By Joy Alise Davis
During the 2010 Summer, I worked as a peer mentor for The U.S. Department of State to host a 2010 Study of the United States Institute (SUSI) at Miami University. Students traveled from Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco to learn more about Social Entrepreneurship through Miami University’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship. During the 3 weeks the students were on campus. I had the opportunity to learn more about North Africa. We spent hours exchanging cultural stories, music, dances, politics and personal experiences. This is a conversation Nada Yehia and I had regarding gender roles, gender politics, and sexuality.
Joy Davis- Please state your full name, Age and place of birth:
Nada Yehia-My name is Nada Yehia , 19 years old, was born in Cairo, Egypt.
Joy Davis- What University do you attend and what program do you study?
Nada Yehia-I go to Cairo University, Faculty of Mass Communication, English section, Major: Media, Minor: Marketing.
Joy Davis- Please describe any traditions of typical gender roles in your country (What is expected of females and males in your country):
Nada Yehia-Females do have to come back home before 10 pm , males are a little bit more free to stay out late at night, some families do put constrains on girls traveling alone, making friendships with guys and stuff like that, that’s why I’m not the common case because my parents do give me space to stay out late, travel alone with my friends or to make friendships with guys, and you know I believe that this is kind of related to differences between sectors within the same community, educated more intellectual people tend to be more liberal than others.
Joy Davis- Are females in your country required to fulfill any duties in the family setting ?
Nada Yehia-Females do have to up bring the kids and take care of them, mothers normally do feed the kids, follow up with their teachers, things like that .. , while fathers do have to pay the bills.
Joy Davis- . Do you wear your headscarf for religious ,social ,cultural reasons or other reasons?
Nada Yehia-Wearing my headscarf is absolutely NOT related to any social or cultural reasons, it’s totally up to me & my Islamic beliefs, I do wear it because I feel that I love God & I want to do something that would get me closer to him.
Joy Davis- Are you required to wear your headscarf?
Nada Yehia-No, I’m not , as a Muslim woman I’m supposed to wear it, but I don’t have to do so; I have like many Muslim female friends and cousins who do not wear headscarves, women are totally free to wear it or not.
Joy Davis- Can you please tell me of any myths that you have encountered in respects in to your headscarf here in America for the SUSI program?
Nada Yehia-Unfortunately yes, while I was in New York’s airport I went to the ladies restroom. I was checking out the place, I found a lady cleaning the place & putting caution signs, I was just watching the place I didn’t step into the wet area or anything & suddenly I found this lady yelling at me saying >> CANT YOU READ, I’M WORKING HERE<< apparently she assumed that I’d step in & that I absolutely can’t read English!! nod of course this was because of my headscarf. Knowing that I do know how to write, speak and read English I was shocked that I couldn’t even say a word and you know that I wasn’t prepared for that kind of discrimination that early, I was very exhausted from my 12 hours direct flight, so it wasn’t the perfect time to face that kind of things, she really did help in making my bad long exhausting day worse.
Joy Davis- Do you feel like Americans treat you differently because of your appearance while in the US?
Nada Yehia-Only once, with that restroom cleaner, but beyond this incident there was nothing like that, maybe people were a little bit curious which is normal , but nobody was offending or anything.
Joy Davis- What are the traditional male roles in your culture?
Nada Yehia-Males are supposed to protect their families, take care of them. Fathers normally have the say inside the house; they also do have to take care of all the financial issues.
Joy Davis- What is the policy for gay/lesbian/bisexual/queer citizens who live in your country?
Nada Yehia-Gay citizens do not normally mention in public that they are gays, because being gay is not accepted by the Egyptian society, not accepted by Muslims and not accepted by Christians as well.
Joy Davis- Do gay/lesbian/bisexual/queer citizens have any rights, For example marriage or the right to openly express their love for the same sex?
Nada Yehia-No they do not have this kinds of rights, because the Egyptian community is a kind of religious community & since being gay is forbidden in both Islam & Christianity (orthodox), it’s not an option for gay people to express love or anything in public.
Joy Davis- As a female student, do you feel like you are treated any differently from the male students at your school?
Nada Yehia- No, certainly not. Female students are equal to male students. Female students even have higher ranks in schools and universities than males.
Joy Davis- As a female are you required to do anything differently than male students on the same status?
Nada Yehia-No of course not but you know what males have to do something that we don’t have to do which is military service after graduation.
Joy Davis- Did you have any stereotypes of gender roles before traveling to the US?
Nada Yehia- You know, before I came to the U.S. I used to think that males are discriminative against females only in the Middle East, but when I arrived to the U.S. I had this conversation with some American girls & guys and surprisingly what I found out was that guys are guys everywhere, they have this discriminative behavior against women everywhere in the world, their ego do make them feel that they drive better, they lead better, they do everything better even in the U.S.!
Joy Davis- What was your first impression of American females upon your arrival in the US?
Nada Yehia- Like females everywhere, always better than males, kidding 😀 .. I found them equal to males, independent and competitive and kind of still suffering from males’ discriminative behavior.
Joy Davis- Were any of your first concerns true about gender roles in the US after interacting with males and females in the SUSI program.
Nada Yehia-I didn’t have any concerns about gender roles, I mean I wasn’t anxious or anything from interacting with guys. We do make friendships in Egypt with guys, which is totally normal because we go to classes together, do activities together.
Joy Davis- How did you feel after attending a US dance club while in the SUSI program?
Nada Yehia-Actually I didn’t go to a dance club in the U.S., I’ve been to a jazz club but not a dancing one.
Joy Davis- Have you ever been to a club similar to the one you attended in the US back at home?
Nada Yehia-Yes, I’ve been to a dancing club in Egypt, people would listen to music and dance, they do same stuff people do in any dancing club.
Joy Davis- What are you personal thoughts about Gay Rights? Do you agree or Disagree because of Religious reasons or Cultural upbringing?
Nada Yehia- Personally, I do believe that one’s sexual orientation is totally up to the person himself, humans are totally free to do whatever they want to do as long as they don’t violate others freedom, I’m not god to judge people. And you can find people in my society who are ok with the gay thing, but the majority would refer it to religions and would deny any rights for homosexual people.
Joy Davis- Would you consider yourself Liberal or Conservative?
Nada Yehia-I don’t know, I think kind of iberal.
Joy Davis- Do you have any additional information or opinions on gender roles,gender politics and sexuality?
Nada Yehia-I want to tell you a little bit about women’s roles and rights in Islam because I feel that they are misunderstood, Islam have always considered women as gentle creatures who should be protected and treated kindly, Islam provided women relatives with a fair share of the inheritance, Muslim mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters had received inheritance rights thirteen hundred years before Europe recognized that these rights even existed. Islam provided the woman with the right to divorce herself, Islam said that a woman should have a say in choosing her husband, a woman has the right to preserve all her properties to herself after marriage , a woman has the right to get educated and to work.
One last thing I’d like to say is that women in Egypt during the last decades had gained several rights, still women’s rights are perceived differently in different cultures and different social classes, but those rights are very well known and determined according to Islam, because god created both males and females having different roles but equal rights.