In the recent www.feministing.com post Two-thirds of Egyptian men admit to harassing women, Jessica Valenti quotes from Reuters:

Nearly two-thirds of Egyptian men admit to having sexually harassed women…and a majority say women themselves are to blame for their maltreatment, a survey showed Thursday.

The forms of harassment reported by Egyptian men, whose country attracts millions of foreign tourists each year, include touching or ogling women, shouting sexually explicit remarks, and exposing their genitals to women.

“Sexual harassment has become an overwhelming and very real problem experienced by all women in Egyptian society, often on a daily basis,” said the report by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights

Valenti adds:

83 percent of Egyptian women reported having been sexually harassed, almost half of these women said the abuse occurred every day. Yikes.

Details of the report by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights can be found here.

My problem with what Reuters and Valenti wrote is a problem I often have with feminist claims — harmful acts are mixed together with harmless ones. We are given a seemingly alarming statistic without knowing which part of the statistic is comprised by harmful acts and which part is comprised by harmless acts.

In this case, we are told that the harassment being reported includes “touching or ogling women, shouting sexually explicit remarks, and exposing their genitals to women.” Pardon me, but there is a hell of a difference between touching/groping/”exposing genitals” to women and ogling women. 

For one, ogling women is natural and harmless.  Many women enjoy the fact that men are demonstrating that they are attractive.  Many women I’ve known have boasted about the ogling and/or remarks. Reuters calls the harassment “abuse,” but merely being ogled is in no way “abuse.”

Does anybody really think that a man who ogles an attractive Arab woman like Emmanuelle Chriqui (pictured) is a “harasser” or an “abuser”? All it really means is that he’s male and has a pulse.

If, however, most of this sexual harassment is groping or exposing genitals, then I think Egypt has a real problem.  If most of it is just ogling, then this report means little. I do not see the forms of harassment broken down in any of the media reports or Valenti’s report.  If anybody knows of where I can find the breakdown, please let me know.

I feel the same way about the alleged “blaming” of women for the harassment.  Such blame often angers feminists, and Valenti seems to agree.  Again though, the “blaming” is not very meaningful unless we know what kinds of acts we’re talking about.  For example, it is ludicrous for a man who has exposed his genitals to a woman to blame her for what he did.  This is similarly true with groping.  In both cases, the men deserve to be punished, regardless of what the women were (or were not) wearing.

However, if we’re only talking about ogling, the rules are different.  I’ve always found it silly the way some women go way out of their way to dress so that men will notice them and be attracted to them, and then pretend to be “offended” when men look. 

Cultural traditions in Egypt push women towards dressing conservatively, so I’m not sure how much women’s mode of dress fits in here.  I traveled some in the Arab world in the mid-1980s, and my experience was that some women dressed in a very Western manner, while others dressed in a very conservative, Moslem manner.  In the major cities, it was more of the former than the latter, and the reverse in the countryside.

On the larger issue, the way women are treated in certain parts of the Muslim world is appalling.  One example, from when I traveled in Morocco:

I was walking down a street and a veiled woman was walking on the same sidewalk as I was, coming the opposite way.  Suddenly she turned down into a doorway, kneeled down, and pulled her robes over her. 

I was only 19-years-old and didn’t know a damn thing — I thought she was sick, or injured, or in trouble.  I went up to her and tapped her on the shoulder and tried to ask her what was wrong. (This was in Morocco, where much of the population speaks French, and at the time I spoke French fairly well, so she probably was able to understand what I was saying).

As I talked to her, she seemed to be increasingly agitated and she waved her hand at me asking me to go away.  After a while, I left, with misgivings.

Afterwards I was informed by a couple other Moroccans that since I was a Westerner, were she to look me in the eye or in any way interact with me, she would be branded a whore.  Seeing her afraid like that was a sad and moving experience.

Glenn Sacks, www.GlennSacks.com

[Note: If you or someone you love is faced with a divorce or needs help with child custody, child support, false accusations, Parental Alienation, or other family law or criminal law matters, ask Glenn for help by clicking here.]

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