Sexual harassment is a phenomenon that has been perpetuating across Egypt for years, making the country among the most dangerous places for women.
It is still a problematic topic for Egyptian women to talk about. There is some kind of social pressure on women not to speak up about harassment incidents or report them. But you may get appalled by how some women support and justify male harasser’s behaviour, even though women are the primary victims of such abuse in its various forms; verbal, physical, and emotional, in some cases even from close male relatives.
What is more confusing is to see women justifying male harasser’s behaviour and blame female victims.
In this context, a few days ago, Egyptian football player Amr Warda was excluded from the national team participating in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) over accusations of sexual harassment, but he later re-joined the team after pressure from his teammates on the Egyptian Football Association (EFA). Many, including women, defended Warda on the grounds that he is young and deserves a second chance. Warda`s case was not the first of its kind to witness women defended the harasser. Back in the time of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule, a woman, later dubbed “Set el-Setat” (Lady of Ladies), was beaten and harassed by several men in Tahrir Square while protesting against the Brotherhood. At that time, many women blamed the victim on the grounds that she was wearing inappropriate clothes.
Daily News Egypt (DNE) dug further into the issue to know why some women are shaming female victims of sexual harassment? We interviewed women’s affairs experts and psychiatrists.
Brainwashed that inferiority is their source of power
Alexandra Kinias, a women’s advocate and founder of Women of Egypt initiative specialised in women’s rights, explained that misogyny practiced for thousands of years in patriarchal societies continues to spread in Egypt and in other regions around the world where women are considered inferior to men, and are treated as such.
She added that in Egypt, a country with male dominance, misogyny forms the foundation for the oppression of women. It perpetuates from one generation to another as evident not only in the behaviour of men against women, but also in how the society at all its levels perceives and reacts to these behaviours. Many are appalled by how some women support and justify male harasser’s behaviour, even though they are the primary victims of their abuses in its various forms: verbal, physical, emotional, etc, and often they are personally subjected to these abuses by close male relatives.
“Because it has been wildly publicised that misogyny is a male trait, practiced by men for dominance, many are unaware that it is also practiced by women against their own gender and even their own wellbeing. Many reasons drive women to practice misogyny and advocate for their own submissiveness. In societies where women are still fighting for their rights, such behaviours, practices, and attitudes further hinder their advancement. It is shameful and disturbing when women become victims of other women’s misjudgement and injustice,” Kinias continued.
Explaining to DNE the reasons behind this attitude, Kinias said that females from an early age are brainwashed that inferiority is their source of power, adding that women in patriarchal societies, where misogyny pervades, are raised to obey, please, and work in the relationship; take more care of the men’s needs; avoid confrontations; and become subordinate – not an equal partner – in the relationship.
Girls grow up thinking that their bodies are the root of all evil
Kinias presented another reason, stating that in patriarchal societies, girls are also taught at an early age to loath their bodies and sexuality. They grow up believing that women’s bodies are the root of all evil.
“As a result, no matter what the circumstances are, they believe that women who are harassed, abused, or even raped are at fault. They blame the victims for triggering men’s sexual desires. Not only that, but they also come to the defence of these men, hence, demonstrating a behavioural pattern that perpetuates their own abuse. Never the aggressor’s fault, they rationalise men’s behaviours with excuses that these women were indecently dressed, behaving promiscuously, etc,” she continued.
“What triggers the behaviour of misogynist women is their suffering from psychological slavery, a condition which commonly became known as the Stockholm syndrome, where the victim sides with the abuser or oppressor,” Kinias said.
Depending on men socially and financially
The more these women, who were raised to obey, please, depend on men socially and financially, siding with the abuser becomes a survival instinct. Their lives, just like the slaves, depend on their abusers, and they develop gratitude for them, even if they were victimised by them first hand.
Envying those who are harassed
Therapist Mohamed Yousef and Jamal Farwiz, a professor of psychology in Cairo University, agreed that girls in their 20s, who justify sexual harassment, are actually envious of those who were harassed.
The therapists further explained that this type of girls deep inside wonder why the harasser did not choose me instead of the victim to harass?!
Women adapt a motherhood feeling toward the harasser
Farwiz added that sometimes women in their 40s and 50s tend to justify the male harasser’s behaviour out of their hidden motherhood feeling that this harasser is like her son. So, they think that the society should give him a second chance and subsequently they try to justify the harassment.
Kinias noted, “Whatever the reasons are, we should admit that those women who support harassers are in fact victims.”
She explained that they reach a state of submissiveness in accepting the abuse and justify the behaviours of harassers.
“They became content with their status quo. They attack other women who stand against harassers or try to help them break free from this cycle. Instead of appreciating the efforts that would alleviate their status, they become more aggressive. Instead of breaking free, they promote their own submissiveness and oppression. In their delusional minds, they believe the cure to social alignments is in their submissiveness and not rebelling against the abusers. In their minds, they believe if women behaved exactly as men wanted them to, they will live a happier life. These justifications became their coping mechanism to oppression,” Kinias concluded.