You gotta fight for your right(s): street harassment and its relationship to gendered violence, civil society , and gendered negotiations


Nadia Ilahi


This Thesis explores particular dimensions of street harassment against women in Cairo, Egypt investigated in three ways: Paying attention to how gender, race and class intersect, I found Egyptian and foreign women utilize various strategies in order to cope with street harassment such as verbal silence, modifications their bodily movements and appropriated styles of dress which in turn strives to maintain a sort of mobile private space that maintains their respectability. However, paying attention to the discontinuities found within normative ideas of gender, I argue that women at times transgress the boundaries of it and fight back to the harassment they unwillingly receive by employing violence and class-motivated forms of protectionism. Secondly, I explored the relationship between street harassment and masculinity. I identify how social constructs of gender in Egyptian society are used to reinforce and at times encourage particular behaviors among men and women. Those notions normalize violent behaviors of men unto women and restate an ideal women's subjectivity to simultaneously remain silent and honorable. Arguably, street harassment against women is a form of violence, which, enacted by men serves to reinforce notions of a hegemonic masculinity. I like others, argue that the preoccupation with women's bodies in and outside of the Middle East, de-limits both their rightful access to public space and to safety. Lastly, I examined civil society's role in particular feminist desires of space. Focusing on an Egyptian NGO, The Egyptian Center for Womenâ s Rights-ECWR, I examined their relationship to the Egyptian state and their role in aligning themselves with particular Western feminist ideals. I grapple with their overarching platform of naming harassment, 'Sexual Harassment.' I maintain that although they champion women's rights, they must be careful in how they construct particular terminologies. I argue that the problem needs to be understood and tackled in cultural-specific terms designed by Egyptian women themselves. If not done carefully, we fall into the theoretical trap of representational politics of non-Western women and Egyptian society will continue to be split in believing that harassment is a problem worth solving

Degree Name

MA in Sociology-Anthropology

Date of Award


Online Submission Date

September 2012

First Advisor

Rizzo, Helen

Second Advisor

Pine, Adrienne

Document Type



160 p.


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