Saturday, October 27, 2012

Harassment in Cairo

There's been a lot of media coverage lately of sexual harassment in Cairo, around Tahrir Square. And in this piece, it's being talked about and men are trying to stop it. And that is a step forward.

I don't know what the problem is with harassment in Cairo. Surely it's to do with poverty and ignorance mixed with lack of exposure to women aside from via TV, and if you don't believe me on the ignorance, check out this video about catcalling in New York. The men who do it claim that it makes women fell good.

Which is nonsense. It makes people feel scared, embarrassed, and horrible. So these are men who are not impoverished, but still manage the ignorance part of the equation.

I had a clue something was up in Egypt the first time I went there in 1999, but I was with two guys, so the soldiers wrapping their arms around me and suggesting someone take a photo didn't seem too harmful. Plus, this was no different than the mild hassle I'd get in most countries.

On the next trip (November, 2001), I'd just gotten off the train in Cairo when this happened:

I got in a taxi at the Cairo train station. By the time the driver asked "which Hilton," we were already underway, and it was too late for me to find a driver who'd heard of the Magic Hotel.

The driver groped my leg. Startled, I jumped.

"Sorry," he said. "So beautiful..."

"Gross," was my reply. "That's disgusting. You shouldn't touch tourists. Pull over. Let me out right now."

As luck would have it, he pulled over and I got out right in front of the tourist police and the Nile Hilton.

"You're disgusting," I announced, emboldened by the police presence. I refused to pay him and he fled quickly without argument.

And here are some 2007 stories: 
Walking to Zamalek He unzipped his pants.
Glimpses of Flashes I've been hearing others that trump mine completely.
Fun with Taxis "No, I mean..." He made an obscene motion with his finger. "I love you."

My stories are nothing compared to the stories of women who actually live in Cairo. This happens to everyone, not just foreigners or protestors.

The fact that it's finally being addressed doesn't mean it never happened before. Only that people are finally trying to stop it. But it may be that taking down a corrupt dictator was the easy part. 


Zora said...

There's a _great_ movie about harassment, called Cairo 678 . It came out in late January 2011--so got a little lost in the shuffle around the revolution.

What's exceptionally good about it is that it's about Egyptian women, and it happens to be highly entertaining (even for an awful subject).

People often assume harassment in Egypt comes from having pale skin or blond hair or whatever. But it's easy for visitors--we can just leave. Egyptian women have to deal with it all the damn time.

This movie is worth seeking out--it's got a great cast, including some classic Egyptian film stars, and it's really well put together, weaving together stories of three women from different social classes who all experience harassment and how they deal with it. (One story is based on the true one of the first woman in Egypt who brought a legal case against her harasser.)

It's worth seeking out!

Marie Javins said...

That sounds great. I will find it!