Women in Egypt Don’t Need to be Victimized

Women in Egypt Don’t Need to be Victimized

Photo: Tara Todras-Whitehill, AP

International Women’s Day has been celebrated ever since the 1920s. It was originally for women to ask for political rights. Two days ago, I woke up to see that all my feeds were flooded with stories of successful women, and it made me think, how does this really reflect on me?

We often see activists in the media saying that women all over the world are oppressed. We hear statistics about gaps in salaries based on gender, fewer employment opportunities for women, and it gets really ugly with statistics of sexual harassment. According to the world bank, the female labor force participation rate has dropped from 51.373 in 1990 to 48.673 in 2017.

Egypt is often at the top of the list when it comes to such statistics. For the past few years, all I’ve been hearing from the media is, “brace yourself, you’ll be sexually harassed, oppressed and discriminated against when you graduate/study/do anything in life.” The country was ranked 136 out of 145 countries worldwide according to the 2015 Global Gender Gap Index, which measures disparities between men and women across countries

The truth is, I haven’t really faced any of these issues, not to a traumatizing extent at least. But what really annoys me, what really gets to me, is the condescending tones I perceive whenever I make the mistake and speak to family members or friends about my future plans.

As a fresh graduate, I am at a phase where I’m exploring all job opportunities, different fields, and open up to taking courses and learning new skills.

“I had a job interview today,” I say.

“Ok. Don’t be pushy. Wait until they call you back, but don’t wait for long, make a very casual call next week and ask them. Don’t do more than that…I’m telling you based on my years of experience at work, honey…”

“Oh but I didn’t even like the place really…”

“It’s ok. You’ll learn. You’re young and…inexperienced.”

“Uhmm ok. Thanks, I guess.”

I’ve been having these kinds of conversations for a while now, and while I realize they want to “give advice,” my instinct is to shut them out.

What I really want is to be able to perceive the world around me, make my own mistakes, take my own learning curve and make my own experiences.

I don’t want anyone’s advice to be shoved down my throat, and when I thought about it, I felt like I’ve heard someone ranting about this before. It’s “mansplaining,” they said.
Mansplaining, as I perceive it, is when men interrupt women and explain to them anything. For example, I was having a dreaded conversation with a man who assumed I don’t know English very well, and insisted that I should take English courses. I didn’t have the energy or the desire to explain to him that I graduated from a university and a school where English was the primary language (that’s not something that I necessarily like,) so I just let him go on.

But the problem is, it doesn’t just happen from men. I get these conversations from women also, and don’t get me started on how they [women from my family or friends] get so excited if we talk about romantic relationships, but not so much when we discuss postgraduate studies or job opportunities.

My point is, International Women’s Day just represented to me how everyone views women’s issues from their angle: some strive on living the role of the victim, and some want to victimize you and label you as “an oppressed Egyptian woman.” This may drag me into a vicious cycle, where I link each and every little unpleasant incident in my life to the oppression of women. I’m not belittling anyone’s oppression, I’m not saying that the world is happy place where women aren’t discriminated against, I’m just saying, if I keep believing that I am oppressed, how will I ever rise out of it and reach my potential in life?

My stance currently, and hopefully always, is that I refuse to be victimized. Whenever you feel like you’re being dragged in any way into the victimization cycle, walk away, and be empowered by your own work, your own addition to the world.

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Noura Shibl is a senior journalism student at the American University in Cairo, with an interest in photography. Hoping to report meaningful and unbiased stories about Egypt.

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