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Zineb Ouachtouki

The History of Egyptian Culture: A Guide to Understanding Sexual Oppression


Part 1: Aims (Abstract of 200 words or fewer): As concisely as you can, state the
objectives of your project. Explain your project in terms that will be understandable
to a general, non-specialist audience.
According to a recent study, ninety-nine percent of Egyptian women say they have
experienced sexual harassment. Through my preliminary research, I noticed that many
organizations dedicated to helping Egyptian women do not currently often address the
issue of sexual harassment correctly. While economic and political trainings are
beneficial, sex is a key piece, especially to this region. My research will help provide a
historical analysis of sexual oppression in Egypt in order to help inform organizations
about the culture and the recent history. I will look at movements such as the Arab
Awakening and examine how conversations about sex have evolved. My research will
identify: sexual oppression pre-Arab Awakening, what ignited the movements, what
specifically were women fighting for, what struggles did women deal with during the
movements, and the current state of sexual oppression in Egypt. Through this research, I
hope these organizations will understand the importance of having an open dialogue of
sex in Egypt and view it as just as vital as economic and political education. Hopefully
these newly informed organizations will be more effective with their missions to
empower the women of Egypt.
Part 2: Background:
Through my work, I hope to provide information to organizations that go to into Egypt to
assist women there but are not intimately familiar with the culture or history.
Organizations will learn how the history of the patriarchal culture formed, how the Arab
Awakening changed conversations about sex, and what are the ways to help these women
that would most beneficial. A book that complements my research is We Should All Be
Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It would give readers background
information as to why feminism is for everyone, which will then lead to an understanding
of why a sexual education for Egyptian woman is necessary. Another book that readers
would benefit greatly from reading is Headscarves and Hymens by Mona Eltahawy
where she discusses the reasons why the MENA needs a sexual revolution. My research
will benefit from this information because I will be focusing greatly on how the history of
the culture leading up to the uprising and the significance of feminist movements during
The Arab Awakening. I also will discuss how and why women protested during the Arab
Awakening. By mentioning that women in Egypt protested during the Arab Awakening, I
hope I can clarify to organizations that women in Egypt were tired of living a patriarchal
culture where the are seen as sexual objects or the other. I will incorporate The new
suffragettes: Courage in Cairo - the Arab womens awakening, by Catrina Stewart in

order to provide me with interviews that have already been conducted with Egyptian
women protestors where they speak on wanting to gain basic human rights. Hopefully
these texts are able to help provide history of the culture leading up to the uprising and
the significance of feminist movements during The Arab Awakening.
Part 3: Argument and Significance: State the point of your project. What issues will
you be examining? What specific question will be answered, problem solved, or
hypothesis tested through your research? Is there a controversial idea you propose
to address or missing information you propose to provide? What might this
projects results add to our understanding of a particular problem or area of study?
Explain why your audience should care about your work.
The point of my research would be to provide a resource for organizations or people
looking to help women in Egypt by looking at culture and recent history. Many people
often associate Islam with oppression, but do not understand that it is not religion, but it
is culture that plays a huge role in the oppression of women. Most of the conflicts
between Islam and modern women's rights is attributed to culture, rather than the actual
religion, states Omaima Abu-Bakr. Due to this misunderstanding, many people go in
often wanting to solve the wrong issues or attempt to address matters that are not directly
solving the issue. My research will discuss the history of the misogynistic culture and
how its recent history dealt with sexual oppression. It will bring attention to how
significant the recent uprising of women has been and what it means for the future of the
conservative culture. By constantly stressing culture throughout my research, I hope
that I can remove the misunderstanding that the misogynistic culture and sexual
oppression is a result of Islam.
Part 4: Project Design/Methods/Results: State the research methods you will use,
and explain how these will address your questions. What will you do? Where will
the work be done? What will your results look like (quantitative, qualitative,
creative)? What methods will you use to analyze, interpret, and assess results?
How will you communicate your results to others?
In cases that involve close work with a professor, it is important that you indicate
the ways in which you will make an independent or creative contribution. While
professorial oversight and support are essential in most cases, the summer
fellowships are not awarded to students who will merely be faculty research
assistants.
I will conduct my research by using secondary sources such as interviews that have
already been conducted with Egyptian activist/feminists, research papers that document
Egypts sex culture, and articles that discuss womens protests throughout the Arab
Awakening. I also hope to speak to two professors at the University of Richmond, Dr.
Sweis and Dr. Carapico, who have direct experience with those in Egypt. Dr. Carapico
was in Egypt during the Arab Awakening and will be able to provide me with insight of
on-the-ground observations of Egyptian women protesting womens issues. I hope to

work closely with Dr. Sweis while conducting my research as she has is not only Arab
herself, but has spent two years working with Egyptian women in Egypt. Dr. Sweis will
be able to provide a lot of firsthand observations of Egyptian culture. Through talking to
them, I hope to gain an understanding of what they believe Egyptian women could
benefit from, what is lacking, and what they believe the most important problems are.
Hopefully, this first hand insight will have the potential to provide organizations with
enough info from women that proves that sexual oppression is engrained in the culture,
not a result of religion. From there, I can then communicate to readers that Egyptian
women would benefit from learning how to alter how they are viewed in their culture not
only economically and politically, but also sexually.
Part 5: Literature Cited: Provide a bibliography of any works referenced in the
preceding parts. References demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and with
the scholarly background of your research project.
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. We Should All Be Feminists. London: Fourth Estate, 2014.
Eltahawy, Mona. Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual
Revolution. Farrar,
Straus and Giroux, 2015.
Al-Ali, Nadje S. "Gender and Civil Society in the Middle East." Transcending
Boundaries Gender and
Civil Society, December 2, 2010, 216-32. International Feminist Journal of Politics.
Adams, Kimberly. "Women Scholars in Egypt Reflect on the Intersection of Islam and
Feminism." Public Radio International. May 20, 2015.
Stewart, Catrina. "The New Suffragettes: Courage in Cairo - the Arab Womens
Awakening." Independent. May 29, 2013.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/the-new-suffragettes-courage-incairo-the-arab-women-s-awakening-8636534.htm.
"Now Is The Time." The Economist. October 15, 2011.
http://www.economist.com/node/21532256.