“The everyday is far more political.” I sat in class pondering over how significant that statement was. It was true. Embodying what you believe in, and living your life accordingly can be a far stronger strategy to achieving what you want. I thought of all the women that inspired me; the ones that I have met and the others that I admired from afar. They lived their lives in constant resistance, but their resistance wasn’t in the resolutions they lobbied or the protests they organized. Their resistance was in their everyday life. It was in the way they dressed, the way they smiled, the way they spoke, and even in the way they thought of life. They embodied the resistance; they embodied what they wanted to see in society. It became apparent to me that resistance can be as simple as ‘the everyday’.
And that was far more powerful…
I imagined all the times I neglected to listen to other people because I wouldn’t let society change my beliefs or the times I would not shut up when someone said something I find to be gender-insensitive. I have always been quite drawn to the gender discourse, as I had difficulty understanding why I, as a little girl, was treated differently because of my gender.
Stories of people I knew popped up in my head and I thought how powerful their everyday life is as a form of resistance. Their stories inspire me and inspire the countless women around them. These women might not have defied society in direct forms but they stood for what they wanted and that alone is resistance to me.
1. ‘El bent men beit’ha l beit goz’ha’
“Even though it is considered unorthodox for women to live alone, I decided to travel abroad to pursue my Master’s. I’ve wanted to study abroad since I was 16. And I wasn’t able to do so for my undergrad because of those reasons, ‘girls shouldn’t live alone abroad by themselves’. The ‘el bent men beit’ha l beit goz’ha’ kind of arguments. And it took some time and initiative on my part to assert that this is what I want and this is how I think I will make progress in my life. People generally just have this perception that girls who live alone don’t want to be supervised because they are doing something wrong. That’s the sentiment I sense most of the time. My argument is always that any human being, male or female, needs to learn to rely on himself or herself and be independent. And living alone is the best way to do that.” – Safeya, 23
2. ‘Everyone has the right to ‘correct’ my bad behavior’
“I always get told that this is not what a girl should be saying or doing. People will start talking about me and they will assume that I am not a good girl. It’s not even my parents who tell me this. But people who know me from somewhere or are not closely related to me. People who should mind their own business but they don’t because I’m a girl and everyone has the right to ‘correct’ my bad behavior.” – May , 23
3. ‘When are you going to quit?’
“I have been practicing ballet for 15 years. Ballet is definitely not a sport, or an art that is accepted by everyone. Some people think it’s a waste of time, some think it’s not acceptable and there was even a time when it was going to be banned in Egypt. Others think there’s no future to ballet. Doing Ballet in Egypt is something that might be of course considered odd; I’ve even had some friends ask me ‘When are you going to quit?’ not in a form of curiosity, but in a way that I knew meant ‘there’s no use what you’re practicing’. However, all of these comments and beliefs are what keep me going, holding on and challenging all of their misbeliefs and misconceptions. I’m also certain I’m never going to stop dancing unless something major happens that forces me to, I don’t think being pregnant will even let me stop. However, I still have my supporters of course that believe that what I’m doing is special and that not everyone has the opportunity to do what I’m doing. I’ll never stop dancing, in fact, I’ll keep exploring and learning.” – Nada, 21
4. ‘A woman needs a man to carry her bag’
“So as women, we’re always thought less of when it comes to physical strength. There is always this idea that a woman needs a man to carry her bag and things of that sort. A couple of years ago, I got the chance to work with a friend on a climbing wall and a high ropes course. I was always fascinated with the work these people did and how they never seemed to be afraid of the height, and I was intrigued by the amount of physical effort it took to do this kind of work. A few months later, this friend (who is a guy) recommended that I go for a training to actually be a certified High Ropes Course and Zipline facilitator. I went to the training and was among 3 other girls and 10 other boys. The training was so intense, we had to work continuously for hours and do a lot of physical work, which included belaying, climbing, climbing up a 20-meter ladder with a bunch of ropes and metal gear strapped to my back, but I loved it! By the end of the training, I found out that I was actually the ONLY person that got certified! It was a huge achievement for me!! Ever since, I’ve led teams that sometimes were only men who were all older than me. This experience made me feel that I am able and that if I put my mind to something I can do it, no matter what others think. Working on the high ropes is still influencing me in several ways, it taught me that regardless of my gender, I can still do great things, I can be responsible for people’s lives, I can still lead a team of very experienced people and I can be exceptional in whatever I want to do. I have actually belayed my trainer up the climbing wall with a gear that doesn’t lock automatically – he was twice my weight at the time.” – Meryt, 22
5. ‘My father subtly asking me if I was gay’
“Sports were never really my thing, but I had always loved soccer since I was a little girl. As I got older though, it was obvious that I was developing two left feet. Soon I decided to make Rugby my new main sport and then comments began to flow from each and every direction. From my Arabic teacher telling me that girls should be graceful and shouldn’t play such violent sports to my father subtly asking me if I was gay, the comments were quite interesting. I still play rugby and I take pride in my war wounds! Gender was never and will never be an excuse. At the age of 8, I had made it my mission in life to defy gender limitations and stereotypes.” – Maria, 14
6. ‘It is trashy, and it is associated by ‘girls who do bad things’
“I got like 3 extra ear piercings other than the normal ones. Obviously my entire family was against it for reasons like it is a ‘foreign concept’ and it is trashy, and it is associated by ‘girls who do bad things.’ I still did it.” – Malak, 18
7. ‘Difficult or not marriage material‘
“I never let a man I am dating control me. Where I go, what I do, what I dress, who I hang out with and my entire life is truly of my own making. I do not appreciate men who feel the need to ask me about my every move. I do not tolerate that. I also do not tolerate disrespect or gender-insensitivity. If this makes me the type of girl that is difficult or not marriage material than so be it, I’d rather be single and happy than chained to a man that doesn’t appreciate me. I don’t care if you think you can raise your voice because you’re a ‘man’. I’m telling you I am a woman, and I will not tolerate that.” – Anonymous, 22.