If you followed Twitter closely during the Egyptian Revolution, there was a young black woman whose tweets shed special light on the situation, and her name is France of FrenchieGlobal. A young black woman who spent eight months living in Cairo right before the revolution, France authored the hugely popular blog, BlackinCairo.blogspot.com, which won the Best Travel Blog Award in the 2010 Black Weblog Awards. Parlour chatted with the prolific tweeter about Egyptian gender relations, blogging in secret and just how Twitter became her first source of information.
What brought you to Egypt?
I got a Boren fellowship to go to Egypt from January-August 2010. I wanted to study in Egypt because I read about Sudanese immigrants sneaking into Israel across the Egyptian Sinai. Egypt employs a shoot to kill policy, so I wondered what was so bad about Egypt that a Sudanese immigrant would leave the country and risk his/her life to go across the Sinai.
People often associate Egypt solely with pyramids and King Tut, what were your general impressions of the country?
It was all about the pyramids, King Tut and Cleopatra. An Egyptian friend of mine who was studying in the same grad program who brought me back to reality. He said what a difficult life I’d have being a woman, foreign and black. He told me to be prepared to face certain situations.
How are relations between men and women in Egypt?
I was discussing this with my roommate, who went to Tahir Square to see some of the things herself. When women got into the Square, the police would escort them, that speaks a lot about gender relations. There is still that mentality that a woman out alone is asking for trouble. Sexual harassment is always an issue. People will physically touch you in an inappropriate manner on the street. When I did see pictures of women during the protests, they were always grouped up.
How did this dynamic affect your experience in Cairo?
There was no way I could go outside without facing harassment. You come from a place where you can go whatever you want, so this dynamic is not something that comes to mind.
When I researched this topic, I found that in Egypt a man canâ€™t marry if he canâ€™t afford to put the women in an apartment. A lot of men are unemployed so they end up never getting married or pushing their wedding date further and further away. You also canâ€™t have sex without getting married so many people are sexually frustrated. So as a woman, going out becomes an issue of whether the place you are going is safe.