Strictured Femme is an audio and visual installation that acts as a looking glass, into the hyper sexualized context of the female figure within the Egyptian culture. How shame and gaslighting can be used to manipulate Egyptian women’s sense of value.
Clips from the piece
Strictured Femme is divided into two parts. The first and main part is an audio visual performance piece, based on my personal experiences as an Egyptian woman. The second is a summary of the cultural context of the position of women in Egyptian society aimed at establishing a basic background knowledge. This knowledge is necessary to highlight a specific mindset within that culture. The goal of Stricutred Femme is to create a sense of empathy for, and understanding of, the trauma that victims of sexual abuse face throughout their lives.
My country taught me the feelings of shame and guilt at a very young age. In Egypt, a woman’s value is measured by her “purity”. If a man forces his sexual desires on a woman and gets caught, she is the one to blame. If a woman dares to speak out about her traumatic experience, she is the one who suffers the societal consequences. This treatment of Egyptian women highlights a strange and deep rooted hypocrisy. One of the oldest civilizations, with a long history of matriarchal control, has recently shifted to a mindset that constantly subjects Egyptian women to unwanted eroticized behavior.
There is a level of complexity when trying to pin down women’s role and sense of value within Egyptian culture, so I divided my background research into three chapters. Chapter one takes an anthropological glimpse into women’s lives. Comparing examples such as Pharaoh Hatshepsut, to the 1980’s character troupe, a woman's main obligation is to please her husband. Due to the classicist system these obligations differ from each social level.
Chapter two looks at the Egyptian male gaze and its influence on female liberation. A good example is the relationship between the gazer and the belly dancer. Some assume if she shows her body in such a display that it signals an invitation. Somehow along the years the averting one’s eyes turned into teaching a woman on how not to entice the men. Fifi Abdo, a famous belly dancer, uses her dancing as a way to assert her sexuality and her sharp wit keeps everyone in line and self aware. Thus shifting the gaze of her body as the subject rather than an object.
The final chapter explores the political influence of using shame as a way to govern female sexuality and public behavior. Uncovering violence and sexual assault against female activists from 1919 to 2011 Tahrir protest, according to the state and military they do not represent good “family values”. Over the years prominent female activists figures faced backlash from the government and even at times other local women. Claiming that these females are promiscuous and threatening. Doing anything more might endanger their honor, which then leads to violence.