I’m an Egyptian woman and I like being sexually harassed

Acknowledging harassment #3

I wake up every morning looking forward to getting sexually harassed in Cairo. Because a day gone by without being whistled at like cattle or groped like a melon at a vegetable store is a day unlived in this city. Right?

I even dress according to how often I’d like to get harassed that day. Tight white t-shirt? That’s the number one sign that I’m asking for it. Skinny jeans are obviously worn to highlight my butt so men know what to grab (some short-sighted idiots completely miss and grab my hip instead, which is just plain insulting).

And since I don’t cover my hair, then obviously I know what shit I’m getting myself into by walking on the streets of the city I call home as an equal citizen to the men that lurk on corners, outside shops, dangling from microbuses, waiting happily.

As an Egyptian woman, I completely understand that my purpose in this life is to serve the sexually frustrated imaginations of these poor men who can’t get it up.

As an Egyptian woman, I completely understand that my purpose in this life is to serve the sexually frustrated imaginations of these poor men who can’t get it up. My father and mother spent years of sweat, tears and hard-earned cash on educating me into an emancipated woman so that one day I become a walking piece of meat on the street. Obviously.

Then I discovered that all the hours I put into my hair and makeup make no difference whatsoever to my sexual predators; I could walk around with my uncombed hair and a gallabeya; hell, I could wear a black tent from head to toe and still, they’d find something sexual about me. Ever heard Egyptian men talk about how erotic the Niqab is? Yeah, apparently there’s nothing you can do or wear to incite harassment.

Just the plain fact that you have boobs and they don’t means you’re up for grabs, literally.

 Ever heard Egyptian men talk about how erotic the Niqab is? Yeah, apparently there’s nothing you can do or wear to incite harassment.

I could spend what’s left of my pea-sized woman’s brain wondering what I did to deserve this friendly male reception, or analyzing why society has continuously objectified us little women into pigeon-holes of either innocent, doe-eyed girls or rampant whores; but I won’t. It takes too much brain power, and me being the weaker sex, I should stick to what I do best, which according to these men, is nothing.

Which is why I should never talk back, or look back, or yell or ask for help; this is my fate, I must accept it. And not even the veil can protect me from my Muslim brothers.

Me being the weaker sex, I should stick to what I do best, which according to these men, is nothing.

So I play a little game in my head. It’s like walking through a video game scene, where every man is a potential predator, and I keep my radar finely tuned, my walk fast and dontmesswithme, my eyes scanning every corner for attackers. Over the years, I’ve acquired a Robocop face that occasionally scares the living shit out of small children and animals, and my middle finger is my video game weapon that I choose to shoot when the moment comes.

But I only keep it for those who really deserve it; I ask myself ‘Is this the worst line I’ve heard all day? Has he managed to completely annihilate my self-esteem?’ If so, then he gets the finger. If not, I just walk on.

I ask myself ‘Is this the worst line I’ve heard all day?

And I defy what my well-intentioned mother and many other kind Egyptians have taught me, and I answer back. Why should men get all the fun?

Him: Bsssst! Bsssssst! Bssssssst!!

Me: Bsssst dee teb2a ommak.

Him: WELKOM TO EEJIPT!

Me: SANK YOU!

Him: Wat Zis? Wat Zis? Wat Zis? WAT ZIS?

Me: Zis is etnayel yala.

Him: Matgeeb Bosa?

Me: Ma3ak Dettol?

Him: Oh MAI GODD!

Me: Ommak Ar3a.

And as fun as it is to talk back, I’m sure I’m not getting the same kick out of it that they are. And I know that it could only make things worse for me, my predator could easily attack me in broad daylight or get his friends together to follow me like a pack of rabid dogs, and of course it will be my fault because I talked back, when I should ignore it and accept that this is the price you pay for being a woman in Egypt. Right?

The English text was written and originally posted on Diary of a DeskGirl in Cairo on June 20, as part of the #endSH initiative to blog and tweet against sexual harassment.

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18 thoughts on “I’m an Egyptian woman and I like being sexually harassed

  1. BRILLIANT!!! This is so genius, thank you Deskgirl for writing down what is on every woman’s mind in the Arab world. I would like to add that I can totally relate as this happens to me everyday in Ramallah. Thank you again, well done!

  2. Very nice put, sometimes we have to laugh at our misery in order to digest it’s existence, u are a very brave girl, keep speaking up, keep shouting back at them, one day we will reclaim our bodies back and that’s because women like u and me refused to shut up when we get sexually harassed. Stay strong, stay blunt :)

  3. This is sad and the helplessness must be frustrating I am sure.

  4. it’s the same around here in bangladesh. maybe yours is a little worse. we get to “show flesh” because of our mixed culture… idk, what to tell you, because i know it’s f’ing frustrating. moreso, when you do object/talk back/ show any sign of protest you have to become a matter of shame/ more-in-the-focus of public gaze. WHORE (vb.) like you are, “sister”… like everyone…
    for some reason, probably writing about these are either seen as a desperate cry for help (where apparently we are given [pseudo-]freedom) or we trying to get attention or praise from the more-powerful-parts-of-the-world. sigh… such smart hypotheses!

  5. Last time I was in Egypt I was never been harassed..AlhamduLELLAH and thanks to my Niqab..my niece doesn’t wear neither the niqab nor the hijab..she gets harassed sometimes.. she respond back by shouting and name calling..Shouting and name calling work usually..some guys think it’s cute..I hope this wont end up by her getting raped or attacked by a thug though..may Allah guide us all..salam

  6. the first time i was groped, i was probably 11. this, despite the fact that we lived in a cantonment area which is relatively a very safe place; comprised of mostly army officers and their families, compared to the rest of the bustling, danger-labeled, uncontrollable city. moreover i had been with an elder girl, in broad day light on an large, main street with the assailant coming from the front. i cannot put into words how the shame, humiliation and disgust i felt changed me, but my mother found it odd that my gait changed drastically to a slouch, with me practically coiled to spring back from incoming lewdness and physical violation. i was forever ashamed. my expressions when outside grew to be a hard, angry one to ward off potential perpetrators with how stern i looked. And It still hasn’t changed. i hunched to cover whatever non existing boobs i had. all this when i hadn’t even reached my teen years. It happened again then, despite my guard, a year later in a crowded bazaar, when my mom was with me. Now 23, im reluctant to step outside at all,with or without anybody. But i’ve also acquire whip lash reflexes and am forever looking over my shoulder, at my shadow, out of the corner of my eye etc to see whose gaining on me or is hovering around me or generally making me suspicious. which is a just about anybody who is around me and within striking/approachable distance. Also, i blame all men for this; Most Do it, some cover it by not sticking up for us and enjoying/silently watching it, the rest discourage us from speaking out with the threat of honor and hide it while blaming our appearances. so all the fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, lovers, boyfriends out there. if one of the men has violated us, its as if you all had, by virtue of your passivity.

  7. I urge anyone who feels powerless to take some self defence classes and learn how to protect yourself. I have luckily only been physically ‘touch’ once in a main street in daylight walking with a friend. I thought they were going to try and steal our bags so told my friend put your bag in the centre next to mine. They were walking towards us, one man walked towards my side and the other was a bit further back. I felt him touch my bum so as I turnec round I kicked his legs with one leg and pushed him to the ground with my opposite arm. His friend was so shocked he ran off scared. They don’t expect you to fight back so you have the surprise element on your side. Self Defence not only makes you able to protect yourself you stand taller as you are not affraid of these idiots!

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