By Manasi Nene
Promundo, a Brazilian organization that campaigns for gender equality, has recently released a study that studies sexual harassment and gender inequality from men’s point of view. Interviewing people in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Palestine, they’ve tried to figure out what exactly causes men to cat-call and yell out slurs at women passing by, and if we can draw any generalizations or similarities among these men.
In collaboration with UN Women, they have surveyed about 10,000 people – men and women – and published a report with their findings. Between 66 percent and 75 percent of the men believe that a woman’s place is inside the home, and about half the women interviewed support this idea. But generally, “men with greater wealth, with higher education, whose mothers had more education, and whose fathers carried out traditionally feminine household tasks” are more likely to hold gender-equitable attitudes. They also found that “younger women in the region are yearning for more equality, but their male peers fail to share or support such aspirations”.
The other big area of research was street-based sexual harassment – sexual comments, stalking/following, and staring. Between 31 percent and 64 percent of the men interviewed admitted to having participated in these, and 40 to 60 percent of women said they had experienced it. When asked why they did so, the vast majority of men – up to 90 percent – said they did it for fun, with most blaming the women for dressing “provocatively”. Researchers Gary Barker and Shereen El-Feki have hypothesized that the high incidences of sexual harassment had to do with the lack of power that men had in these countries, amidst high unemployment rates, political instability and pressure to provide for their families.
About half the men surveyed said they felt stressed, depressed or ashamed to face their families because they couldn’t adequately supply for their families; and Barker suggests that street-based harassment was a way for them to assert their power. In the same article, El Feki suggests that it’s a way for men to “get their kicks”, in a world where men can’t find work, can’t marry, and live with their parents in a “suspended state of adolescence”.
They also found that overwhelmingly, attitudes of the older generation were passed down to the younger generation – if a boy saw his father beating up a woman then he would be more likely to do the same, and if he saw his father take part in household tasks then he’d still be more likely to do the same.