Gender at the Egyptian protests

A really interesting article, passed on by J-Bro and David Slutsky.

This morning, the woman checking bags and body-searching demonstrators entering Cairo’s central square had quite a job on her hands. As demonstrations in Egypt’s capital entered their second week, she had volunteered to keep the rallying point safe. I’d encountered her at the same place yesterday, but today’s search was a lot more thorough.

“We heard people would be bringing knives and weapons to the square today. Bad people would try to stop us,” she explained, as she frisked women in front of a metal barricade. “They asked us to come. All of us are volunteers,” she said, though she declined to tell me her name. One woman waiting to enter puts up a fight, and the brisk, stout woman, who is a headmistress by profession, lays down the law: “I am here to protect you. The military wants us to protect you—they don’t have women, so we are here for you.”….

…Egypt has a sexual harassment problem. In a 2008 study, 86 percent of women said they had been harassed on Egypt’s streets—any woman walking through a crowd of men in Egypt braces to get groped. But in the square, crammed in shoulder-to-shoulder, men apologized if they so much as bumped into you. After wandering around the protests for days, it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t been groped, a constant annoyance when I’m faced with large crowds in Cairo. When I pointed this out to other women in the square, we all took a moment to reflect. “I hadn’t even thought of that,” one woman in Tahrir told me. “But it’s because we’re all so focused on one goal, we’re a family here.”