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Hymen Hang-ups

It's been three years since the revolution, but Egyptian women seem to have collectively fared worse since, and we're still caught in the prehistoric marriage rituals that are getting us nowhere. Yasmina Adly preaches some wisdom.

Three years. I find that it helps me put things in perspective once I write them down. Typing the words “three years” took me exactly three seconds, and looking at that first sentence I can’t help but realize how miniscule the words look put together. But there’s no doubt that for every Egyptian, the past three years have felt longer than eternity.

Three years is what it took to overthrow two dictators, and see them both imprisoned. Three years is what it’s taken the Egyptian people to find their voice. So why is it that the past three years have been the most patriarchal in Egypt? It often feels like the men have found their voices, and they’ve made them just loud enough to talk over the women.

In the past three years, it’s become clear to me that what we need is not a new government, but a new mindset. Minus all the closed-mindedness, and Egyptians' inability to mind their own business. And no, open-mindedness does NOT translate to “do drugs, have sex, and be as westernized as possible. It simply means respecting others’ opinions even if they are completely different to yours.

Here in Egypt, women are regularly treated like a piece of property, and it is constantly demanded of them that they maintain a “perfect” image, in line with society's expectations. “Don’t stay out late, el bawab hay2ool eh?” I’m sorry, but why would I care what the gatekeeper of my apartment building thinks about me? “Ahl 3areesek hayes2alooh!"

Wow, so my future husband’s family are going to investigate me through a man with whom my only interaction is a simple smile and an “el salamo 3aleiko”? And this man who knows absolutely nothing about me gets to dictate whether or not I am a good little Egyptian girl? Interesting.

We live under our parents’ roofs and we are their property, and then they – for the lack of a better word – sell us to whomever they deem is a the best suitor. So it’s basically like high-end prostitution. You give a man your “brand new, prime condition” goods, and you get money in return. And our lives as women revolve around that one transaction. It feels like everything we do always leads us back that hat3anessy conclusion. Like, fuck all your other accomplishments, if you’re not married, you’re a waste of space.

The most frequently asked question to any male feminist when discussing women’s rights from a sexual perspective is “terdaha le okhtak?”, which pretty much sums up the problem. That a man has to give a woman permission over her own body, that a man can let or not let a woman do things. My biggest problem however, is not with the men who oppress women, but with the women who oppress other women, or who think that men oppressing women is 3ady. Ya setty you don’t want to live your life, sebeena e7na ne3eesh.

To those woman, I only have one thing to say: every time you feel like a human being, just remember that your worth depends on a little piece of membrane that covers your vagina, and if that doesn’t make you feel bad and/or cheap, this is just a gentle reminder that you should think of yourself as priceless, irrespective of whether or not you still have your quasi mythical flap of skin.


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