Written by Mariem ELTagoury

*Please note that names of places & people are kept discreet for privacy issues. Also any use of Franco Arab in this article is to deliver the detailed picture of incidents. 

*The pun in the title is intended. Please, dear readers feel free to add the punctuation mark of your choice (!,?)


I’m sitting here with a split mind. I had the intention to talk about a more provocative topic today but I’m stuck here with a nagging in the back of my head due to an incident that I found myself in  a couple of weeks back. I might as well succumb to that annoying poke and write about it.

So one week I grudgingly found myself, for reasons that will not add much to this story, in the midst of a huge discussion about politics. The talk included it all: Elbernamg, the army, the MB… all the works. Then came the topic of the presidential candidates; people started expressing their choices and reasons to support certain candidates. When the time came for me to talk, I mentioned the candidate I intended to support and when asked for a reason, I replied “because I believe that this candidate can provide the safety that we lack. Lately I find I can’t walk beyond the region I live in without being exposed to so much danger and harassment on the streets…Actually I don’t recall when was the last time I felt safe on the streets even before the 25th Jan revolution…” As my voice drawled on, I recalled the moments when I was a teen, as I’d start my day by thinking over and over about how to make my daily outfits as unattractive as possible. The disgusting words I’d hear on the streets, the first time someone grabbed my behind, the continuous fear that consumes us girls of Egypt as we try to avoid the words, the touching, the spit, the unknown being thrown at us; the memories of harassment and violence against us women on the streets flashed through my head. I started feeling self pity, as I poured out my daily fear. I didn’t like to sound like this, weak, helpless and desperate.

When I ended my talk, some supported me, some disagreed at the ability of the candidate to achieve safety, and then one guy said “I think you’re selfish… you’ll vote for a candidate so that you can walk around!” 

I stared, I mumbled, I smiled and it passed; but the words rang in my ears for the rest of the week. It swirled in my head fogging out my thoughts. Was I really selfish? It led me to sit down and write the things I really needed and wanted from my future country. This is what I got:

  1. I want to have the freedom and ability to transport myself anywhere, at anytime, in my city alone safely.
  2. I want the equal opportunity to a job, with a salary that would allow me to support myself.
  3. I want people to stop judging me by my gender, my marital status, how I look, how I dress, etc…

That was it.

To me I think it’s a small list, maybe to others it seems like a big deal. Now that I think about it, I am in fact willing to do everything possible within my power to gain each and every one of those needs on my list. So maybe that makes me selfish. Selfish; for feeling like I deserve to walk around in peace and not have ten eyes on my head swirling around keeping a radar alert for my next attacker. Selfish; for feeling like I deserve to live life with a little bit of dignity. Selfish; for wanting to be an independent adult.

As the swirl of selfish thoughts pass through my head, I can’t help wondering: are women like me selfish? Or do we happen to live in a selfish society?


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