Tuesday, December 23

Notes on a Scandal

This post has got nothing to do with the movie holding the same name. It just popped into my head while writing about what our Egyptian society would classify as a scandal.

A few weeks ago a horrible murder took place in the 6th of October city, precisely in one of the new luxurious compounds which were initially built on the outskirts of Cairo before the 6th of October turned from being a mere district into a governorate . Two female students, Heba (daughter of the famous singer, Laila Ghofran) and her friend Nadine ( daughter of an Egyptian engineer who works and lives in Saudi Arabia) were brutally stabbed to death inside Nadine's family apartment.

It is generally expected that the Arab media would prove to be more brutal than the murderer himself in its coverage of such cases. The newspapers, which were first to announce the news, have extremely increased the dosage this time, though.. seeking to exploit the fact that one of the victims is the daughter to a celeb. Mind you, I'm not talking about some tabloid papers.. No! These are daily newspapers that Egyptians read every morning to check local and world news and daily columns written by the top writers in Egypt. Thus, they are considered to be a trusted source of information, and usually people take what they say for granted. Yet, this time, we found journalists competing hysterically in spicing up the details related to the murder, with a special focus on the moral conduct of the two girls (the victims). They spread rumors in the form of news from their trusted sources, and made headlines out of imaginary crap, building upon a social stereotype which basically condemns a girl living alone, even if she is a nun! Those journalists kept making their wildest guesses and casting their dices on the best they could get out of this story, which instantly became a huge buzz in Egypt.

It breaks my heart to go through the details, but I will just mention some examples to elaborate on how our media has got a very strong hand in misleading public opinion, of course without being bound by any ethical codes or rules or laws to organize this chaos. In Egypt, an editor-in-chief gets in trouble if he published fabricated info concerning our president's health.. but it is fine if his paper is totally fabricated from cover to cover. Just don't come near the presidency. It is true the press enjoys great freedom.. You can accuse anybody of anything you wish, without even having to prove it. We have a huge problem with the definition of "freedom" in this country, and usually what we consider to be freedom is nothing but chaos and meanness. Just look at our streets for God's sake! Isn't this the land of absolute freedom??

Anyway, back to Heba and Nadine. And I'd like to apologize in advance for mentioning the following rumors, which, I repeat, were written as facts directly delivered from security sources, friends, and neighbors to the victims.

Newspapers said that Heba and Nadine were drug addicts, who were notorious for their multiple relationships with guys and crazy partying in the apartment where they were both killed. It was said that during those parties the girls would invite friends from both sexes, serve drugs and alcohols, and dance till the early hours of morning. Journalists were specifically keen on suggesting the idea of "free sexual relationships" which took place during those parties, with special focus on the two victims.. not forgetting to mention the names of their boyfriends, who, according to colleagues and neighbors (the papers said,) were used to spending hours with the girls in the privacy of this villa!! Yeah, all of a sudden the apartment turned into a villa.

As to how the girls were stabbed and the possible reason behind the crime (which journalists claimed was according to police investigations), it was said that revenge was a primary suspect, because both girls were stabbed several times, Nadine's throat and tongue were cut, and it was said that a post-mortem examination revealed the presence of explosives inside her womb!! You may wonder why this sadism was mainly directed towards Nadine, although she ain't the famous one.. Well, I have got no idea.. But I guess it is because the apartment was hers, and she was the one who lived alone.. which is such a shame according to our local customs and traditions. Basically, people assume that a girl living alone would normally indulge in all the worst kinds of behavior, including sex, of course - being the taboo of all taboos here - and in this case, one sex partner won't be enough, she has to have several.. while drinking and doing drugs are just to complete the stereotypical image.

It was said that this "revenge" was either carried out by one of the girls' boyfriends, out of jealousy, or by a drug dealer!! And details just kept getting more disgusting, always ending by talking about Nadine's father who lives in Saudi Arabia without knowing anything about his daughter, while sending her a monthly allowance of 11,000 EGP (yeah, coz 10,000 won't be a convincing figure, the extra 1000 would make it sound more precise and thus causing people to believe all the other details) and that she had recently lent her boyfriend 40,000 EGP to be able to buy a new car!.. Oh la la!

Why turn a simple apartment into a villa? and what have those amounts of money got to do with the murder case? and why is it considered to be such a shame? Well, again.. I don't have the answers.. but probably because a society where the majority suffers from poverty will definitely feel curious about how the girls who belong to the high society of Cairo live. Thus, those kinds of details are guaranteed to verify the stereotypical image that those people have become familiar with through the Egyptian TV series, soaps and films, which always show the rich family as leading a life full of corruption and vice.

So, to make a long story short.. It wasn't long before the truth came out (and this drove people even more crazy because they expected this real-life crime series to last longer). The facts were as follows:
1- Heba was officially married to the guy they named once as her boyfriend and later as her fiancé. She called him after the murderer ran away and that's how journalists got his name.
2-Nadine's autopsy report proved that she was a virgin, her so-called boyfriend was a colleague she loved, has proposed to her family and was asked to wait until she completes her education.
3-The murderer was found to be a 19 year old blacksmith who came to rob the house, thinking that both girls were already asleep. But, Heba, who was still awake, saw him and started screaming. He was already shaking, so he kept stabbing her hysterically to make her shut up. Her screams caused Nadine, who was sleeping in her room to wake up. Then during a struggle, Nadine injured the guy's hand with the knife he held, running to the kitchen to grab a knife.. he then ran after her stabbing her repeatedly in the back, and when she fell, he thought she died, but she held on to his feet.. then he decided to cut her throat to finish her.

Now it's questions time.. Why would our society insist on making a scandal out of this crime? A scandal involving the victims!.. while the murderer in almost all similar cases has always had some kind of a ready-made scenario on his side.. from being a hurt lover, driven to commit the crime out of jealousy, to the young victim of poverty, to even suggesting a conspiracy theory in which the Egyptian police resorted to dragging an innocent guy to present him to the public as the murderer!.. Why?.. To spoil the fun of the masses, maybe!

Anyway, I've written about this terrible crime before, in Arabic, presenting a kind of humble reading of what might be the hidden motives behind the industry of social scandals in Egypt.. Why a female victim of murder is automatically shifted to become the subject of a scandal, and may indeed be considered a criminal herself in a different context, in which a very strange definition of "honor" usually appears.. much related to the idea of "honor killings." In this context, the assumed violation of social customs and traditions is in fact viewed by the majority of people to be a very serious crime.. much more serious than murder.. to such a degree which makes the act of murder itself a righteous act or even "the sole cure" in such a case.

A female exercising free will over her body is committing the most horrible crime. Anything else can be forgiven. Anything else can be dealt with. Any other crime has got a fitting punishment, and in such a case, the criminal can indeed be forgiven after undergoing this punishment.. even if it was execution.. he can still have a good name, and his family won't live with the burden of shame hanging over its head for a lifetime. Anything and everything can be forgiven, except a female out of control. This is the scariest notion.. It is a social obsession.. It is the greatest fear of every man in our society. Families are constantly under the stress of this ever present nightmare. And it just keeps getting worse and worse as their daughters grow up.

I often get criticized when I tell my female friends that I pity Egyptian men, and that I can, on a certain level, sympathize with them. I might be asking for too much if I expect them to accept this coming from me. Yet, it won't be fair if even someone who has got the insight to realize such strong influences shaping men in our society, ever since their early childhood, can not bring herself to understand their motivations and inner struggles. Yes, we have all the right to be frustrated and to consider our men to be the worst ever at times, but we must not forget that they just can't help it.

Imagine this.. A little boy being taught from his early childhood not to mix with girls, being urged to play the role of a bodyguard for his sister/s, and even his own mother in some cases. He is bullied at school by merely naming his sister or his mother (not to mention the dirty language dictionary which mainly focuses on using the mother as the source of shame. For example, mother f***er and others). This boy then grows up to see women as a source of shame and scandal.. his own shame and his own scandal. His next mission is to go through puberty and teenage years, suffering from feelings of internalized shame, because at this age he fantasizes about females a lot, yet he cannot understand his mixed feelings towards them.. a love/hate sort of relationship. Add to that the feeling of guilt that a teenager always carries like a bulk of chains weighing down his/her soul, merely because they are normal human beings who have got a reproductive system!

Then, this young man goes through the biggest challenge off all, a sort of "to be or not to be" kind of dilemma. He is brought up to believe that his manhood lies between his thighs.. And now he became old enough to put this to the test. So, what will it be? Man or Not Man?

There are 2 ways to find out: Marriage or else.. I won't go through the second option.. it needs a separate post. Let's say he chooses marriage. Then again he faces another challenge.. not the one you have in minds.. no.. finding "the one" is not really a big deal when choosing an Egyptian wife.. The challenge here is not finding real love, it is finding the absolute virgin.

In a society like ours, a mere virgin just isn't good enough.. every man's quest while mating is to find the absolute virgin. Well, I'd better clarify what that means.

An AV is a never-been-touched, never-been-in-love, never-had-a-relationship, kind of girl. This is different from the simple "virgin".. Coz it is taken for granted that the girl must be a virgin in the biological sense! She has to bleed on her wedding night. That is out of question. The absolute virgin goes beyond her hymn.. Her husband has to be the first man in her life. It is even better if she told him he was her prince charming.. and she would really do the perfect job if she was able to convince him that his ghost used to visit her in her dreams.. a very common proto-image inspired by some Egyptian movie classics.

Let's say our guy (thinks he has) succeeded in his mission, and he was able to find his half human, half angel AV. Is the nightmare finally over? Hehehe.. you wish!

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 26

Are You Making Your Country Poorer?

This post is a special dedication to all the bitter, ever-complaining, dissatisfied housewives.. who were once my school buddies, university comrades, and work colleagues, but have chosen to stay at home after marriage.

Sorry, all. You have always found me to be your comforting pillow.. always an attentive listener, with whom you can split your pains, and someone you can always count on for relief. You've always found me to have a great ability to sympathize, or even empathize. I realize the amount of your shock at my sudden loss of those abilities, and I understand how painful this could be at times, especially when it adds up to your bitterness and misery. I'm sorry, gals.. I can't do it.. Not when it comes to this.. and certainly not when you are responsible adults who are supposed to be accountable for your decisions.

I've always understood your weaknesses, and swallowed your follies.. being careful not to criticize you or blame you until you are totally in the right mood for thinking and re-evaluating your acts. I was extra gentle with matters of the heart.. less with life-defining decisions.. yet constantly focusing on absorbing your pain and frustration. I am still the same. Only one thing is too many for me.. and that is when you complain that you are stuck in a bad marriage, having to stick to a tight budget (complaining about the high cost of living), and that you can't help transferring your anger unto your kids! Now, that's way too much. I can't absorb that.. and you'd better be ready to find your emotional sponge turn rock-solid.

Again and again I say.. there is a huge difference between being a victim and being a criminal. Turning into a criminal because you've been yourself victimized is not a good excuse to get out with, for one.. and won't change the fact that now you've become a criminal. So, be an adult and face it. You made a huge mistake.. and even if the whole world deceived you into thinking that you did your family a favor, you can not deceive yourself, especially after seeing all of those disasters that you are causing everyone around you.. in addition to harming your country as well.

I seriously don't get it! You said that your family needs all your time, so that's why you don't need a job.. then you complain of loneliness and the huge spare time you are never able to fill! You said that your husband has got a handsome income that would make your slim salary seem ridiculous, that's why you're better off without your work.. then you complain that prices are rising and that your budget is getting tighter! You said that work for women is not primary.. then you envy your ex-colleagues whenever one of them gets promoted or whenever you see one of'em on TV! You just turned into one of those horrible women you once hated and criticized. You are searching for the faults in others to prove that nobody is perfect, as if this will calm you deep inside, instead of trying to improve your life or make it a happier one.

Anyway, if a woman makes this choice, it won't be logical of her to expect sympathy from others. Believe me, it is not because the other busy bees out there are too envious of a coach potato. Those who told you this tale are the ones responsible for your misery. Simply, I can't forgive you for adding up to the poverty of our country. Yeah, that's right. You are making this country poorer.. so at least do not complain, baby.

Belonging to the third world is not like being a member in a club. A country earns its place in the so-called third world because it belongs there.. it is poor, has a slow development rate, and does not contribute much (if any) to global economy or development (for example, in scientific research). Hence, if a country does what you do.. that is, become dependent on other productive countries.. it fits into the third world. And as long as half the population in those countries think the way you do, then those countries have got zero chance in improvement.

To be able to imagine how weak our production rate is, I'll just give a couple of examples.. The average productivity of an Egyptian citizen is estimated to be around 1000$ a year.. and it tends to be fixed around this figure through many years.. while in Israel for example, a citizen produces the equivalent of 15000$/year.. And in a country which used to belong to the third world only a few years ago like Singapore, this amount reaches 45000$ per capita.. meaning that the productivity of the Singaporean citizen is 45 times as much as that of his Egyptian counterpart!! Now, where can this get us for God's sake?

It is as simple as this.. there are 78 million Egyptians.. half of them are brought up to think that their primary role in life is to reproduce and serve their households. Then the whole population is dependent on the other half to feed them and satisfy their basic needs.. How lovely!

By sitting at home, you are just turning into a huge burden on economy. You keep adding to this burden when you keep getting more children to keep yourself occupied at home. The end result is more poverty and misery for thousands. Urban women are the worst of the lot.. they are not productive at all. A rural woman bakes her own bread, plants her vegetables, raises chicken, sews clothes...etc. While all what urban women do is consume, consume, consume. Not only do they consume goods.. but also endless hours on the phone and in front of TV to keep themselves entertained. They consume energy.. which (in case you don't know) is becoming rarer and rarer, and is expected to be the number one reason behind endless wars to come.

So, back to urban women.. What do they produce? What is their share in the national income? Zero.

The government has contributed to this crisis when it failed to provide adequate daycare service to help their female employees stay in the workforce; hence, making it easier for the private sector to get away without having any obligation towards female workers. Why on earth would a company owner bother to provide a service that the government itself does not require or care to provide? The ridiculous alternative of the 2 years maternal leave (in the public sector) only means that those women do not actually work, or else how would 2 years of absence be OK with them? Those women then return (if they ever do) to resume their work in the same position they occupied before their leave, falling back behind their colleagues who got their promotions on time. The private sector is even worse.. it gives a maternal leave of 3 months, after which you can bid your job goodbye. Most probably what a woman pays for daycare and transportation to be able to carry on this daily tour (home-daycare-work-daycare-home) will be enough to swallow her full income. Thus, she finds herself compelled to stay at home with her baby.

Now, let's do the maths to find out why Egypt continues to be a poor country.

1- With the gender gap in favor of males in literacy rates, we have to confront the fact that only 59.4% of females could read and write, 93% of which complete the primary stage, while only 67% attend secondary school.
2- Only 23% of women join the labor force.. they make 22% of the total labor force in Egypt.
3- Of those women in the labor force (23%), only 22.6% hold a university degree, (which means that only 5% of Egyptian women are highly educated working citizens! Freakish!) 16% of those are in administrative posts, and 28% hold professional and technical posts.

Aside from those horrifying figures, one might think that a crisis of this magnitude must be a top priority while designing reform programs.. yet, unfortunately, we can not count on that.

In her "Egypt: A Poverty Profile," Professor Mahassen Mostafa Hassanin says:
Reform programs tend to work to the benefit of men than to the benefit of women. Macroeconomic policies concentrate on the reallocation of resources to achieve both stability and growth rather than on microeconomic issues and gender differentiation. Development programs usually address males while neglecting females.
Not only so, but the pop culture is another huge obstacle, acting as a strong barrier, preventing girls from aspiring to play an active role in society. And I quote again from the same source:

Equality and equity among males and females represents the cornerstone of this new development paradigm which concentrates on sustainability of the development process and this requires changing the prevailing social paradigm, and re-educating men and women on how to work together to create a more humanitarian world order.
On why Egyptian women would ever consider having a job , Professor Hassanin says:
The pattern of women in the development process is controversial. Women devote nearly all their income to the welfare of their family and still have to comply with the constraints of their gender role in the society. This makes the cost of their participation in the development process rather excessive.
And that is so true.. Women are rather pushed into the workforce than deciding to join it out of a personal will.. They lack empowerment, ambition and a sound environment which might inspire them to be productive citizens.

For further elaboration on this point, let's check out what was in a paper called "Women and Poverty," by Ms. Sahar Nasr, as part of the Joint Report of the National Council for Women and the World Bank (2003).. In her research on women headed households, Nasr has found that most of those women are widowed. Which means that as long as there is a man at home, poor women would never consider having a job.
Poverty has Higher Price for Women and Girls. While poverty per se is not a gender concern, women, along with their children, tend to be more vulnerable to poverty than men.

Poor women often face a triple disadvantage:

•Heavy reproductive burden and their non-market contributions are often not recognized—undervaluing a significant part of their economic contributions.
•Social concerns may also limited women’s access to labor market and the type of jobs from which they can choose.
•Finally, women generally have lower educational achievements, reducing their earnings ability.
Do you realize now that you can not just sit there and complain? Your country needs you, because you are one of the very few young, healthy, well-educated women who expected to be productive, and any development would simply not happen as long as you insist on throwing all your education and personal skills against the wall and sitting there doing nothing.


Wednesday, November 5


In celebration of Obama's win.. and in response to this positive air of change which proves that dreams are indeed possible to achieve.. and in expressing hope that one day nations will rise above all kinds of discrimination, to finally co-exist in harmony and declare the victory of their humanity.. I thought about re-publishing the following post, which I wrote more than a year ago, calling for keeping the faith in our dreams. I seize this opportunity to revive this call and share the optimism that the wind of change will reach us here.

I have a dream.. that one day Egypt will have a woman president.

A Woman with a Dream

When Martin Luther King stood there, giving his public speech in 1963, saying his famous "I have a dream...", he certainly had no idea that his dream will come true. He had no idea that his speech will be a historic one, or that it will later be ranked the top American speech of the 20th century. He was only being sincere and dedicated to his cause. He spoke his mind and heart, giving the American people a peek on his dream: that one day both blacks and whites will exist harmoniously as equals.

That was a black man, whose dream exceeded himself to include all people of his race. He did not hide his dream in shame. He did not say that everything is OK as long as he himself is not negatively affected by the racial discimination practiced in his country. No, he made it his mission to fight for the rights of the vulnerable and to stand up in the face of the powerful. He knew that nothing will change as long as he and others are silent. He believed in the power of reason and justice. He understood the value of words and how taboos can be broken by talking about them. He stood there, solid and firm, expressing a beautiful dream, where black and white kids can play together, without feelings of hatred or superior/inferior relationships to destroy their innocence.

Just like it took a black man to fight for the rights of the blacks, it takes a woman to fight for the rights of women. It takes a woman with a dream; a dream of a better future, where men and women would coexist harmoniously as equals in society. It takes a woman with a mission and determination to bring down all the false taboos and misconceptions about her sex. It takes a woman whose dream extends beyond herself and her present wishes. It takes a woman who believes that she's not an inferior and that she deserves to be treated with respect. It takes a woman who believes that she was created equal, and that she holds the same brain that men hold. It takes a woman who's not afraid of imaginary ghosts haunting her life. It takes a woman who believes in herself and her abilities. It takes a woman who is strong enough to face the winds of opposition and ridicule. It takes a woman who won't give up the fight for justice and humanity. It takes a woman who will stand up and face the world with her dream.

Don't say that most girls are happy with the way things are. You know better. Your level of awareness is a gift, a precious gift that only a few get to possess. And with this gift comes a responsibility. Your awareness enabled you to understand why those vulnerable girls are silent, why they act satisfied, and why they even sometimes stand against their own rights. They are victims of a massive brainwash, just like black men were once made to believe that they were born black to be marked as salves, and that it was their inescapable destiny.

Patriarchs used the same mechanism used by Great Britain when they invaded African countries and made its inhabitants become their salves. The British colonialism was clever enough to convince those slaves that they were born slaves. They made them believe that it is a bless that they now found masters who can take care of them, because slaves can’t think for themselves. They even turned their colonialism into a crusade of some kind, where the mission was to bring civilization to these savage lands. The idea of “The White Man’s Burden” was so popular and found its believers among the colonists themselves. The “burden” was that of educating and civilizing the black barbarians. It turned intro a sacred mission, just like that of the Arab men, who want to protect women from themselves. So now we have ”the Arab Man’s Burden.”
Women are the only ones who can fight their battle. Just like blacks were liberated by the blacks, women will be liberated by women. Therefore I'll continue to say, "I have a dream."

Wednesday, October 22

Noha Roshdy

Yesterday, I read about a brave girl from upper Egypt called Bikhyta, who was attacked by a wolf and kept struggling with it for 3 hours, during which she lost 2 of her fingers.. yet in the end, Bikhyta was able to slay the wolf.. all on her own.

Today, all the Egyptian newspapers feature another female hero of a very special kind on their headlines.. She is Noha Roshdy, a young director of documentaries who had been harassed by a truck driver while walking home with her friend Hend about 6 months ago. The human-wolf stretched his arm out of the truck while slowing beside Noha and grabbed her breasts so violently that she almost fainted out of pain and fell onto the sidewalk while screaming hysterically. He then simply smiled at her and drove off!

Thanks to the traffic in Cairo, that animal couldn't go any far. And of course, he took it for granted that Noha will be lucky if she just managed to escape a nervous breakdown. He assumed that the best she could do is rise up and continue her walk home, carrying all the shame and pain, and probably going to the first pillow to weep. It never crossed his mind that Noha is not that kind of girl. To his amazement, he found Noha rising up like a tigress, chasing his truck, and jumping over the driver's cabin to force him to pull off and get out. She succeeded! And she held him by the collar determined to take him to the police station to charge him of sexually harassing her.

The reactions that Noha got were just unbelievable, and I highly recommend that this would be the subject of serious studies by Egyptian sociologists and psychiatrics.

Imagine that the harasser himself, the truck driver, thought Noha was crazy! He couldn't understand why a girl would jeopardize her life in such a way just to get hold of someone who grabbed her breasts! See? That's what we were talking about girls.. your passiveness in dealing with harassment caused you to be taken for granted in such a humiliating way! The good old wisdom of laissez-passer proved to be not good, huh. That's the way you are viewed by harassers out there.. for them, you are not the polite girl who couldn't get herself to face her attacker because she is a shy cute virgin! You are just a whore who has to shut up after being sexually assaulted. That's who you are.

Noha's shock did not stop there.. For, of course a crowd quickly gathered out of curiosity to see what all the screaming was about. Some of them had witnessed the incident from the start. Yet, Noha says: "Some of them tried helping the driver get back into his truck to flee.. Some tried calming me down by saying that they will make him apologize, and when I refused taking an apology, trying in vain to get them to see the crime he committed, they didn't understand why I was so determined to take to the police station and called me crazy. One of them even told me 'I don't understand what a girl like you is doing, standing her with men!' While others kept watching from their balconies without even caring to offer any help."

You may wonder, were there not any women on the street at the time?.. Well, according to Noha, only one woman volunteered to help her.. and her way of help was as follows: She said to Noha, "Never mind my girl, let him go, just don't humiliate yourself like that!"

What kind of society are we living in?! Are those normal people? Or were they all subjected to some kind of mysterious gas that caused them to lose their minds? Seriously, it seems that our society is suffering from mass hysteria! People are sick in a disgusting way! Have they lost any trace of common sense! Do they stand there blaming the victim for wanting to claim her rights?.. Seriously??.. Are they helping the criminal to get away with his crime??.. Seriously??.. Is that the presumably Religious, Pious, Conservative society of ours?? Damn it!

I'm sorry to shock you all, but it just keeps getting worse and worse. For those of you who love horror movies I recommend reading the full story as told by Noha in an interview with Al Youm Al Sabe3.. Unfortunately, it is not available in English.

For 2 whole hours after the assault, Noha stood there in the middle of a crowd, merely trying to convince them that this man she was holding is a criminal!! According to Noha, she was unable to find anyone in this very busy commercial road who was willing to help her, except for one young man who sympathized and bravely took all the criticism because he volunteered to help her get to the station with this harasser!

Now, we are going to see a totally different episode of how those things are handled by our heroic patriarchal security forces!

Noha's friend who was with her when she got attacked went off to the nearest community police station, which we call no2tah, to get help. But the constable there said that it was none of their business (I wonder whose business it is!) and told her to call 911! There was nothing to do other than holding this harasser all the way to this community station.

When Noha got there and told the story to the constable, he did not hide being so disinterested and warned her that she will suffer a lot if she insists on placing legal charges against the guy who harassed her! When she insisted, he called the police officer, who didn't bother to come. He then wrote down her complaint and said that they won't be able to take the suspect to the main police station!!.. and that if she wanted this complaint to take its legal course, she had to drive him by herself there!!.. Which she did.. She then had to go to the prosecutor's office on the same day, and there, according to Noha, the prosecutor was the only one who thought she did the right thing and saluted her courage. That's how the Noha's case found its way to court.. any other girl could have given up after facing all those obstacles. Does our honorable ministry of interior now understand why girls do not complain when they get harassed??? Or don't they?

Yesterday, 21 October 2008, Noha's harasser, Sherif Gabriel was sentenced to 3 years behind bars. A great victory to all the women in Egypt.. and a badge of honor to the Egyptian court. I am so happy that Noha's effort and courage in fighting for her civil rights were not wasted in vain. I am also so glad that although we still don't have a law under which harassers could be tried, Gabriel could not escape punishment. It is good to find some sanity and justice when all we could see around us is pure madness, and when violence against women has somehow become the norm.

Yes, justice was served. But not all is well that ends well. In fact, this good ending is just a beginning which opened a tiny window unto a world of evil and ethical rot. For example.. I couldn't help boiling with anger at some of the comments posted by the readers on Al Masry Al Youm this morning. Some of them still blame women for being the cause of harassment!!.. Some of them refuse to admit that Noha is a human being and a citizen that has the right in a safe street!! Some of them can't see beyond Noha's hair!! As if this is what tempted the harasser to grab her breast, and not the fact that she is a female! They haven't learned anything.. They insist on compromising their humanity and degrading themselves to the level of animals. But even animals do not do this to one another!

The image as it says that we have a serious problem in Egypt. A problem with the people, their minds, their psyche, their values, and the way they see matters. Something is very wrong with this country. We have to face it. Noha's case is only the beginning.. It gave us a peek into the darkness inside our souls as a society. Now, we have to see the disease that is eating up our moral system and causing us to fail miserably as human beings.

Monday, October 13

Harassment Season in Egypt

Well, what can I say? It seems like we still have to deal with this shit for some time to come. Again, I talk about sexual harassment.. and this time the return of a new phenomenon which takes place during Eid El-fitr.. which is a Muslim feast, following Ramadan. It seems that Egyptian sexual harassers have chosen this time of the year (what a choice!) to unleash their savageness as a group.. instead of the individual assaults they practice on daily basis!

During the Eid of 2006, incidents of mass sexual harassment took place in Down Town Cairo. This was the first time for such a thing to happen in Egypt (as far as I know). Hundreds of young men went about attacking women down the streets, grabbing them, touching them, and even tearing up their clothes! Back then, the Egyptian police refused to admit the occurrence of these incidents, even after actual footage were released over the internet and were being sent via mobile phones. Still police maintained that all this was not enough proof, and that all these were mere rumors!.. according to them, as long as there was no single complaint officially filed to certify the occurrence of such incidents, then this means that nothing has happened!

How hilarious our government becomes when it acts stupid! The problem is that, as citizens, we've seen enough to be assured that our security system is so damn knowledgeable. It can be loose at times, but it has got all the power and the tools it needs to gather information. They can not even pretend to be stupid. Anyway, what happened then reminded me of the well-known Egyptian movie "Al Noom Fi Al Assal" [Fast Asleep] (and a better translation would be "Sweet Obliviousness"), a comedy that mocks this fact about our government (that is, their habit of denying things, refusing to admit the presence of problems in order to escape responsibility of having to work on solving them). In this regard, the film was so realistic; yet in order to avoid problems with censorship (yes, we do have censorship on movies, books...etc) its makers resorted to an imaginary plot: aka, a mysterious disease is spreading rapidly throughout Egypt, causing men to lose their sexual ability. And because in a conservative society like ours such a thing is considered to be so scandalous and a horrible insult to a man's manhood, nobody dares confess being infected with the disease. The issue is discovered accidentally, when a young man commits suicide on his wedding night, a poor plumber slays his wife, and disputes between spouses reach police stations. The government discovered what was wrong, yet refrained from admitting it to the public, being sure that nobody would be brave enough to confess that they became impotent. However, the film ends on a very strong note when the police chief investigator who was on the case (played by superstar Adel Emam) loses his job because of taking those facts he found to parliament. He gathers people from all over Cairo in a huge march to the Egyptian parliament while screaming "Ahh".. a declaration of their suffering and a demand for action.

It seems that this movie predicted 10 years earlier (1996) how our government would handle the the mass sexual harassment of 2006. And it seems that Egyptian girls have learned the lesson. Here is what happened as published on Al-Arabiya Net:

The independent al-Masry al-Youm reported that 150 young men assaulted female passers-by on Gamaat al-Duwal al-Arabiya street in the upper-class neighborhood of Mohandeseen. One woman’s clothes were ripped off her body and another had her veil torn, the newspaper reported.

Police arrested 38 suspects, between 15 and 22, and questioned three of the female victims.

One of the female victims, who wore the 'niqab' (an Islamic dress covering the body from head to toe, except for the eyes), said that a number of young men assaulted her and her friends.

"They tore our clothes and snatched the 'hijab' (veil) worn by one of us," she was quoted as saying. She added that there were many other groups of young men along the street.

So, as expected and as usual this lollipop myth has proven to be useless. As I said earlier, "wrapped on unwrapped, you'll be consumed one way or another". This time harassers were actually arrested because their victims spoke up and testified. Nobody could deny it. But there remains the problem of "SO WHAT?"..

The arrests were random, some of the suspects complained. "Yes, I was there, but I did nothing. No one could prove that I touched any of these girls." On the other hand, imagine being trapped inside a circle of 150 harassers! Would you be able to recognize any faces? The trauma itself is enough to waste your chances in proving anything. The result? Yes, they were arrested.. but they were also released shortly after! It's that simple.

As previously mentioned , we are waiting for a law against sexual harassment. Now, if you are in a position like that, nothing will help you, even in the presence of such a law. But, what encouraged those guys in first place and made them unite in attacking those girls is their confidence that each of them was successful in his previous individual assaults. Therefore, the importance of this law cannot be ignored or marginalized. Still, as a woman you must be able to defend yourself. This time, I mean being able to defend yourself in case of being subjected to a physical sexual assault that may involve violence. Of course, until police regains control over the streets, DO NOT TAKE A WALK NEAR A CROWD OF YOUNG MEN, especially during feasts.

Here are some self-defense techniques that are a must-know, especially if you live in Cairo. You'd better be prepared. If nobody's willing to defend us, then we'd better be prepared. It seems that when men fail to go back to the jungle, they go ahead to establish their own.

Friday, September 26

Natural Born Feminist

Being an Egyptian feminist never fails to show you its ugly face.. or to be more frank, this is almost the only face you will meet ever since people decide to "honor" you with this "label". Once you get known as such, get ready to be bashed with all kinds of questions (a polite word for "accusations") like "Why do you hate men?.. Don't you think you are exaggerating?.. Do you want us to live like they do in the West?.. Are you married? " and (quoting the King of Siam) et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

The stereotype for a feminist assumes a certain scenario which goes as follows.. She was brought up in a miserable family, having to wash the dishes and cater drinks to her male brother.. Her father was probably a harsh man who used to beat her day and night, or deserted his family when she was young.. She probably was heartbroken in love, or met a man who cheated on her.. She's an envious spinister.. most probably her looks aren't good enough to attract men's attention... et certera, et cetera, et cetera.

Well, I'm always sorry to disappoint those who carry this sort of pathetic stereotype and trust so much. But, first of all, I'd like to say that I don't like to be called a feminist.. not because I became ashamed of the fabricated qualities associated with this term, or that it has grown notorious in our society.. but because it fails to express my aims and what I really seek to do. You cannot sum-up Fantasia in mere "feminist." That will not be an accurate description. I'd rather be called a "myth-slayer or a "folklore-deconstructor".. for that is what I actually do. If you would like to add the term"feminist" before either of them, though, it is absolutely fine by me.

Growing up with all those familiar accusations from people who try so hard to prove that I fit into their stereotype of that thing called "Feminist," has, nevertheless, caused me to reflect more on why I was different.. and to rephrase it according to pop culture, it would be "what was wrong with me?" Again, I apologize for disappointing them all, for I have discovered that nothing was wrong with me. And check this out.. I found out to be one of the rare cases of those who don't fight against nature. I am in complete harmony with who I naturally am and what my primary instincts dictate! People like me may be considered to be rare species in our world, but I believe I am just one among many, whom you might well call "Natural Born Feminists." Please allow me to elaborate, using my diary.

1. The Day I Broke My Doll:

I grew up in a loving, traditional Egyptian family. My parents, like all others, loved me so dearly, and thought that showing this love would be through grooming me into what society would expect a girl to be. As a kid, I didn't understand it, and I thought the role of parents was to prevent their children from doing what they wanted. For instance, when the Legos I had received as a gift for my birthday suddenly disappeared, I thought the purpose was to deprive me of my favorite toy. However, I later discovered that my mom was hiding them away because she didn't like to see me playing a "boys' game", besides the mess that the scattered pieces of Legos cause. Instead, she got me a Barbie doll, only to find it broken into pieces the next day. She thought I hated this particular doll, so she brought me a new one; and when its fate showed to be no better than the first, my mom didn't give up.. She kept showering me with loads of dolls, never having pity on them, even when she sees them, one by one, ending up as plastic spare parts. I told her that that was my way of playing with dolls, but she insisted that I should use them to play another game.. pretending that they were real people, combing their hair and dressing them and stuff. When nothing seemed to work, she complained to my father that I spoiled my dolls, and thus was unworthy of any more toys. What my mom couldn't understand was that not all girls love to play with dolls. Kids differ.. not according to their gender, but according to their characters, abilities and preferences. And what I didn't understand was her presistence that I play with a "dummy" (in the full sense of the word).

2- The Screwdriver:

As a kid, I hadn't known that exhibiting your talents was scary. I thought that parents would be proud of what their young ones could do, and should encourage them to be more curious and learn more about the world. I thought that being independent was a bless, not a curse.. and that showing everyone that you were able to do things on your own was worthy of applause. Oh how green I was! [sigh].. Anyway, I used to show off my skills in front of adults, especially my parents, with best of intentions.

One day I brought a screwdriver and started to unscrew our cassette-recorder to explore what lies inside. Yet, my dad made me feel as if this recorder was a bomb that would explode if I touched it! Needless to say, this didn't prevent me from seeking after what I wanted. A kid's mind is designed to be curious, constantly seeking after knowledge.. you can't stop this automatic mechanism just because you fear that a stupid machine will get out of order! So, I waited for the time when I was home alone, and I would get my dad's tools and open all of the electric machines at home, one by one, and I would take out the pieces inside, carefully remembering where each piece belonged, then see if I could assemble them all again in the same order. I applauded myself when I succeeded, since there was nobody present to witness this achievement. And when my parents came home, and turned on that same device, I would keep saying to myself "If only you saw it one hour ago!" and experience a sort of evil kind of joy :)

Years later, when our VCR went out of order, I couldn't keep myself from helping my dad who seemed so frustrated. I begged him to allow me to take my shot at repairing it. Of course, he was totally against it, but when I told him there was nothing to lose and that the technician was going to repair it anyway, he seemed to have been too tired already that he let me do it. He couldn't believe it when I actually fixed it! But I never confessed to him my long hidden secret. Up till today, my family depends on me when it comes to installing or fixing electric devices. They are satisfied to think it is a miracle, and I no longer seek to disturb their peace of mind.

3- A Lesson Well-Learned:

Being a female, you can not be proud that you're talented or that you're smart. People won't admire you for it.. but will treat you as an abnormality instead.. a lamb that has lost its way and should be guided back to her flock, or forced to do so against her will if necessary. In a society like ours, you learn that a woman and a smart brain do not meet.. that it is OK for women to be dependent, because that's what men are made for. Only a man is allowed and encouraged to be independent, while a woman is brought up to be weak and vulnerable. Shall any girl show any sign of being smart or having ambition, she must be knocked down, for fear that she might disturb the balance of the universe! Hence, a smart man impresses you, while a smart woman freaks you out. A strong man wins your admiration and respect, while a strong woman makes you reach for your gun. That's what an artificially-fabricated social order does to us. We invent molds, we shape our young to fit into those molds, pushing and squeezing them throughout their lives to enter their boxes of what we decided to be "masculine" or "feminine," feeding them all about the "division of roles" and other myths of our invention.

By now, you should have figured out what I meant by saying that I am more in harmony with who I naturally am than the majority who consider themselves to be the norm. We are all born equal, but outside forces stand against our natural evolution, preferring to turn us into puppets, playing roles according to a pre-written scenario.. even if it is against our humanity, and even if it defies mere logic. Yet, what's worse than all that is the brainwash process that we are subjected to throughout our lives.. the brainwash that leads generation after generation to accept such ideas and in turn implant them into their offspring. Thus, the vicious cycle continues to produce people who basically spend their lifetime fighting against their nature. And unfortunately, there is a huge machinery backing-up this false system.. it's everywhere (TV, magazines, commericals, schools, universities, laws, etc.) .. and patriarchs have always been careful to keep all its keys under their control.

Societies, in any time or place, would have never moved a single step forward if it were not for the few who refuse to give in to such mutilation. All of us were born feminists.. yes, all of us.. boys and girls.. we were all born equal and we wanted to remain as such. Feminists are believers in equality and justice. And if anyone considers that to be wrong, or strange, or bad, then s/he would better look and see where they stand. As for me, I shall forever remain happy and proud to be guilty of feminism.

Tuesday, September 16

It's Time to Say: "Back Off!"

Hi again.. I'm saying 'HI' as I have recently come back from vacation. My absence was due to many reasons, none of which can be discussed here. Yet, from now on I can promise everyone that they would find a huge change with this blog. Let's make it a surprise..

Today I talk about sexual harassment.. Wait.. I know what you're thinking now. Please be patient.. No, it's not a "going-with- the-flow" kind of business. And no, it's not because I suddenly discovered (like many people pretend to do) that women are being harassed in Egypt! And no, I won't waste your precious time on the usual talk which is being reproduced here and there. Nonetheless, I can't hide how happy I am that Egyptians have (at last!) decided to speak up and publicly condemn this shameful practice, which had in fact turned into a massive plague during the past few years.

I'm glad that nowadays we openly admit that women are not safe in Egypt. And I salute the idea of the campaign launched by the Ministry of Tourism. One of their TV ads show a truck driver harassing a female tourist, who angrily complains that "this has never happened to her anywhere else." The ad ends by telling the harasser, "You're not the only one to lose. We all lose." They might have as well added the label "ONLY IN EGYPT", although I don't believe it's true. Still, we should admit that sexual harassment is not as widely practiced anywhere else as it is in Egypt. In fact, it has become part of an Egyptian female's daily routine! You wake up, get dressed, head to school or university or work, get harassed on the way, and then get harassed again on your way back home.

I really wish to see an ad asking men to stop harassing Egyptian women. Don't get me wrong. I encourage protecting tourists with all my heart. Their safety is the least we can guarantee them while they're visiting our land. But don't you think that we lose more by turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the daily suffering of our own women! Money is not the only thing to lose. And allow me to say that it is the last thing we should care about losing if we lose everything that makes us human.. I'm talking about honor and dignity.

This BCC report, titled "Egypt voices: Sexual harassment", is not only worth reading, but it is also worth writing about. In this report, several Egyptian girls talk about their personal experiences with sexual harassment. Up till here, there's nothing new. What's new is that those girls did so while showing their faces, stating their true names and professions! Now, many will consider this an act of outstanding courage. But I wanna tell you that one becomes that brave (or daring if you might say) when one loses hope. In other words, when you are fed up, and you realize that you're all alone and that things will never get better unless you scream out loud in the desperate hope that someone may overhear you. This does not decrease our respect for their courage, for it takes a very strong person to face a society like ours with such facts. There is no more "I heard that". There is no more "one of my friends got harassed". There is finally a confession in first person pronoun.. "I was harassed". And it didn't stop there, for they moved to describing real incidents.. what the harassers did to them and how they felt during and after this ordeal.

I don't remember how many times I have been verbally harassed. According to the latest survey, 4 out of every 5 females in Egypt get harassed on daily basis! This doesn't mean that the other 1 out of 5 were never subject to sexual harassment.. It simply means that they don't experience it on daily basis. And I believe that this is the first true figure to be announced about sexual harassment in Egypt.. or 'the cancer', as the The Egyptian Center for Women Rights calls it in its latest survey. However, I don't like this metaphor, as it makes harassment sound like it has no cure, while on the contrary, this disease can and must be cured. Its cure lies in the hands of many who have for long chosen to be passive and to simply live in denial. Finally, I'm glad to announce that we're waiting for a law that would punish sexual harassers. However, I don't trust how laws function in our dear third world countries. My own problem, I know.. but it may as well be yours if this law (in case it sees the light) didn't improve anything.

In my previous post I wrote about the ridiculous lollipop ad and warned that it will only serve to provide more support to harassers. I also said that females in this country have got the choice between allowing themselves to be reduced into inanimate objects, or fighting for their humanity and their basic civil rights in a safe street and safe means of transportation. I think it's time to be more specific about what is expected of a girl who values her humanity.

One of the girls interviewed in the report mentioned above said that her mother told her not to answer back to those who harass her. How many times have we heard this, huh? With all respect to our mothers who lived in a different Egypt and who safely wore mini skirts to university without ever meeting an indecent look or gesture.. this dusty advice can go straight to hell. Being raised in shame, swallowing all kinds of insult and abuse in silence so as not to disturb our patriarchal society in its sleep has caused us to reach this dead end we're facing today. Now, what should we wait for? For society to protect us?? Hahaha. Bogus!

I say we keep screaming. It's healthy. Better than increasing the repression and hiding the agony. It is time for this society to wake up and see what it has done to its women.. don't you think so? But meanwhile, you should also seek to defend yourself. Unless you care to stand up for yourself, nobody will care for you. You won't earn anyone's respect if you just keep enduring being slapped. You will turn from being the victim into being guilty. You will be the cross onto which society shall hang all its failures and rottenness. If you have respect for yourself.. and if you think that you deserve to be treated with respect.. raise your head up high and shake off all the shame and guilt that they laid on you. Defend your right and take back your street. Yes, it is yours! It's not Men's Street. It is your street as well. You are not an excess. You are not a lollipop or any goody they want to reduce you into. Put the shame on the one who deserves it. Make the insect who dares touch you or talk to you in an improper way see your disgust, and expose him in front of everyone.

Here are some final tips which are personally tested and proven to reduce harassment. Preventing it, though, would need a collaborative effort. Remember that by being passive you are not only harming yourself, but you are putting hundreds at risk. Think about it.

1. Have a serious look on your face whenever you're walking down the street. This would give any harasser an indication that you're not the quiet, shy kind of girl. He would be reluctant to approach you for fear that his assault might provoke you enough to scream and scandalize him.

2. When you ride a bus or metro, or if you are in a crowded place, don't look around you as if you are expecting to be harassed at any moment. Harassers smell weak girls who are already scared. They know that fear will paralyze you for a few seconds, and that is all they need. Instead, stand up straight. Act confident. Look people in the eye. And if you meet the eye of someone you suspect of being a harasser, don't ever look away. Give him a slight grim mixed with the "Don't-even-think-about-it" kind of look directly in the eye.

3. If you have to walk down a quiet inner alley, don't walk close to the buildings. This will encourage any harasser, because he knows that chances of you being noticed by passers by or inhabitants who might be present in their balconies is minimal. Instead, walk towards the middle of the street. You might think that hiding makes you safe, but in fact you are trapping yourself, being blocked from view. It is also recommended, in case you pass by this alley on daily basis, to save the number of the nearest police station on your mobile.. preferably saving it as "1police", for example. This will make it on top of your phone book list for a fast dial.

4. If you think you're being harassed, do not deceive yourself into mistaking it for a joke. Many girls endure inappropriate comments or gestures made by their colleagues, bosses, teachers…etc, trying to convince themselves that it is just their way of joking, or that those persons have a crude sense of humor! They think that rejecting these acts or being firm would cause embarrassment and unneeded tension! Baby, if you feel bad, awkward, offended, uneasy, or that something is wrong, then it has to be as such. Sugar-coating harassment won't make it sound any better. If you don't stop this early enough, the person who is harassing you (whoever he is.. and yes, he can be as old as your grandfather) will take it as a green light to proceed to more daring stuff. Don't be a willing victim. Denial always makes things worse.

5. If you get harassed, make a scene. This does not only teach your harasser a lesson, but it also makes you stronger as you discover how cowardly those harassers turn to be. You will be more able to defend yourself. Once you lose the fear.. fear of the harasser and fear of speaking out.. you will be amazed as you encounter less and less harassments. By then, you'd think that those insects that roam the streets have suddenly disappeared. But no.. The harassers didn't disappear.. it is the new you that they fear.

Sunday, July 27

The Egyptian Working Woman

A few weeks ago after a long busy day, I decided to sit down and watch a little TV. I was flipping through the channels when I came across an episode of "elbeyout asrar". I started watching in the middle of the episode, and figured out that the subject was women's work. There were two groups of people on the show... The invited guests, which were men and women in their late 40's and 50's, and the audience, which were mainly younger people... Some were college students and others looked like they were in their early 20's. I do not recall the exact words of every person on the show,however, The older people were all pro work. the women all talked about their experiences in life, how their careers helped them, and how their husbands supported them. They talked about their children. More than once they were asked if their careers compromised the care for their children, and they all answered that the children were not compromised. Until here, it all sounds fine and dandy..... you would think that since the older generations think this way, the younger generations will definitely be more open minded, and women will be more career oriented....

Sadly things were not at all this way. The moment the young audience members were given the chance to express their opinions is the moment that things began to go downhill..... A young man, possibly in his early 20's stated that he will not allow his wife to work.. no matter what. He believed a woman's place is her home and nothing more. Another young man said I will give my wife a chance to work and see if she can work, take care of the children alone, and take care of the house alone...( and get this)..... and take care of ME!!!! ( is he 2 or something?? does she need to change his diapers as well??) then he will "ALLOW" her to work, however if she defaults in any way, or if he feels that she is not up to par.... then he will "FORBID" her getting a job or having a career!!!! ( Ya LAHWY!!) Much to my dismay and utter disappointment his sentiments were echoed by several male audience members.. The Female audience members let me down even more.... ALL and I repeat... ALL the women in the audience ( whom I will add that judging from their appearance were in their early 20's) Stated that their "DREAM" was to get married and sit at home.... no one.. I repeat... NO ONE mentioned the desire for a career.... success was nothing they referred to or thought of in any way. They were all college graduates who "chose" to throw away their degree forever!! A couple mentioned they would like to work until they meet the right man.... so for them work was a way of "catching" a husband! When these girls were asked about their ambition, their comment was very similar to the young men... they all agreed that women have no ambition, that a woman's ambition should be to cook and clean and care for children... They agreed that a woman's career ambition is a "myth" that the western media tries to brainwash women into believing!!!

I cannot even begin to express my utter dismay at this picture, or my disappointment at the young women and men of Egypt... At a time when our country is falling deeper and deeper In debt, our educational system is corrupt, various groups are fighting over control of our government... poverty is rampant... health care is sub par to say the least, and inflation is tearing homes apart.... gas prices are rising, bread is scarce... our industries are practically non existent... there is absolutely no form of organized scientific research... no publications, and no funding or resources... at a time when all our young talents are leaving the country to look for a better life abroad.. thus costing us billions... unemployment rates are so high that the norm for young graduates is not being employed At time where our borders are being breached, fundamentalism is gaining new grounds every day, and our country needs a complete overhaul... These women are only thinking about sitting at home... and the men are thinking about how to keep them at home!!

The way I look at things is that our country needs every ounce of work and energy available to help us rise out of this economic and social depression. The concept of a woman working should be a no brainer... The subject has been discussed over and over for more than 120 years... and women have been working since our grandparents came of age in the 40's and the 50's. It is unusual for a society to fall back so much, and for women to lose so much in such a short time. What Egyptian women have worked so hard for is slowly being yanked out from under their feet... and they are totally oblivious. The amount of brainwashing that has happened in our culture over the past 20 years is astounding!! The mystery to me is how do you oppress people while at the same time convincing them that oppression was their idea in the first place... so they think that their oppression is liberation??? I know it sounds confusing but we are living examples of this twisted logic.

I am not against a woman deciding to be a "stay at home mom" . The concept itself is a noble one that involves hard work, selflessness and endless dedication to the growing children. But if all women suddenly decide to stay at home... It is no longer a selfless act... it is actually turned into a very selfish act... Let me explain why:

1- For starters... Children only need their mothers in the first few years of life..... After the age of 4, all kids go to school, so really a mother sitting at home isn't doing much for the child... the child is not getting any more attention, care or love than a child who has a working mother. So sitting at home at this point is selfish... The person is just being lazy and not contributing to society.

For working mothers in Egypt, The Egyptian government has done a lot. A very generous law that does not exist everywhere is the "child care leave". A working woman in Egypt by law can take up to 5 YEARS!!! off of work., and can go back to her job immediately in the same position she was in before she took her leave... so mothers have the option of keeping their jobs while caring for their families at the same time... so if you have 2 kids or less..... you have enough vacations and leaves to cover time off to care for your children... So why do Egyptian mothers want to leave the work force? Unfortunately I cannot answer this question, since everyone who leaves says the excuse is to "care for the family".. Which is a redundant argument....

2- Men argue that they need a wife to "take care" of them...

Unless the man is incapacitated or handicapped in some way, No adult responsible working man needs a woman to take care of him. Men can feed themselves, dress themselves and clean themselves after bowel movements just as well as women... so no, they do not need to be cared for. Men are taught from a young age that they should not lift a finger to care for their house... they should not clean, they should not cook..... all of this " dirty work" is beneath them.... leave it all to the woman... women should do these jobs... to men these jobs are insults.
My question is... why not share house work? share caring for the kids? this way spouses have more time together... women are happier and more rested, so can dedicate more quality time to their significant others and children.. And how exactly does this interfere with a woman's ability to have a career? The young man on TV who mentioned that he will "test" his future wife's ability to multitask without lifting a finger to help her really infuriated me... Is this how we are raising Egyptian men? to be selfish self-centered conceited judgemental spoiled brats? and at the same time we are teaching the young women that they are not worthy enough to complain?? Just be quiet and quit work and do what the almighty man dictates!!!he is superior so his opinion shall prevail no matter what?? Excuse me while I go barf at the mere thought !!
I would have been happier if the young man had said, I will see what my wife can do, and help out with the rest so we can both have careers, and we can both be happy!!! Why are they all oblivious to this concept??

3- Men argue that if a man can afford to care for the house financially, a woman doesn't HAVE to work....

This is actually one of the most annoying arguments. Women in Egypt cost the government thousands of pounds to get a college education.... so if a woman chooses not to work, she should pay back this money so another person can use it to be educated and benefit society. Sitting at home after costing hundreds of thousands of pounds to get an education is a waste of public resources that should not be allowed.... It is no wonder we are in debt... money is being thrown left and right to give "free" college education to people who do not need it and will not use it.

If this money is used by the ministry of education to fund research in labs wouldn't it be better spent? wouldn't it help Egyptians more than if the money is thrown away by women who would like to sit at home?? One of the major reasons of lack of scientific research in Egypt is the lack of Equipment and supplies that are needed to run the labs.... intelligent people who know science or medicine are not enough for conducting research..... equipment that no one can afford... which costs millions is needed before any research can be carried out. .. so this is my argument..... if you don't want to use it, then don't take it!!!

I believe in free college education only to those who will use it to benefit society... so no... there is no such thing as someone who doesn't "have" to work.

4- People argue that women are crowding men and pushing them out of work... They make this claim saying that women don't need the jobs and are doing it for "fun" so it is best that they just sit at home and clean and cook.....

To this claim, I would like to respond that not all women have someone who supports them. Some women are widows with children... some are single, some are married, but with the current level of income in Egypt, one salary is never enough!!! sometimes 2 salaries are not enough either, and one of the spouses ends up getting a second job. To men who feel that women are overcrowding them I say, please don't be short sighted.... do not underestimate the value of the woman who works in the neighboring office.... she may be doing more for her family than any man could. Women in the work place need to be acknowledged, respected and appreciated. They do not "overcrowd" and their value in the workplace is not any less than their male colleagues. I came across this very interesting documentary on youtube. If women are suddenly not allowed to work, or their presence is not tolerated in the workplace, what would the women in this video do??

5- People argue that there aren't enough jobs for everybody... so women need to sit at home, and let the men work, so every family will have at least one income!!

To this claim I would like to say that even though there aren't enough sources of income for work for everyone, however, there is so much work that needs to be done that no one is doing. The one concept that we rarely ever hear of in Egypt is volunteering.

I believe it is the duty of every capable Egyptian person whether male or female to volunteer in some way to help society. Public hospitals are a mess. Patients need assistance left and right. In most countries high school and college students volunteer in the summer to help in hospitals. they wheel patients to their rooms. They sit at information desks and give directions. They assist with placement of patients in rooms in the public clinics.... they even help clean the place. This practice is much needed in Egypt, it will give idle young people something to do,they will get experience and they will help others.

In rural areas illiteracy is rampant. We need volunteers to educate these people.
Our streets need cleaning. We need volunteers to help with that too.
We need money for education, health care, food for the poor...etc. we need volunteers to help.
We have millions of homeless children... we need volunteers to feed them and teach them and get them off of the streets.
We don't have enough blood in our blood banks, we need volunteers to help with the blood drives.
We have special needs children in schools, we need people to help with those children.
We have old people who are alone, or can't cook or are incapacitated, we need volunteers to help them.
We have public schools where there aren't enough teachers, and classes are overcrowded.. we need volunteers there too.

The examples are endless... I can go on forever. So to say there isn't enough to do is an understatement. There is plenty to do, but we choose not to do them. If people are complaining of unemployment, and can afford to live without a job at least temporarily, they should go volunteer. Women who are married to men that can afford to take care of the house financially should go volunteer. High schoolers and college students in their summer breaks should go volunteer. Being idle at home should not be an option. Progress is not easy and it comes with a price. If we don't pay this price, then who will?? Our strength as Egyptians comes in our numbers and in our intelligence. We need to not waste them, since they are our most precious assets. Women who sit at home waste valuable manpower, that we all need to move forward.

SO to say that women should stay at home is selfish, and is something that is said by people who only think of themselves. Our country needs us, we are the driving force behind the progress of our nation. We all need to work together,. Whining about corruption or where money went will not help us. Working together will. I am not saying that corruption is not a factor, but I am saying Corruption has become the excuse for everything wrong with our lives a " mosmar go7a" if you will, that we hang all of our problems on. There is so much more we can do to make Egypt better.... we just need to try!

Monday, July 14

Retards Make It to The Atlantic

The money quote:
"You won't be able to stop them (i.e. guys), but you can protect yourself. He who created you knows what's best for you!"

Hello all the lollipops out there.. and the flies too. Hope everybody's is doing great in Candyland!

Well, I've -unfortunately- seen this stupid ad in many places around the internet. I even received it in an email! (Some of my buddies have gone into the habit of spamming lately.) When I first laid eyes on it, the only thing that came to mind was.. WTF? I felt disgusted and offended beyond belief. And every time I saw it on a blog or a Facebook group the same lump found its way to my throat.

Until, one day, I saw it on The Atlantic! Even Andrew Sullivan seems to have been moved by it. Yeah.. Voila.. It's right there in my face.. But this time there was something new about it. I thought I saw a tongue sticking out from behind the lollipops! Most probably it was the working of my insulted brain which in turn intoxicated my imagination. I rubbed my eyes, looked back again.. still nothing changed.. There is the stupid ad, the lollipops, the flies and the tongue!

Sandmonkey has said enough about this, that I need say no more. Although in his post he has reached an awkward conclusion assuming that hijabi females themselves are the ones responsible for this stupid campaign! (Why?.. No clue.) Wish such a disgusting ad would have stayed at home.. but uhuh.. that's just one of the disadvantages of Globalization.. Things cannot be kept at home for too long! Now, the whole world can see the latest inventions of the Egyptian mind! That's how Egyptians use the evil West's modern technology.. precisely, as manifest in Photoshop! See? Who on earth could have thought of this but us? It still is creative, if you can somehow bring yourself to take out the "sick" aspect of it.

Let's cast all that aside now, and please bear to look at this thing (sorry) from a fresh angle.. an Egyptian one as well.

I don't believe hijab propagandists have grown that desperate while seeking to influence more girls to wear hijab, knowing that almost 80% of Egyptian females today are hijab-wearers. What's freaking me out about this ad, though, is its indirect encouragement to sexual harassers!

Seeing this ad from a boy's eyes, the message is totally reversed from a presumably "religious", "pious", or "moral" cause, to an implication that sexual harassment is the norm, and that whoever dislikes it should make this clear by dropping down a veil over her head.. so as to say, become marked. You guys are thus being encouraged to direct your sexual advancements towards those who do not hold this mark.. the X.

Mind you.. How come we see no ads, stickers, flyers, posters or the like, telling guys to back off? or reminding them of the punishment of a sexual harasser in the afterlife? The doors of hell seem to be wide open exclusively to females!.. and in today's Egypt those females are defined as those who do not cover their hair! On the other hand, though, nothing whatsoever is said about male sexual harassers. Sometimes I even imagine that they are ready to place a reward for those who harass females down the streets or means of public transportation! And the message that is being transmitted all the time sounds like "Girls are asking for it. Girls deserve it. Girls are the source of evil. Girls are temptation. Girls are the ones who push you to sin, and if you give in to their temptation you are just a poor fellow, and it is totally human, and God will forgive you for being weak. But she.. she will burn in eternal hell."

I can't believe I'm about to do this.. But let me play a devil's advocate for a while.

Suppose that girls are asking to be harassed.. Supposed that they enjoy your sneaky hand exploring their bodies.. Suppose they are just pretending to be offended while in secret that is what they are seeking after.. And suppose that you are merely answering their call. Why don't you count your sister among them? Why don't you count your wife among them? Why don't you count your daughter among them? Are they immune? Or.. the question I'd better ask is.. Are they marked as untouchables?

Here it is. In a man's world you can not place any restrictions on men. You can not ask them to be moral, religious, God-fearing.. or even human. Most of them will be delighted by the thought of being considered as insects, as long as they are allowed to roam freely and indulge in every low desire. "So what? Call me an insect.. Fine by me. But let those lollipops be prepared for my adventures. Let them know that they can never hope to get rid of my jaws and my stinky tongue. Let them surrender to my rules."

Islamist Fundamentalists exploit this patriarchal rot seeking their own advantages. They are other insects of another kind, feeding on social fungus. For them, reforming manners and calling people to abide by high morals means their distinction. What will they feed on when there is no more rot? While the status-quo is so full of advantages.. that's their ultimate playground. That's why they can exercise their influence at full length. Patriarchs will appreciate this license to sin, while in return they will offer huge support to those fundamentalists.. after all, they are the ones in power.. they control society.. and those fellow insects will help them to gain more control.

Girls in this position have no choice. They are not doers, and they are brought up to believe that they can never aspire to be doers. They are the done-by. You either accept the marking system (the veil) or you are exposed to waves of criticism and rebuke for being the primary source of evil on earth. You can not break this affiliation between patriarchy and islamic fundamentalism.. it is a match made in heaven!.. and you are too weak to dare question their values.

But wait a minute.. Your submission is not solving anything.. not even for you. On the contrary.. it is making things much worse. By accepting to play the role of the lollipop, you are in fact declaring the death of humanity. You are the one building Candyland with your own hands. And you're building it for insects to enjoy! In Candyland, there are only lollipops and flies.. Flies are the living organisms, they rule.. lollipops are merely inanimate objects. Wrapped or unwrapped, they still are the same. Insects will consume you one way or another.

Believe it or not.. you can stop all this! You have the power within you to decide and choose, because you are still a human being. So, you can either choose to stay as such and change your society to better, inspiring them to stick on to their humanity, and refusing to be exploited in such a way.. or.. you can go ahead and surrender.. go with the flow.. be the lollipop and lose any hope in becoming a human being once more. It all lies within your hands.

Thursday, June 26

D for Dream

Been a while since my last post.. You might think I've started to get lazy or that my enthusiasm is fading. Wait until you hear my side of the story..

I didn't follow a tradition that I saw lots of bloggers following.. and that is celebrating their blogging anniversary, or as you might say the "birthday" of their blogs! It's not that I missed the date or that I didn't think of anything to write.. As a matter of fact, it was quite the contrary. First of all, I can never forget the day I started this blog.. a day which opened a door to a wonderful experience, that looking back now I can't imagine how life was before. Secondly, I shall be forever grateful for the blessings that this blog bestowed on me.. If only for the friends I made, I can write a book.. a big fat happy one.

So, why has my production decreased and why have I been slower?

Well, you might think it's funny, or that I'm joking.. But the truth is.. my production has actually increased, and super fast! Today, I write on several blogs, several groups on the booming Facebook, and I'm the editor-in-chief of a very promising online mag! I've reached out to thousands of people, not only in Egypt, but in different places around the world. I somehow got used to reading about my blogs and groups in Egyptian and Arab newspapers and magazines, or hearing about them on TV. (Had only one TV appearance because I am keen on privacy.)

All of this in only one year! And what a year! I've grown a lot in this year, I gotta say. I've stretched myself to the max and kept branching wherever I could. Mind you, I have a life.. and a very busy one!.. I'm not an online geek. Yet, being a person driven by passion and a strong belief in the message I'm seeking to communicate to the world, it just happened naturally, without any plans.

Aiming high, there was always a force pushing me forward and urging me to do my best. Throughout my life, I've never stopped to celebrate my achievements.. and maybe that's why I didn't celebrate my first year of blogging. What's more important, though, is knowing that there has been an accomplishment and being willing to increase it.

Still, I had to pause and catch some breath. I had to look and see where I'd be heading next. It's good to be driven for a while, but you shall never allow yourself to lose track. Being dedicated to cause is a human blessing, and being able to serve this cause in an efficient way is a double bless. And that's precisely what I'm after.. efficiency.

Back when I was young, success for me was merely "overcoming a challenge," given the many obstacles on the way to it. I believe most girls get tricked the same way, and that might be the reason why they don't continue towards making solid achievements.. Their experiences are usually cut off when they think they've reached the end of the road, like when you pass the last and biggest challenge in a computer game. And that's it for them.. screen says YOU WON!.. so that's where the game ends, right? Society consumes us into this empty game of overcoming challenges towards small milestones that are not by any means an aim in themselves.. Yet, girls are being deceived into mistaking them for a end.

Take education for instance.. A college degree for most of the Egyptian girls is an end in itself. You'd scarcely meet a girl who has planned her career, even if she's about to receive her degree. Some of them do not even make up their minds whether they'll pursue a career or not! "Let me finish the challenge at hand.. that's my success", a typical girl would think.

It is indeed a big challenge to think outside this box into which society has confined us. That's why our girls are not demanding in any way (except when it comes to material demands, huh?). They're kept in their little world, their computer game, their Barbie house.. and likewise, their dreams are tiny, earthly and shortsighted. I wonder if the word "dream" is even appropriate to use in this miserable context. Dreaming women contribute to shaping our world, while those girls never make it past their itsy-bitsy doll houses. And, I must say, they were brought up to think that this is how far they can go, and be safe!

Women who make big achievements are usually categorized as bitches. You can either be a weak woman, or a successful bitch!.. And if you've got a brain, you've got to be a bitch. That's the patriarchal culture we live in. You think and act, then you've trespassed your feminine limitations into the masculine territory. Now, you have to be ready to pay the price. It's not only that in your case the road to success was the hardest of all.. wait until you get there and you'll be damned for it.

Thus, motivation and strong will are other big challenges in a woman's world. Many women think that whatever they can achieve is not worth being stoned for it. Therefore, they follow the safety instructions listed in their old grannies' manuals, which they learned to trust and treasure so dearly. Wisdom is always good, you know. What they don't know, however, is that wisdom never built anything or invented anything. If we allow ourselves to get stuck in this old wisdom safe box, we can never move a single step ahead. Stepping ahead has got its risks.. and you can never be able to take those risks unless you are a dreamer. If you dream, you dare take risks. Only then will you discover, and grow, and make a change.

So, what has this got to do with what I was talking about in the beginning of this post? Alright.. I've been reflecting on the difference between thinking, writing down your thoughts, and publishing those thoughts. Many people think to themselves and then lock up their thoughts inside their heads.. or maybe exchange bits and pieces of their views during friendly chats. Other people have got what it takes to give these thoughts a written form and deliver a coherent piece of their minds. They may keep a journal for themselves, or share it with friends and dear ones. Yet, publishing one's thoughts is a totally other thing.

This blog started with a dream dwelling inside my mind.. and when I dared raise up my voice and reach out to the world, this dream finally made sense. Not only so, it developed in so many ways that I've never thought of.

My partnership with Egyptian Feminist Chic has allowed this dream to evolve, and acted as a live manifestation of how dreams meet and create a new hope. No one can imagine how much we both have in common.. and I wouldn't have found that out if I hadn't taken the decision of going public. She, on the other hand, could have easily been one of those who drift over this blog and say to herself "nice" and move on. But because she is a dreamer, she didn't. She actually took the time to express herself and share ideas and discussions. She had her say. And before she knew it, she turned into a blogger. (I must ask her how this felt like.)

This brings us to the big dream.. a Modern Egyptian Feminist Movement that would inspire women to fight for their rights. All of you are invited to contribute to this one. I've grown so tired of thinking alone, and I stopped this habit a year ago. Let's all cast our cards and think together.. How can such a movement be possible? Does it have to follow the footsteps of the movement we once had in the beginning of the previous century? Does it have to be led by someone from the political arena? How can we pave the way for such a dream to take shape and become real? What's our role as intellectual women and men in bringing about such a movement? OR.. Is there an alternative method through which we can achieve the same aims?

OR.. Am I merely being insane?
"When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid" - Audre Lorde