A few days ago, we shared an article showing two images that went viral of two Egyptian women suffering and/or being disrespected and devalued. One of these images was of a woman dragging a big cart with heavy boxes, as men sat in an Ahwa to her right.
When this image went viral, it was a call for help not only by women who are constantly suffering in our society, but by men as well. It was a call not only to get people to get up and work, but a call for safe working conditions and proper living standards and necessities. The call was eventually heard, and President Sisi took charge. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the way we would’ve hoped for and the answer was quite disturbing to say the least.
President Sisi decided to get Mona – the woman in the image – and have a media covered interview with her. The interview started with her praising him and him thanking her for coming and all those basic procedures of an interview. He then went on to tell her that she is a “beautiful example and idol” for Egyptians. That was strike number 1. How is her position of suffering and sad situation a beautiful example for Egyptians to follow? Her suffer turned into a celebration, by the man who should be preventing his people from such suffering. It turned into a celebration rather than being acknowledged as not ok.
The remainder of the interview continued within the same context, playing around the actual problem, by offering Mona personal solutions for her situation rather than ones targeting all those like her. We will base our main critique around this very point.
“According to a 2014 data release by CAPMAS, 17.8 percent of breadwinners in Egyptian households are women”
Ignoring the fact that praising her situation is a disturbing response, by doing so, President Sisi also fails to acknowledge that there are so many women like Mona who are working on a daily basis and sweating tears and blood to make any kind of proper living for their families. According to a 2014 data release by CAPMAS, 17.8 percent of breadwinners in Egyptian households are women. By offering Mona personal solutions such as buying her a car, and giving her an apartment and paying for her nephew’s married preparations, President Sisi is intentionally or unintentionally making it seem like Mona is one of very few people who work this hard, and thus deserves to be rewarded. Furthermore, he says he will put the picture of her that went viral on her car, so that when she goes out, people know who she is as a symbol of hard work and perseverance. Once again, he fails to realize that half the people – many of them being women – who will see Mona in her car, will be people who are working till their last breath just like her.
“If we were to share the images of every single woman – and man – working as hard as Mona, our FB feeds would have no room for anything else.”
By the end, the interview reaches a rhetoric that indicates those who work hard will always have a better life. Once again, this not only removes any blame or responsibility from the government in relation to the degrading social situation many Egyptians are facing, but fails to acknowledge that there are many women out there who are working equally as hard and getting no hoped for results in return. Mona simply got lucky that her image went viral. But if we were to share the images of every single woman – and man – working as hard as Mona, our FB feeds would have no room for anything else.
Bringing Mona in for an interview and speaking to her and making her feel like she belongs is a great first step. However, not acknowledging that this is a nation wide social struggle that many – not just Mona – already face, and conducting the interview in a way that indirectly attacks people for not working hard, is extremely not ok.