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.”

8 thoughts on “Gender at the Egyptian protests

  1. What a strange fact of life for them: They EXPECT to get groped in crowds?

    Thanks for posting this. Strange new insight into the culture of a country I don’t know much about!

  2. Egyptian Women Lay Claim to Revolutionary Role

    “I Am An Egyptian Woman, Rejecting Injustice”

    Although this clip has circulated quite a bit, it is very important for various reasons and I hope readers do not mind me including it here.

    Muslim Brotherhood Spokesman Predicts End for Mubarak Regime

    The Muslim Brotherhood Bogey Man, by Scott Atran

    Although I have various axes to grind with, Scott Atran (and many of their other contributors) are well worth our time/attention.

    Also, more great stuff to check out at Jender’s post and the following comments linked below:

  3. Please excuse a comment a bit off topic (not directly focused on gender at the protests…), but fairly relevant to it nonetheless…

    I urge very critical readings of the kind of remarks in the two links below:

    The west must be wary of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

    As Islamist Group Rises, Its Intentions Are Unclear

    I refrain from additional comment here, except for urging readers to reflect upon sexist/misogynist elements of other religions, as well as the various moderate forms of religions that do not always receive a fair hearing/treatment – in the press, in people’s minds, and so on. I do not defend any particular religion (I actually think many common religions are sexist and misogynist – even their “reformed” versions). My wish is to raise consciousness just a little bit about potential double standards toward different religions that we often develop and use, often without realizing it.

  4. Forgive me for also posting two only semi-related links, but I thought other readers might be interested. “Of Egypt’s 80 million people, 10% are Christians. Some Muslims have been guarding Coptic churches while Christians pray, and on Friday, Christians were guarding the mosques while Muslims prayed,” from:


    The part that strikes me about this and the pictures, is just how distorted the mainstream western perception of the Arab world can be.

  5. Many thanks for your comments and those links, Kathryn.

    And, of course, many thanks also to Jender for the original post and all of the other work on here…

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