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Editor’s letter: The media and sexual violence - Daily News Egypt

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Editor’s letter: The media and sexual violence

Think twice before you create a monster from your imagination that later becomes real, and reflects the whole of society on the same mirror

Maher Hamoud
Maher Hamoud

Sexual violence or harassment, a highly visible phenomenon which has infected and spread within Egyptian society over the past ten years, is a complicated issue. Suggested reasons for this social disease have included sexual frustration, economic hardship, conservatism versus liberalism, and/or lack of law enforcement. Analysts may argue and disagree on all of the previous factors or involved age groups, but the role of the media seems to be one of the most dominant and influential in this equation.

This Eid (feast), while most Egyptians traditionally head out to public parks and shopping areas, many concerned activists took the initiative to act against sexual violence, organising a variety of anti-sexual violence activities. A tremendous amount of videos and pictures have been produced and circulated across social media outlets during the three days of Eid.

A very interesting observation can be made from the footage circulated. Many of the harassers were under 16, and most of the victims were very modestly dressed, with their heads covered. This observation does not necessarily conflict with the above-mentioned reasons for sexual harassment, but it adds a very important dimension as to why the crime is actually committed. It is (for the perpetrators) “fun” and “cool.” It is “entertaining” to touch a woman’s sensitive part, pretend it wasn’t you, and then make your friends laugh.

Since we are a society that adores jokes and making fun of everything in the middle of the most miserable situations, it seems that this phenomenon has found its place in society like a fire in dry hay. But, for God’s sake, what makes hurting another person cool? And how can such a disgusting crime be conceived as fun?

It is simply the media, I believe.

Let’s consider the movies of superstar-comedian Adel Imam and younger pop star/idol Tamer Hosny, who both filmed scenes in which they literally performed sexual violence against female strangers. These scenes were produced in comedic style, with the respective stars coming up with creative, hilarious quips and always ended up with the female falling for her harasser.

Adel Imam and Tamer Hosny are not the first or only stars involved in the production of such irresponsible “art.” Many others have found it an easy way to reach stardom through kitschy scenes or songs. However, these particular two superstars seem to be very influential and leading the trend.

Since the media is apparently a significant creator of people’s awareness and identity, sexual violence has found its way to people’s consciousness, and become attractive to carry out in reality.

Those barely 16 year old children documented on videos and photographs over the past couple of days are living evidence proving that sexual violence has become pop-culture in Egypt. Through cheap, irresponsible media and other factors, the problem has been exacerbated. Yet through socially responsible media, this social disease could be treated.

Art might be the mirror of society. But think twice before you create a monster from your imagination that later becomes real, and reflects the whole of society on the same mirror. It is just a matter of ethics verses cheap money making.

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  • Art is a very interesting social phenomenon- yes, it is a phenomenon. On the one hand, art mirrors society and portray real-life examples, even if negative and gruesome at times. On the other hand, art is often mirrored, and especially by teenagers, and followed almost religiously as it often provides young adults with scripts of normative behaviour and acceptability. In a way, art becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy!

  • S. Salem

    On the surface, I would agree with your argument. In fact, I believe that much of our indifference, increasing violence and promiscuity stems from media influence – not just in Egypt but worldwide. However, Egyptian media is tame compared to a lot of Hollywood fare and yet I don’t have to worry about walking the streets in most Western countries (only late at night if I’m on my own). So this begs the question, what makes Egypt so unique that men feel it’s their right to hiss, make suggestive sounds and violate a woman’s dignity? We can’t just blame it on the media. There is something else at play here and merely blaming the media is an attempt at avoiding the real reasons – which if we were to be honest, are not pretty.

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