As the Lebanese people poured onto the streets of Beirut protesting against their dysfunctional political scene, and their government’s continued inability to provide basic services such as garbage collection, media coverage of the protests in Egypt focused mainly on the beauty of Lebanese female protestors, and their “revealing” clothes. Other Egyptian observers on social media have trivialized the problem, suggesting it is nothing more than just some scattered garbage on the streets of Beirut. However, such reckless remarks reflect much deeper problems in Egypt.
Sexism and Sexual assaults
Esmat Samira Faour, one of the protesters in Lebanon, hit the nail on the head when she posted a video responding to such disgusting Egyptian comments, which were quoted in a report by Mada Masr. She said the narrow focus of Arab, and especially Egyptian, observers reflects their current political condition after facing difficulties in their own revolts. The Lebanese are proud that their protests lacked mass sexual assaults, Samira said, and that women have the freedom to wear what they want and not fear harassment.
Indeed, Lebanese women, regardless of their dress code, have felt safe protesting day or night on the streets of Beirut. This is in stark contrast to the malignant wave of sexual assaults in Egypt during and after the January 25 revolution. Assaults on women by men reflect the latter’s deep rejection of women’s right to equality and freedom, and their shallow assumption that dress codes portray women’s intellectual and religious status.
Some political commentators in Egypt are not just lazy and ignorant, they are happy to spread ignorance in their society. Only a few have done their homework and researched the backgrounds and motivations that triggered Lebanon’s “You Stink” campaign. Others, however, in a display of crass stupidity, opted to focus on the beautiful Lebanese women, clearly displaying their inability to cover the real story, and to fulfill the basic demands of their jobs as commentators: Knowledge, depth, insight, and objectivity.
Egypt’s failure to produce a liberal democratic transformation has created a cynical attitude in the society towards revolutionary activities in the rest of the Arab world. Subconsciously, many Egyptians think others cannot produce a better outcome than Egypt. There is indeed a lot to be learned from Egypt’s turbulence since Mubarak was ousted, but a prevailing element of snobbery and condescension among some Egyptians seems to pervade that society.
Shallowness, and sexism have become endemic in Egypt since the Mubarak era. Rather than mocking Lebanese women, Egyptians should learn from Lebanon how to respect the freedom of their women. Prejudice, stereotypes, and lack of respect for women are ugly cancers in Egypt – one that are terminally afflicting the country’s quest for freedom. Moreover, shallowness, and cynicism have clearly impeded Egypt’s search for progress in the future. In 2011, Egypt inspired the rest of the Arab world; in 2015, Egypt may have to watch the “You Stink” campaign in Lebanon ___ regardless of its outcome, and learn a lesson or two about how to produce positive changes in the society. Importantly, Egypt has to understand that medieval gender attitudes and sexism towards women are inspired by narrow mindedness, and ignorance.