Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Street Is Not Ours

Been listening lately to "The Street is Ours" (Elshare3 Lena). Do you remember this song from Youssef Chahine's famous movie 3awdet el2ebn eldal? Then it occurred to me.. Actually the street isn't ours any more, and by "ours" I mean females. Can you imagine how a girl feels when she walks down the street? It is so weird, that the most public of places became the scariest. No, the street is not ours. We walk down the street as if we are crossing a lake of crocodiles. We speed up as much as we can, that sometimes you can't tell if a girl is walking or running. We expect a sudden attack by anyone, even young school boys who feel that saying a dirty word makes them men. That's because the culture of violence against women has become a horrifying fact in our daily life. It found its manifestation through sexual harassments which are practiced by many, and I mean many boys and men in the streets and means of public transportation.

The cultural shift that Egypt has gone through has unfortunately resulted in a lapse in society's consciousness and its view of women. Women became pounds of flesh walking on two feet. They are just bodies, a means for temptation, which need to be covered up from the eyes of men. But the same theory that was used to justify why we should suddenly all cover up (as if Islam is a discovery of the 21st century) had an opposite effect. Instead of protecting women from those hungry wolves (used to be called men), harassments became a common practice in our streets. We also went as far as witnessing massive harassment attacks during an Islamic feast! Many of the victims of those attacks were veiled girls. The wolves didn't differentiate between covered and uncovered meat. It's all flesh in the end.

The increasing violence against women that we witness nowadays is a result of the inferior position of females in our society. Women are looked down on in such a way which turned them into a means for pleasure. They are not fully human, but sub-humans, in a way which resembles the old ideas which slavery was based upon. Slaves in this context did not have any rights, because if God had cared for them He wouldn't have created them black. The whites at those times saw the slaves as a lesser species. They needed the white man to have a goal in life, that is serving this white man. The same applies to women nowadays, in a culture which stresses the body of the woman either but covering it all up, or over-showing it in indecent music videos which our Arabic channels are full of today.

Sexual harassment takes different shapes and methods. Not all of which has to be by a physical as most people think. Verbal harassment is the most common, cause it doesn't need the victim to be in direct contact with the attacker, it is fast, gives the chance for a quick escape, and the attacker doesn't have to plan it before hand. The verbal sexual attacker can easily turn into a physical sexual predator. But is this verbal harassement categorized as violence? Yes, it is. Because by merely dropping a sexual comment the attacker can not only hurt the feelings of his victim, but also makes her feel afraid and ashamed! It is a kind of terrorism, which makes a girl feel insecure and shaken by a mysterious guilt. It is a very strange thing that victims of sexual harassment bear those feelings of shame and guilt which an attacker ought to have instead. But the image that society keeps feeding up is that a girl is always guilty, even if she is the victim, cause she has the body, the source of temptation.

Our streets won't be safe again until we have the courage to face the problem and talk about it. This problem would never be solved unless a girl is welcomed again into the human species and received the respect she deserves from society.


vagabondblogger said...

I live near several popular restaurants in Maadi. We regularly see young people, including many young women, wearing the hijab up and down the streets here on their way to the restaurants. The boabs, guards, police (and we're stupid enough to think they'll actually protect us) all cock up to attention on Friday afternoons when it's very busy. Even with the hijab, and some with revealing tight skinned clothing and some more modestly dreesed all the mens eyes are these women, as if they're temptresses, as if this doesn't happen every single day around here.
You're right, women are always to blame, regardless of how they behave. Wearing a scarf / hijab does not make a woman safer. And regardless of what people say, men are the same all over the world - howling wolves.

I said...

"Slaves in this context did not have any rights, because if God had cared for them He wouldn't have created them black. The whites at those times saw the slaves as a lesser species."

I think you will find the arab man thought the same and while the white man recognised the error of his ways, the arab man to this day has not.

Some recommeded reading would be the trans saharan salve trade.

Amre El-Abyad said...

Well, in Egypt socio-cultural development plans failed because of the burden ste had tocarry after 1967.So, millions immigrate from villages to Cairo where they impose their rura value system.

In thepre 1952 era, Egyptian middle class was very strong and civil, and well managed to impose Urbane values on new comers. But when it is compared to size of population, howver, it was small and influential.

Now the problemhas become more comlex, with thedeterioration with educational standars and the return of millions of "middle class" Egyptians from the gulf loaded with constricted, backward stupid ideas.

The so called liberals inEgypt are complascent eliticts that are culturally colonalised, and who don't have any sense of responsibilty toward their poor developing country.

lak allah ya masr

pink said...

I liked your article but you did promise to address the root causes...

what justification do men have from the high ranking official to the teenager in the street to look down on women?

Om Luji said...

Welcome and thanks for your comment.
You actually proved my point here; it is not the clothes, not the hair of course, which can protect women against harassment or make them feel safer. It is society's view of women, which makes even those who, as you said, are supposed to protect us unable to find a moral barrier to prevent them from engaging into such acts.

Om Luji said...

I hope the Arab man will realise his mistakes soon, cause he is also paying a price.
Thanks for your recommendation.

Om Luji said...

amre el-abyad:
I totally agree with your analysis. I expressed the same views on a previous post.
However, I find that some Egyptian librals are sincerely trying to do something, but their voices are too weak to get through in the middle of the current fundamentalist uprisal. Some of them may also shock the public with their liberal views, which people feel urged to turn against. At this stage, the public isn't ready to talk logic or development (they are only emotional), so whoever wants to really make a change has to make some compromises and be more of a pragmatist.

Om Luji said...

If you read between the lines of this post, you will find the root causes that you are looking for.
It is a whole culture with its different references, it is under the skin, and it found the richest soil in the extremism we witness nowadays.

i said...

is the arab man paying a high price? did they pay the price for killing those sudanese in the square last year?


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Id it is said...

What an interesting read!
This epidemic of sexual harassment is not limited to Egypt but seems to have spread far and wide. Going by the literature of the times countries like India, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Pakistan are doing it to their women too. Sometimes i wonder if women bring it upon themselves by being silent victims and in a way condoning the very violation of their basic rights.

salama moussa said...

I read a letter in El-Masry El-Yom from a veiled woman arguing that only non-veiled women get abused. Actually I wonder why some women hate their sisters in gender that much!! It seems that veiled women now consider non-veiled 2 be something near 2 satans or at best very corrupted. It is apparent 2 anyone wanna see that harrasment is meant 2 be against all kinds of women. Maybe it could be directed more towards the non-veiled ladies as the society started 2 think of them as easy get women!! After a while, this look will extend 2 include even veiled women and may exclude only "monaqabbat" women. Kaman after few years or months it will include any woman who gets out of her house. Where are we heading sa7ee7? Thanks Om Luji for this great pleasure of mind that u offer in ur blog.

Om Luji said...

Men are paying a price because as members of society they are suffering the decline in social values and they are risking the safety of female members of their families.

Om Luji said...

Unique Muslimah:
I am honored. Thanks dear for publishing my post on this huge site. I truely appreciate it and I was so happy to read my words there.

Om Luji said...

id it is:
Welcome and thanks for commenting. I totally agree with you. Women should start defending themselves against harassment, and the first step is to break the wall of silence which is encouraging such beasts.

Om Luji said...

Thanks for your sweet compliment. I certainly hope that those predictions of yours won't happen, but unfortunately there are indications which show that we are walking down this road. I will still carry the hope and continue writing anyway.

Hany Barakat said...

Dear Om Luji,

An amazing post addressing a very important issue that started to appear in Cairo (and maybe all Egypt, I don't know)...

I just want comment on a couple of sentences...
1. "Many of the victims of those attacks were veiled girls." really? Where did you get this information from?

2. "is a result of the inferior position of females in our society." I really think it has nothing to do with the women! As you said, regardless of what you are wearing, something might happen to you! It doesn't matter how the girl looks, what she wears! Maybe I just hate generalization... My point of view is, yes it's something bad going on, and many in-mature boys out there causing all that, but it has nothing to do with females being in inferior position...

These boys are poor, in-mature, live most of their lives in the streets, treated like animals from the police, the army, and even the whole society! I'm not defending them, but if we want to generalize and say that women are in inferior position, then it’s the whole society’s fault, including women!

We have to confess women still don't have all the rights a boy could get (staying out late... etc.), but it has always been this way... girls in 60s used to wear minis everywhere! But nothing used to happen to them! The only difference is, now, many boys are having hard time to live, to get married, to have a job... to even have a life!

You want a better society? Give people the opportunity to live a better life, that's when they'll start to live like humans, and then act like one.

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