How Many Times will History Repeat Itself for Egyptian Women?

Wednesday July 8, 2020
By: Hannah Edwar

Image credit: Reuters

Last week, the internet exploded with sexual assault allegations from over 100 women, all targeted at one man. The stories shared were horrific. And while there was no louder calling for the community to rise, support and amplify the voices of its bravest members, yet there was also no greater sign that we, as a society, keep failing. We have failed to overcome one of the worst social diseases of our generation. 

These young brave women, have gone against everything we have taught them; to stay quiet, keep their heads down and question their role in the assault. We created an environment that perceives their trauma as a scandal and worries about the future of the criminal rather than the survivors of his crimes. Only 33% of women speak up when it comes to sexual assault because they are taught not to, and because the moment they do, they are attacked by a tsunami of accusations from family members, friends, the media and the entire public. 

The good news is the alleged rapist in the latest highly profiled case was arrested within 48 hours after the stories went viral. Official complaints were filled, he confessed to the harassment and blackmail of six women and was detained for 15 days pending further investigation. The bad news is, sooner than we think history will repeat itself. We will get pulled back into a fake sense of accomplishment, the trend will fade, and we will go back living our lives until a new attack gets enough public attention to prompt temporary outrage, again. 

We stay quiet in between those spikes of outrage mostly because we are sick and tired of hearing about sexual harassment, especially from people who get vocal at things like lyrics of a song, sexist movie scenes and degrading jokes. We look down at them and annoyingly ask why must they take everything so seriously! What could possibly be the link between a sexist comment and the case taking over the news today? The answer is simple. These lyrics, scenes and jokes collectively are what have created the environment that allowed a man to harass, assault and rape countless women for years.

By staying quiet, we are unintentionally agreeing with what is said and sending a message to other men that it is okay to think and act that way. That’s why his friends said nothing when he showed them pictures and videos of his crimes. It’s what made the security guards at the gym where he raped one of his victims look the other way. It’s what convinced a school he attended after receiving complaints from the girls that it was appropriate to educate sexual assault survivors “on the dangers of social media” rather than punish the criminal and protect women. All those incidents when we told women to cover up, come home earlier and watch where they walk; are what gave predators the green light to prey on women repeatedly. We acted against the wronged party and appeared like we accept or at least understand the behavior of their attackers. 

Vocal people who object to the above incidents are usually labelled as “feminists” because it’s easier for us to throw a disliked label at someone than to acknowledge the realities that forced them to become vocal. Well; it is the year 2020 and we are still debating whether women should hold some of the blame of sexual harassment. It is the year 2020 and globally, less than 0.7% of sexual perpetrators end in jail. It is the year 2020 and a group of teenagers had to create a social media platform to ask for social pressure so an alleged rapist can finally be investigated for his crimes. Aren’t you feeling the urge to get vocal?  

It is not about a law. It is not about expressing disgust over a  high profile case and it is not about writing an article or sharing a video message in the middle of a trend. It is about advocating for women and speaking up in every role we play daily, which is exactly what a feminist does. The only way we can truly bring about change is by loudly rejecting every song, movie, comment or joke that normalizes objectifying women and makes light of their basic rights. I should add that regardless of your intentions, do not trivialize a woman’s right to say no.

Let us all just follow this one rule; Unless you are directly and explicitly condemning violence against women and upholding the fundamental importance of consent; just say nothing. Do not leave room for assumptions or interpretations or run social experiments at the expense of women. Just do everyone a favor and find another topic to talk about. The society is broken and there is no room for sarcasm; not when every single female you know has at least one traumatic story of harassment or rape. Train your brain to spot incidents that define the rape culture.  When you think of the brave young women who speak out every day, and the ones who suffer in silence, remember you owe it to them to take action. Stand up, speak up and do not let anyone tell you that you are too loud.

They call me a feminist and it is about time they call you one too.

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