Friday, February 18, 2011

Egypt: Heroics Hide Problems for Women Travelers

Within all media euphoria about the heroic triumph of freedom (or at least the deposing of a despot) in Egypt lies the awful story of Lara Logan, American reporter, who was savagely sexually assaulted by a joyous mob of Egyptian men celebrating their victory over the rule of Hosni Mubarak. Ms. Logan's sins, evidently, were being blond and beautiful, and being in public in a place like that.

Spare me the stirring freedom narrative for a moment. It's time to look harder at the hideous sexual culture of a part of the world where the local women are considered property, and foreign women on the street by themselves are deemed fair game for assault, from verbal harassment to casual groping to worse, by the local male populace.

The fact is, I do not know any woman who feels comfortable traveling alone anywhere in the Islamic Middle East, including those who have to do so for business reasons. This is something you hear all the time about Egypt in particular from female travelers, incidentally, but it's also true throughout the region.

Maybe in their triumph, the celebrants in Egypt can make a new revolution. One that teaches their pious sons, and their sanctimonious mullahs, fundamental respect for the rights and dignity of women, including the fundamental right to be in public and not to be assaulted.

Till then, spare me the heroics. Spare me the piety, Egypt, till your sons and brothers and husbands and fathers learn how to behave in a civilized manner with women. Friday prayers would be a good place to start this discussion.


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