Is Harassment Hilarious? Nile Comedy TV Thinks so

There’s a new government-sponsored comedy channel in Egypt, Nile Comedy TV, which has created a humorous series of “non-commercial breaks.” One memorable example that made me laugh went like this:

Buy the Chinese sheep! It weighs 12 kg when alive, and 55 kg after being slaughtered. It’s fed on a diet of chips, so you can control the taste of the sheep by controlling the types of chips it eats. It comes in three colors: green, red and blue! It has two hearts, two livers, two stomachs and it has radio and bluetooth! It does not make noise and doesn’t move a lot, so it’s easy to slaughter. Surprise: You can slaughter it twice! And if you call now, you’ll get a free set of knives too! One shipping price, one set price. From Fahlway, where our motto is: ‘trick the customer.’

You get the idea.

But recently, they’ve come up with two commercials that alternatively make me a) roll my eyes b) very sad.

Here’s the first one, titled oh-so-humorously, The Electronic Harasser.

Let me break it down:

The guy sitting on the couch is asked a series of questions:

“Do you have a problem, and can’t harass girls on the street? Do you have the desire to get to know girls and not one of them gives you the time of day? You never know what to say or how? You have no experience? You’re afraid of a sexual harassment suit?”

The guy replies in the affirmative to all the questions. Not to worry, the voice tells us, a device now exists that is designed to help Egyptian men harass women on the street!

This amazing device (which you wear on a chain around your neck) has a camera that captures a picture of the girl you’re eyeballing on the street. It then analyzes her a) walk b) clothes and c) voice and gives you the correct harassment. So the examples we see are of the guy:

  • Being explicit to the unveiled girl when the device tells him, “Don’t mind anything, you can be as explicit as you like.”
  • Focusing on a veiled girl’s “respectability and beauty” when the device instructs him to harass her “gently and politely” (is there something wrong here, or is it just me?)
  • Running away from the fat woman when the device tells him to.

The last shot of the ad is of the guy surrounded by half a dozen unveiled women.

I’m so sick and tired of harassment. All Egyptian women are. As we’ve all mentioned more than once, a recent study by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) told us that in a country where over 80% of the women are veiled, 83% of women are harassed. 62% of Egyptian men surveyed admitted to harassment. 60% of the respondents (male and female) said that scantily clad women are more likely to be harassed though in reality 72% of the women who said they’d been harassed were veiled.

It’s so rampant we cease to think of it as a crime. It’s not even called harassment, “taharoush”, but the very light-hearted term “mu’aksa,” teasing. It’s verbal and physical. Only 2% of women who are harassed report it. 53% of Egyptian men blame women for bringing it upon themselves. Egyptian law doesn’t even mention harassment.

So let’s make it worse by creating a “comedic” ad that makes light of  sexual harassment?! I’m not sure which would be worse: if this was an actual product or the fact that it’s supposed to be funny. The issue is already considered trivial compared to other problems Egypt is suffering from–how is this ad supposed to be funny?

And not only are we saying that harassment is normal, let’s make it worse: What message is the ad sending about veiled/ unveiled girls? That unveiled girls are okay to harass? That they will somehow welcome your disgusting comments?!

And wait, that’s not all. Here’s the second ad, this time for a Sexual Harassment Stopper. Girls, rejoice!

The unveiled girl sitting on the couch is asked:

Do you feel afraid when you go out into the streets? Do you face problems when you go out? Do you get annoyed from the “teasing” you hear?

When the questions are asked, although they are serious, the music is anything but, therefore not giving weight to the travesty of the situation: what does it say about a civilized society in this day and age where women are afraid to walk in the streets?! We see a cartoon of a busty, unveiled blonde woman, and the girl being asked the questions/walking in the streets being harassed is unveiled, subtly implying that it’s only the unveiled girls who dress provocatively who get harassed.

So the device will do three things: a) give the guy a headache b) give the guy an electric shock c) stop you from hearing what he’s saying.

And here’s the kicker: If you want to, you can turn off the machine so you can hear the “teasing.” Because of course, there are girls who like it, don’t you know? As if we need anything to further support the absurd belief that women “like it” when you harass them.

The device is also an insect repellent. And if you buy it, you get a free sexy dress.

*headdesk*

  • Safiyyah

    Good to read a post from you after ages Ethar…
    sad situation – making light of harassment!! how has the public response been?

  • http://blog.hichamaged.net/ Hicham Maged

    Ethar, Women in ‘Egypt’, ‘Arab’, and ‘Muslims World’ have been stereotyped into what those two vids are promoting due to the lack of understanding what women mean; this is one of core problem(s) in the mentalities of the majority because I am not for generalising in any thing.

    You’ve highlighted on a common stereotype that we -Muslims- are suffuring from so before accusing non-Muslims we should look at our backyard first. For that matter, I do not think this is a ‘trivial issue’ because such stereotypes are directly reflected in producing other ‘non-trivial issues’ in our socities (Egypt and beyond).
    –END.

    But I can’t leave without mentioning that: “Ya Halawa ya Wlad, even if they are imetating the worest stuff from the others, they do it badly (zeft)” So what about a device that slap the guy on his face and say “Behave” (in the Egyptian Way or يا قليل الأدب)? In this case, the after the poor thing can ‘teshayass’ berahetha!

  • Salma

    i think the even bigger issue here is that it was aired in Ramadan!

  • Chris

    Great post. Though, as an white American male living in Egypt I don’t get a lot of harassment, I sympathize. I see far too much of it with my female friends. I wanted to ask, does the harassment ever get physical with Egyptian women, as it has on occasion with aganib?

  • http://lozah.wordpress.com Lozah

    Great post E! (mashaallah)
    Have you seen the Birell commercials with the motto “estargel” (be a man) where they show a busty blonde walking into a bar and a group of guys make lewd comments about her, but one guy says something like “she has a really great personality” and they all look at him in disgust? And then the motto appears: “be a man, drink Birell”. Classy.

    I really do think we need to look at the underlying causes here. Why is it that there are certain places where we know we’ll never get harassed? Why is it that all harassers seem to belong to a certain socio-economic class? It’s not just as simple as saying “they’re poor and unemployed so this is how they get their kicks”. That’s just one factor, coupled with a lack of sound religious education, coupled with gender segregation and a twisted perception of women that they probably get in their own homes. Anyway, sorry for the incoherent thoughts, I’m just thinking out loud…

    @Chris: Yeah it occasionally gets physical with Egyptian women as well, and even sometimes with veiled women, but in different ways. My experience has been that with Egyptian and/or veiled women harassers tend to me more subtle so that if she responds negatively (e.g. starts yelling at him or screaming bloody murder, which some women do, bless them) he can play dumb.

    Honestly, this issue really bothers me, not just because it’s personally annoying to experience harassment, but more because I’m really sad for the state of the Ummah! Sometimes I just want to give those men a lecture on the behaviour of the Prophet PBUH so they can be ashamed of themselves.

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  • Ethar El-Katatney

    @ Safiyyah: Thanks! Response is nada. No reaction at all.

    @ Hicham: If I may add: “tegry wara bel shebsheb kaman” :)

    @ Salma: And what was the reaction? Nothing

    @ Chris: Yes, it often gets physical too. And if the woman ever does anything, people look at her in shock for daring to say anything…she should suffer in silence.

    @ Lozah: Shukran! I’ve missed writing on here, walahi. Yes, I have seen the Birell ads, and I actually wrote a post about them on MMW a year ago. You can read it here:
    A Girl’s Personality is the Last Thing you Notice
    More importantly, read the comments.

    And I know what you mean about harassment making you sad just as much as it makes you angry. Here’s hoping it’ll change one day.

  • Mary Alice

    I really like what Hicham had to say.

    I am not a Muslim and living in the US and I am all for Americans looking into our own backyard to get rid of our sexism. I think we can do better than just saying that women were “asking for it” based on how we’re dressed, and I am sick of harrasment going on here. Or thinking that just because we’ve made a certain amount of progress when it comes to gender issues we should just stop right here, yep, all problems solved. I also hate stereotypes and don’t think sexist jokes being pervasive in the media is a trivial thing either, because there are always those people who don’t think it’s a joke and it justifies some people’s behavior in their mind.

    good post all together.

  • http://blog.hichamaged.net/ Hicham Maged

    @ Lozah: I believe it’s all about mentalities and the ‘socio-economic’ factors are not that important as media always magnify. For example, the “Birel Ads” you mentioned are simply targeting wealthy people not the poor ones (in terms of Egyptian rates not international) so it’s about minds and what is found there.

    @ Ethar: Be my guest; we’ve “Bata Stores” for that matter :)

    @ Mary: You hit the nail on the head by the last phrase regarding justifing their behavior but majority don’t understand this. You’ll find those problems at every nation’s backyard due to how we ‘precive’ women in general everywhere.

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  • http://nilecomedy ahmed

    i love comedy and all the people love comedy
    and the group of nile comedy will make to all in the group laughing

  • Heather

    Ethar, thanks for putting time into describing the ads for those of us with slow internet connections. They really are a sad statement about how so many people – men and women – perceive this disgusting situation.

    Ahmed, comedy is great but not everything is an appropriate subject for comedy. Did you think the Danish cartoons about Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) were funny???


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