I wake up every morning looking forward to getting sexually harassed in Cairo. Because a day gone by without being whistled at like cattle or groped like a melon at a vegetable store is a day unlived in this city. Right?
I even dress according to how often I’d like to get harassed that day. Tight white t-shirt? That’s the number one sign that I’m asking for it. Skinny jeans are obviously worn to highlight my butt so men know what to grab (some short-sighted idiots completely miss and grab my hip instead, which is just plain insulting).
And since I don’t cover my hair, then obviously I know what shit I’m getting myself into by walking on the streets of the city I call home as an equal citizen to the men that lurk on corners, outside shops, dangling from microbuses, waiting happily.
As an Egyptian woman, I completely understand that my purpose in this life is to serve the sexually frustrated imaginations of these poor men who can’t get it up. My father and mother spent years of sweat, tears and hard-earned cash on educating me into an emancipated woman so that one day I become a walking piece of meat on the street. Obviously.
Then I discovered that all the hours I put into my hair and makeup make no difference whatsoever to my sexual predators; I could walk around with my uncombed hair and a gallabeya; hell, I could wear a black tent from head to toe and still, they’d find something sexual about me. Ever heard Egyptian men talk about how erotic the Niqab is? Yeah, apparently there’s nothing you can do or wear to incite harassment.
Just the plain fact that you have boobs and they don’t means you’re up for grabs, literally.
I could spend what’s left of my pea-sized woman’s brain wondering what I did to deserve this friendly male reception, or analyzing why society has continuously objectified us little women into pigeon-holes of either innocent, doe-eyed girls or rampant whores; but I won’t. It takes too much brain power, and me being the weaker sex, I should stick to what I do best, which according to these men, is nothing.
Which is why I should never talk back, or look back, or yell or ask for help; this is my fate, I must accept it. And not even the veil can protect me from my Muslim brothers.
So I play a little game in my head. It’s like walking through a video game scene, where every man is a potential predator, and I keep my radar finely tuned, my walk fast and dontmesswithme, my eyes scanning every corner for attackers. Over the years, I’ve acquired a Robocop face that occasionally scares the living shit out of small children and animals, and my middle finger is my video game weapon that I choose to shoot when the moment comes.
But I only keep it for those who really deserve it; I ask myself ‘Is this the worst line I’ve heard all day? Has he managed to completely annihilate my self-esteem?’ If so, then he gets the finger. If not, I just walk on.
And I defy what my well-intentioned mother and many other kind Egyptians have taught me, and I answer back. Why should men get all the fun?
Him: Bsssst! Bsssssst! Bssssssst!!
Me: Bsssst dee teb2a ommak.
Him: WELKOM TO EEJIPT!
Me: SANK YOU!
Him: Wat Zis? Wat Zis? Wat Zis? WAT ZIS?
Me: Zis is etnayel yala.
Him: Matgeeb Bosa?
Me: Ma3ak Dettol?
Him: Oh MAI GODD!
Me: Ommak Ar3a.
And as fun as it is to talk back, I’m sure I’m not getting the same kick out of it that they are. And I know that it could only make things worse for me, my predator could easily attack me in broad daylight or get his friends together to follow me like a pack of rabid dogs, and of course it will be my fault because I talked back, when I should ignore it and accept that this is the price you pay for being a woman in Egypt. Right?
Author: A DeskGirl in Cairo