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.