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Sexism in Arabic Music

Presentation at the Portland State University Undergraduate Student Conference on the Middle East, Portland, OR. All rights reserved: Dana Ghazi 2013. Permission to distribute for educational purposes.
by

Dana Ghazi

on 11 April 2014

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Transcript of Sexism in Arabic Music

Music is an integral part of a country’s culture. Arabic music is rich with acoustic melodies, heart wrenching songs about love and longing and has contributed to the world's cultural heritage. However, on privately owned Arabic music channels, a new popular music is emerging. This music, in clips and lyrics, objectifies women, down play their roles in the society, and portray them as promiscuous, seeking to pleasure men, in contrast to the more conservative Arab culture. Since music offers an insight into society's views on women, sexist elements can be traced in contemporary Arabic music, suggesting its roots in the society. But what happens when women defy their prescribed roles? Egyptian female activists have been experiencing the consequences of such defiance and decided, against norms, to speak up!
Sexism in Arabic Music in Relation to Sexual Harassment of Egyptian Activists
Women in Songs
Sexual Harassment in Egypt,
Why?
Womenundersiegeproject.org
Fighting back!
Harassmap.org
"Our mission is to end the social acceptability of sexual harassment. We work to achieve this by engaging all of society to re-establish consequences for harassers by encouraging all people to be watchful against harassment and take action by speaking up against harassers."
"Dad, I want to work!"
...
But we don't have girls who work with their degrees. Our girls are to be spoiled. Your work is my love and affection because you are the queen of my heart and you won't have time to do other things..
Oh apple
oh apple
I want you, oh apple,
I have never seen a girl as beautiful as you,
I've got to grab that apple..
Queens for the home, fruit and sexual entertainers on E rated music channels
Hey look, I have my eyes on you wherever you go, I have nothing else but to go around following you
Hey look, I will love you, against your will, and follow your footsteps like your shadow
Hey I know all your secrets and all those who you come in contact with,
I will love you against your will...
What can I do for you?
I am cute and beautiful
And you will start fantasizing about me as soon as you see me, so what do you want me to do for YOU?
Be aware! Songs are highly catchy
Yasmine Al-Baramwai, a musician who expierianced mass sexual harassment for 70 whole minutes
Stalking?
Gender roles?
Objectification?
"Women are crazy, and they are all the same, whether she is modern and unveiled, or totally covered."
Dula maganeen, Abu al Leef.
A woman in these songs is expected to be submissive, watched over, objectified, crazy or otherwise a prostitute. Considering that people from all ages are constantly being exposed to these messages, since some of these songs are very popular, a female political activist, whether unveiled or veiled, doesn't fit that picture. It is threatening to see women diligent, vocal and angry. Female Egyptian activists, for example, have defied that picture over and over. The price? Gang rapes and constant sexual harassment. But this is not about sexuality, it is about power and intimidation, it is about scaring women off the streets and marginalizing their political role.
On January 25 alone, the second anniversary of Egypt's uprising, at least 19 cases of assault against women were documented at protests in Cairo.
NPR's Leila Fadel February 21, 2013
My body hair is not excessive
My brain is not lacking
My voice won't be lowered
And my hymen is none of your business

Yafa, Palestine
The Circle of Hell. A graffiti painting by Mira and Zeft addressing the sexual harassments at Tahrir Square.
Cairo, Egypt
Global Protest Feb12
Global Protest Feb12, Alexandria
The Uprising of Women in the Arab World/facebook page 100k memebers
Palestine, for Egyptians and Syrians
Sind, Syria
Crystal, Lebanon
Dellair, Syria
Ali, Iraq
Give me my freedom, release my hands, for I gave it all, I never held back. Your shackles are causing my wrists to bleed, why would I keep them when they are finishing me?
Interestingly, Egyptian women are finding expression to their frustration of sexual harassment in music. During the Global March against sexual harassment, Egyptians raised banners with the picture of Umm Kulthoum, a classical Arab singer known as the Star of the East, with lyrics from her famous songs performed more than 50 years ago "Patience Has Its Limits, and Give Me My Freedom." This gives hope that Arab women and men, both in Egypt and beyond, are not only fighting against sexism in their societies, but are also rescuing our musical heritage from sexism in modern songs.
NOW NEWs.com SALAMA ABDELLATIF February 5, 2013
Working Women?
Sayida from Tunisia
I support the uprising of Arab women because I want to secure my future.
Womenundersiegeproject.org
patience has its limits
A Strong Woman will be Everywhere, and a Harasser is a Coward.
The revolution won't pass over the bodies of women or through them
I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because since men ruled the earth they have destroyed it...
Volunteers working to stop mass sexual violence in protests.
Umm Kulthoum
Happy International Women's Day!
Full transcript