This article analyzes the increasing spread of male-to-female harassment
on the streets of Cairo. The aim is to first describe, define and contextualize
street harassment as a social phenomenon and secondly to suggest some
main social factors that provoked the development of the problem in the
first place. This analysis takes a particular look at the correlation between
street harassment and decades of structural and institutional changes
which have had an impact on patriarchy as a defining system for the
relationship between men and women.
Historically in Egypt, patriarchy was not only fundamental for spatial
and gendered organization within the private family sphere, but
also for demarcating movement and participation in the public domain.
In recent decades, high unemployment rates among men have undermined
the conditions for upholding the patriarchal structure. This article
argues that street harassment is symptomatic of high unemployment
rates and of a consequentially weakening patriarchal system. It
identifies the everyday spectacle of male-to-female street harassment as
indicative of the frustration and difficulties in adhering to cultural ideals
in a time of immense structural transformations. These transformations
have impaired Egyptian males’ ability to fulfil their traditional role as
economic providers, something which has resulted in their lack of
achievement and demasculinization.