Written by Mariem ELTagoury
*Please note that names of places & people are kept discreet for privacy issues. Also the use of Franco Arab in this article is to deliver the detailed picture of incidents.
A few days ago, I was contemplating writing about a totally different topic. But last Thursday, I went through quite a day which changed the whole course of my column for this week. Today, I’ll be talking about the wide spreading disease of bipolar disorder within the men of our society. Yes! I’m surprised no one has noticed it yet!
Having done a few office-dress crimes throughout my 6 week of training (there was one time when I tumbled out of bed, zipped on a jump suit and headed straight to the office. In my defence, it was during Ramadan and it’s never as easy to wake up without coffee), I made a resolution to dress office appropriate for the last remaining days of my training in order to leave a good impression, and to walk up to the HR with a high head and demand a good recommendation letter. I woke up on my last day, looked for a blouse and my dressy black pants, which I found still in the laundry since a cab had managed to ruin them by splashing mud all over it the other day (the office happens to be a walking distance away from where I live) and after a mental note of buying a few more pairs of dress pants – after all I won’t be a student forever, I decided on a pencil skirt and a long sleeved blouse. I walked out of my house.
By now I should have gotten used to the cat calls, name calling & other rude remarks every lady receives on a daily basis on the Cairo streets. But that day, they were more vicious & persistent. A group of workers decided to totally stop working and give me a few glares and rude calls. Several young men on the road gave me snide remarks and even a decent looking group of young men, standing in front of a prestigious private college dorm, had a few words & stares of their own to share. A bit down the road, two other guys made a grab at me and a guy on a motorcycle decided to share his disgusting interests. An old man with completely white hair (who looked very decent by the way) half stopped me just to say “sba7 el5er” (good morning) and smile stupidly at me. Finally, I marched into the office building. I would like to add that I live & work in a very privileged elite part of town and as I walked through the entrance, I greeted the security employees as I do every morning. No response was given!
Honestly, I had had enough stares & remarks for one morning to bother asking why they weren’t responding like they did every other morning. I walked onto the elevator as I slipped out my phone when a voice started talking “feyn elebtsama? Y3ny lw msh enty htbtsmy omal meen hybtsm?!” (Where is the smile? If you’re not going to smile then who will?!) The remark language-wise was completely harmless; it was the tone of his voice & his eyes that sent that message to a brain that has endured harassment of all kinds for an average of 9 years now, that this is harassment only office friendly. This man- who was probably old enough to be my father and dressed well enough to be a manager in any of the companies in this building- apparently thought harassment was ok. I responded, “afandem, 7adretak!?” (Excuse me, Sir!?) I was trying to emphasise on his status & age. That was the fine moment when the doors opened and more people walked onto the elevator. He immediately stopped talking & looked the other way; harassment confirmed. Unfortunately, the people who’d boarded were only moving up one floor, so I was stuck with him as he continued his slimy pursuits of making me ‘smile’ for the rest of the climb. I was thankful when he finally left. A few more floors and I was finally safe in the office. As I sat down and took a deep breath after a long & tiring morning walk (it’s a wonder how a 10 minute walk could be relaxing or nerve wrecking according to the people you pass on the way), I wondered: all this because of a skirt!? When the day came to an end, I remember asking a male colleague to wait for me to leave the building together & as we parted, I dreaded the walk home.
When I finally reached the safety of my apartment, my eyes settled on my aunt smiling out of a black & white picture which was probably taken in the 60s. The smart & beautiful young woman in the picture (who’d been a passionate student of history & literature and knows her history very well from back to back) was wearing a sleeveless mini-dress.
Egyptian men never fail to continuously remind us Egyptian young ladies that we’re not as feminine or attractive as many foreign women can be; examples of these women can vary from Americans to Russians to even our Lebanese neighbours. Football season is always followed with a mass of photo sharing of young women all over the world who, according to Egyptian men, look far more attractive than the women their country has to offer. Even Ahmed Ezz’s most recent ad revolved around this widely spread joke. And even as I type this, I’m sure there is at least one conversation across town where a guy is frivolously bragging about how he’ll be travelling soon and boasting about his luck that he’ll be meeting REAL women, unlike the less desirable ones over here. The question is: are we really that unattractive?
But as Egyptian men continuously plead for more femininity, they themselves disrespect & insult women who show femininity here. In fact, I doubt they even like to see Egyptian women dressed in skirts or dresses of any kind and call them disrespectable, sluts and the like. So the modern Egyptian man apparently likes femininity and shames the Egyptian women for lacking it yet, he shall also shame her for wearing a skirt because it’s too feminine!
Moral of the story; Egyptian men are suffering from a rare subversion of bipolar disorder where mania is on the high and the only downs they’re getting are being handed out to women everyday… and I need a new I-pod, because Cairo looks a lot better through the music.
So you got to hear me rant about the injustice of a male dominant society, it’s my turn to hear you! If you’d like to discuss, rant, complain, or simply contact me; please, leave a comment or email me on [email protected]