At that point, I interjected and told the guy, “I’m standing right here if you’d like to ask me a question about my nationality.”
“In Egypt, we always direct the question to the man,” he said.
“Well I’m perfectly capable of answering for myself, and it is actually very rude to talk to my husband about me when I’m standing right here,” I replied.
At this point, the guy awkwardly turned to my husband and made some sort of apology in Arabic (also inaccurately assuming I didn’t understand what he was saying) – although it was pretty obvious that he thought I was just being some silly girl.
I’m not the only woman who dislikes being shoved to the side by men of course. One reaction many women seem to have is being more aggressive in pushing people out of the way in crowded stores or when getting on the metro. It is easy to see why this happens when you live in a place where being a woman can be a liability in being heard.
But back to the protest today in Cairo. Women in Egypt certainly face no small number of obstacles – perceptions of women in the workplace, unemployment, under-education, inequality in the treatment of the law, sexual harassment – but to view Egyptian women in any way as being subservient or without a voice would be completely false.
Women first turned up in Tahrir Square to demand the resignation of Mubarak who oppressed and mistreated the Egyptian people for almost thirty years. Now, they are showing up again to demand that women have equal rights and equal treatment.
While obtaining these rights will be difficult, the biggest challenge facing the women that will protest in Tahrir Square today will be proving that they are half of Egypt and half of Egyptians – and for that reason deserve to be listened to.