Why is sexual harassment denialism so strong in
? Is it not the right time to discuss it because we are having an unprecedented peaceful revolution? Or the patriarchy runs so deep to the point we ignore horrible incidents of mass sexual harassment? Egypt
During the revolution days, everyone was talking about how
Tahrir Square was free from any sexual harassment. I wondered how anyone could really verify such a statement! We have rampant sexual harassment issues yes, but we still have the culture of silence and shame around it. How many girls and women would actually go and report sexual harassment?
During one of the famous 18 nights of Tahrir sit-in before toppling Mubarak, I was there with a friend of mine who told me she got groped by a guy selling balloons, we chased him and took him to the public committees’ guys that were organizing the flow into the square and they kicked him out of the square.
I don’t mean to say that Tahrir was full of sexual harassment and truly Tahrir witnessed a great state of harmony and positive interaction during those 18 days. I am thinking that denying the sexual harassment during those days may be because we are a conservative culture after all and we’re trying to prove that the mixing of men and women in Tahrir days and nights was innocent and “patriotic”.
Yesterday was an important day for the revolution. Protesters took Tahrir square again to assert revolution’s demands. Islamists groups decided not to participate yesterday so it was a test for liberal and secular groups to organize in the streets. It was considered a success given the thousands that showed up, but it was marred by a horrible incident of sexual harassment of the famous diva Sherihan.
Sherihan was an actress and performer loved by Egyptians particularly during the 80s and 90s. She suffered a severe car accident in mid-90s and it was rumored that it was a chapter of love and power saga that involved Alaa the elder son of Mubarak. She magically recovered and came back to the stage, only to suffer cancer a few years later and move away from the artistic scene. Sherihan was one of the few artists who participated in the revolution unlike many artists who withdrew from making a political stance.
My mother told me that this sad video was screened on TV that shows the horrible incident. The setting around her doesn’t look like Tahrir, some reported that this happened as she was leaving Tahrir yesterday.
What really angers me is the lack of attention such incident got and some of the horrible comments of victim-blame that I always hear when sexual harassment is brought up. Some wonder why she went out of her home! It makes me wonder how deep the denialism about gender inequality is in our country. Even activists refrain from mentioning the incident. Is it because they didn’t know? Or is it an attempt to maintain the silver-lining of the revolution? Is not really important to talk about now? Or is it deep-hidden patriarchy?
But the answer won’t be simple and many factors come at play here. What if this happened to one of the famous activists of the revolution? Does the revolution have an authoritarian system that controls who is important and who’s not? What if the victim of mass harassment was an unknown person? Would it get reported at all?
When Lara Logan was sexually assaulted in Tahrir right after Mubarak was toppled, Western media was all over covering her story. Western coverage was very uneven as well with some victim blaming and Islam bashing too. But Egyptian media failed to report on it. Is it because we deny sexual harassment? Is it because she’s a foreigner? Or we were simply overjoyed by Mubarak’s departure?
In gender battles, other factors interfere such as race, age, class, and power. I think we really need to think about these questions and recognize our prejudices. This is how we push the revolution forward.