Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"The humiliation of being a woman"

About a week ago, I was walking home from the office and about to cross a busy thoroughfare.  Some kid driving by me leaned out of the car to grab me, yelling, "Fuck you." I snapped. I pulled him halfway out of the car (which was moving slowly because of traffic) and slapped him. He ended up gripping my hand and twisting, squeezing my fingers and dragging me along with the car, only letting me go before I nearly ran into a parked car. One of my fingers was black and blue for days, and I could not move it.

Graffiti on a barrier in Cairo depicting a woman surrounded by men.

A few months ago, some guy was following me in his car in the middle of the day, slowing down every few feet and propositioning me with money. Two hundred dollars, he said. People on the street asked me if there was a problem. Yes. That man is following me. They told me to get into a taxi--as if my presence on the street was the problem. The problem isn't me, it's him. Getting me off the street will not solve anything. And this fucker definitely is not going to intimidate me. I have every right to be here. Once women start staying home out of intimidation, it's over.

In August, a friend was walking me home and a group of kids was following us, saying nasty things, spitting on me, and throwing garbage and open 1.5 liters of water bottles at my head.

These are just a few examples of the situations I have encountered since being here, probably among the worst. For the most part, it's noises, cat calling, whistles, pssts, pet names, and the occasional dirty reference. You think you are ignoring it. You think you're handling it fine. When you are rational you tell yourself it's just a bunch of uneducated, dirty oafs.

You don't even notice it gets to you. But you'll snap. And when you do, you'll be blamed. You shouldn't have been on the street. You should have known it was a joke. You should have worn more clothes.

I was talking to a friend today and she had a similar experience. She had snapped. People do not blame you--men blame you. It's not always uneducated or non-"Western" guys. Even if they do not blame you, they ask seemingly innocous questions, like what were you wearing? Where were you walking? What time was it? As if if you were wearing something short, walking in a certain area, or walking late at night makes it understandable. You should have seen it coming.

They will never understand. My friend put it in a way I never could, but she's right. They'll never understand the humiliation of being a woman here, the daily barrage of comments and whistles, the feeling that your honor--important to any woman--is being dragged through the dirt.


  1. Thanks for writing this up, Teresa! I found this extremely frustrating and saddening as well - especially being blonde. Keep you savvy and your strong will and call me if you need support! Love, Sol

  2. When people ask you what you were wearing, they're trying to rationalize what these assholes are doing; the problem is they forget that women in burqas get harassed! Veiled women – the majority of Egyptian women – experience harassment extremely often. The problem is, the experiences you just listed are walks in the park for a lot of women. Thankfully I don’t experience these incidents often, but that’s because I rarely walk in the streets of Cairo. And that’s shame. An utter shame to every single Egyptian man. The ones who do these unspeakable things, the (very few) ones who are against sexual harassment but stand by and do nothing, and the even ones who try to justify these incidents by asking you silly questions like what you were wearing or what time of day it was. Implying that your clothes and the time of day would tempt a man to harass you is like saying that men are uncontrollable animals. We have brains for many reasons, and self-control is definitely one of the most important ones.
    This ( is a picture of a girl who was raped – obviously not in Egypt; it shows that how a woman is dressed does not make an honorable man do shameful, animalistic things.