in that capacity and filed a case which she won. She did accept a post after that but she was black listed and grew well aware that her chances to compete with male colleagues in that field were minimal so she resigned and went to the US to complete a PHD in 1970 in Aerodynamics and stayed there ever since working for a well know company. Now there may well have been legislative protection in Tunisia at that time and I know there was, well ahead of its time as an Arab nation, but the problem is this, will women ever be equal to men in the Arab countries in terms of opportunities and remuneration even if the law was specific about equal opportunities, harassment etc..? I know of dozens of highly educated and technically trained Tunisian and Arab women who left their countries because of the lack of opportunities and lack of respect for themselves as women and the inability to judge them based on their skills, most of them are currently gainfully employed in the west and by all counts most of them in the US were offered equal opportunities the likes of which they could not have dreamed of in any Arab state no matter how developed. Last time I checked I got the impression that despite the so called Arab revolution's most of them have no plans to return any time soon thank you very much.

  16. Great blog! @alice I would subscribe to your blog too! @jason..grow up!

  17. Lighten up, ladies. It just means we like you. :)

  18. @ Jason: when a man comes up from behind you and tries to put his fingers in your vagina, it isn't a compliment! What a stupid, ignorant thing to say.

    Yes. This happened to me in Cairo and in the early 90s. It was gross, disgusting and I could feel those invasive fingers for days.

    It is much worse these days. I don't even make eye contact, much less smile. I never speak to taxi drivers except to give my destination.

    I presently live in the US and men do not sexually harass women in public. Sexual harassment in Egypt is out of control.

    There is no respect for women, regardless of what they are wearing and the majority are wearing hijab (ignore those with the skin tight jeans and "body" shirts).

    I wonder if they would like to have their mothers, wives, girlfriends and sisters subjected to the sexual remarks and disgusting sliminess that exists on the streets of Egyptian towns and cities.

    Men don't know how to behave like men anymore. Just like sex starved devils.


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