There is a trend that has recently hit social media: this trend involves posts, comments, and tweets, surrounding the ideal of manhood, and what it truly means to be a man in Egypt. Specifically, there have been posts circulating online that describe modern Egyptian and/or Arab men as “Ashabah Regal” (Shadows of Men). This term is used on social media platforms to denote men who have abandoned the sexist ways of the past.
These ways – as indicated by the posts above – dictate that every female family member – depending on her marital status – is nothing but a mere extension or projection of her father/brother/husband/fiance. These ways encourage violence against women. These ways that celebrate traditions like ‘wa2d el banat’ (burying a female baby alive upon birth just because of her gender). These ways understand paternalism and patriarchy as the only acceptable performance of masculinity.
Take as another example this recent post – below- showing an image of a severely beaten young woman. The young woman – according to the caption – has been severely beaten by her brother, after she had refused to obey his ‘no leaving the house dressed like that’ rule.
Whether or not this girl was beaten for that reason is not my concern. My concern is how commentators have been reacting, with messages that not only condone, but also encourage such violence against women.
What these comments – shown below – have in common is the fact that they all view this as a necessary course of action: this is what true men – not those who are mere shadows of men – do when their women refuse unjustifiable house arrest. This is extremely frightening, and beyond sexist.
Firstly, the notion that we can still justifiably place a woman on house arrest without facing legal sanction or social sanctions is more than problematic. Secondly, and respectively, the notion that a woman is treated like some object to be locked up and censored is demeaning and dehumanizing.
I think that what such commentators need to be aware that their words amount to nothing less than than what is legally described as ‘criminal solicitation’ or – in Arabic – ‘ta7reed’. Indeed, charges of solicitation can be legally placed when a person or a group of people encourage, request, command, importune or otherwise attempt to cause another person to attempt or commit a crime.
The truth is, however, these commentators will not be willing to perceive it as solicitation. This is because these commentators would likely not perceive this as a crime.
While these commentators may cringe or be enraged if the young woman’s blood filled face was caused by a hit – and – run accident or a theft, these same commentators view a brother’s jealousy over his sister as an acceptable context, so acceptable in fact that it negates any mention of possible criminal accountability.
If you want more evidence that such mind sets and verbalizing such sexist ideologies ought to amount to criminal solicitation, all you need to do is look at the latest trend in street harassment: this trend involves men spraying non-veiled women and/or women wearing what these men deem to be wearing provocative clothing with bleach.
The whole idea behind this – of course – is that these men are punishing such women so that other women learn to wear respectable clothing. It seems, thus, that Egyptian cultural sexism is guilty of an extreme form of criminal solicitation – one that is reflected by those by – standers who approve, condone, and encourage such forms of violence against women – that has led to flat out hate crimes.