Saturday, March 24, 2012

Egyptians Need Not Apply

In the past few days I have seen a few different postings on various Hurghada sites commenting on the need to be attractive for a few different things. One was a job description, in which the company put at the top of their requirements, must speak Polish and be good looking. With such a subjective requirement as being part of the job, I have to wonder how many people read the description and move on for fear that they might not meet the 'good looking' requirement. I had to ask the original poster, and his response was simply "being good looking is a requirement in all facets of life isn't it?"

Perhaps this is what is so wrong with society these days. In Egypt, women of a Western persuasion will deal with harassment on a daily basis ranging from cat calls to the more violating, yet thankfully infrequent, groping or flashing experiences. As Islamists continue to gain more control in the political arena throughout the country, it is not surprising to hear rhetoric being thrown around of imposed veiling, morality police, and the like. So this is all well and good on paper, but then when you see things like "good looking" as part of a job description, it completely polarizes the majority of potential employees. It may as well say "veiled and over-weight women need not apply." It takes advantage of the image people have of Western women in Hurghada (that is, we are all easy and overly-friendly), and uses to the advantage of the company the sexually driven desires most Egyptian men have when speaking with a foreign woman. Talk about a double standard.

With this in mind, I ran into this flyer posted on facebook:

Yes, that does say "Face and dress control." Again, a completely subjective method of permitting entrance. Does this translate to "if you're ugly don't even bother?" Even more questionable is with the stringent couples and dress code policies that are portrayed by the night clubs in Hurghada, why entering these establishments does not live up to the expectations. Any single woman can expect to be accosted by the men in there hoping for their one foreign fling, as we all bear the scarlet letter of harlot being from the West.

Is it not about time that these ostracizing stereotypes be addressed in Egypt? Perhaps the worry of an imposed hijab is not all that women in Egypt should be mindful of. Perhaps a bigger question we should be asking, is if Egyptian women find themselves with an imposed hijab written into the legislation, how much further is this going to push Western women living in Egypt onto the outskirts and cause harassment to skyrocket?

In a town like Hurghada which makes the majority of its income from tourism, this concern should be at the forefront of many business owners’ minds. Further alienating the foreign population, specifically the foreign female population, may actually end up back-firing on them and seeing a reduction in business rather than a surge in good-looking entrants.  If conservative ideals and subsequently conservative dress continues to spread throughout Egypt, Hurghada may find itself facing a long and up-hill battle to un-do the years of polarization foreign women have been subjected to. After all, if all the foreign women leave, the over-sexed men may have no choice but to turn to hijabis for their next "good-looking" endeavour.

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