May 23, 2019
Egyptian psychologist Asma Abdulazim warns that young Egyptian women are facing a dire threat. Television hosts are telling them, “love yourself,” and the result is clear: A corrosive brand of individualism is spreading throughout the country that encourages women to rebel, destroys their lives, tears apart families, and undermines all of Egyptian society.
A number of Egyptian talk shows targeted at women have sprung up in recent years. They examine traditional gender roles and debate challenges many Egyptian women face. The topics range from serious to frivolous, from how to gain a fiancé’s respect to fashion.
While the shows seek to generate excitement, they are careful to avoid revolutionary rhetoric or to broach sensitive issues. Guests defending the status quo generally outnumber controversial panelists. For example, when panelists on one episode of “Women Talk” debated whether women can live without men, the majority safely concluded that they cannot.
Even so, state censorship looms. In March, male viewers’ complaints prompted Egyptian regulators to force “To Hell with Men” off the air for incitement, with men noted as the victims. State-owned newspapers complain that television should be strengthening women’s roles as wife and mother.
The Sisi government proudly touts the record number of Egyptian women in public office. Yet at the same time, it is asserting firm control over public debate on women’s issues and cracking down on activists who highlight the high rates of domestic violence and street harassment in Egypt. The government seems to be sending a message that it has matters well in hand, and the last thing it needs is women raising grievances.
This article is part of the CSIS Middle East Program series Mezze: Assorted Stories from the Middle East.