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Femininity in Egypt

Since I came to the U.S., I've been asked a lot about women rights in Egypt, are women treated equally as men, is there hope in the future. These questions can be answered by a simple "no", but pondering on them isn't simple, it brings back some painful memories of what a woman goes through in Egypt since a very young age; and here inequality doesn't differentiate between poor or rich, educated or uneducated.

A month ago, I posted a question on Facebook asking "describe Egyptian women in one word". I was curious to know the answers, although I predicted them in advance. As usual, Egyptian men got all the criticism out; they described her as gloomy, hard to please and other displeasing descriptions. Even the Egyptian women who answered the question never used the words "beautiful, pleasant, affectionate", they simply described themselves as hardworking, good moms, and perseverant, as if this is what women supposed to be in the first place. The only man who described them as magnificent, brilliant women was our American friend-John Betcher!!

This was just a small survey that reveals a small part of the story. almost ten years ago, Anis Mansour- a famous Egyptian writer- wrote that Egyptian women are losing the femininity; he compared them to western women saying that when he visits any western country and sees beautiful western women with their slender bodies and beautiful dresses, he can't keep himself from comparing them to Egyptian women dragging their saggy bodies in the streets!

I grew up hearing this kind of comparison from nearly every guy I knew in Egypt. When boys made such unfair comparisons, they never knew how painful it is for a girl to hear these insults about herself and her identity. Usually girls responses in such situations was either to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, or to try too hard to please men, even if this meant forsaking her own true self and turning into a doll.

Now, I can't stop comparing Egyptian men to American ones. When I first came here I found that men treat you as a real woman, something I'm sorry to say that I'm not used to in Egypt. They don't have any bad intentions behind their gentleness, they are just brought up to treat women in respect and equality. You can't imagine what effect this has on your self-image as a woman. Back in Egypt I felt that the way men treated women fall into three categories in general: either they treat her as a sexual object in the most demeaning way, or they treat her as inferior and weak, or they simply treat her the way they treat men-- no big difference!

Being here in the U.S. and knowing that I'll be back soon to Egypt, I can't help but dream how women will look like in the future Egypt. I dream that one day Egyptian women will regain their beauty and pride, because deep inside I believe they are one of the most truly beautiful, magnificent, brilliant women on earth.


*originally posted on


MaDube's picture

On point

I totally agree with you!!! Being here in Egypt has been one of the hardest experiences I have had as a woman. I come from a society that is still transforming its perceptions regarding the roles of women but I would say we have gone several steps beyond what I found here in Egypt. The sexual harassment is so blatant and yes most of the men treat you just like any other man. They push and shove to get into public transport. I am glad you have seen how different things can be from what you grew up with and I would say Egyptian society needs to transform, especially people's attitudes. The people are a bit too hard on each other. I have observed how easy it is for people to shout at each other or just snap in anger but rarely do I see people smiling at each other or showing real affection (without being indecent of course) besides the kisses when people greet each other. Positive reinforcement of positive feelings in day to day interactions is lacking and I think it has influenced the character of Egyptian women too.

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