A load of balls (and vaginas)

Posted on May 15, 2007


I wasn’t in the best of moods immediately before the opening performance of what was unimaginatively titled “The Bussy Play”. It was raining (climate change has hit Cairo hard) and they weren’t letting us in. “Us” included, on this occasion, me, the Source and T. Shahin, whom we met at the door. We took our wet selves to the table set up in front of the Howard Theatre at AUC, where several girls in the all-black beloved of “experimental” thespians were giving out buttons and flyers. I had been informed by the organziers via email that there was going to be a booth available during the day in the SS courtyard at which one could reserve tickets, but a friend of mine went in order to do just that and there was no one at the booth. This the directors and organizers disclaimed all knowledge of, naturally. When I attempted to sign some friends up on the alleged “priority list” it was revealed (not without numerous garbled exchanges) that these were full up already, for every single day. Essentially, the performers had signed up all available priority slots for their friends and family members, and if there were none left over for us lay persons then so be it. A scene was on the verge of brewing when a diminutive girl informed us that since she had seen us waiting, she would make sure we got in. So after the hallowed prioritized ones swept in everyone else formed a line down the stairs, and the diminutive girl was as good as her word and ushered us past them, notwithstanding an irate girl blocking my way with her beefy arm while I attempted to explain to her whimperingly why I was being let in before her.

The Bussy (Look!) Project is an annual performance of stories from the women of the community, performed and directed by AUC students, to empower women and raise awareness. It may have raised awareness, but I did not feel particularly empowered by the performance. Maybe partly because I actually heard the directors, including one who introduced the show, pronounce the word “bussy” to rhyme with “hussy”, not with the true Arabic inflection. It’s hard to take that as an auspicious sign that you are going to be watching something meaningful about life as an Egyptian woman. I did, however, hear that they had remedied this by yesterday’s performance.

The first act involved an effeminate guy declaring that he had come to understand and respect women. It didn’t ring true (possibly because he used the word bleep instead of profanity. I understand you have censorship issues – so then leave it out, don’t gay us out). I am generally sceptical of guys who claim to “understand” and usually need heavy elaboration on what they understand, which was not forthcoming here. He also concluded his introductory act with a bunch of people coming on stage and all of them shouting “Bosso!” in unison. I HATE lines said in unison. It’s honestly one of my top hatreds – I felt a stabbing pain in my optic nerve. The phrase “quote unquote” was also used. In a performance! I threw up a little into my mouth.

A following performance was an angry piece (well acted, and not just because it was by a friend) about a Muslim woman rejecting being saved by the West bullshit bullshit bullshit bullshit. You know the sort. In conversation with the actress later on, she said she thought it was a novel approach, a rejection of victimhood, especially one imposed by the other. But I’ve heard it so many times before, living in Canada: “Well, Gucci tells me what to wear too!” Yeah, but Gucci doesn’t force you to wear it – which you can’t say for a lot of places in the Muslim world. Feminism is now – and has ever been – about choice, and the chances are that this American Muslim woman living in the States has more choice to do whatever she wants than her counterpart in Pakistan. Some women do need saving, but they should do it themselves. We should do it ourselves.

There were a few pieces after that that I found quite resonant about sexual harassment, gender identity and child abuse. A lot of other people I talked to about this section said it was “whining” “we’ve all heard it before” and “so what? Men get sexually abused too”. But every day, I have ample reason to believe that many, many people don’t actually know how MUCH it goes on. Most of these people are men. I have surprised and astonished many men from all walks of life with my stories alone, and I haven’t had it so bad. One of these men was sitting next to me, and he admitted that his ideas about the scope of sexual harassment and abuse had changed after hearing about it from many women when he asked them. And I think knowing the extent and conditions of these abuses enables one to counter and prevent them. As for the sexual abuse and harassment of men…of course it happens, and when it becomes something that shapes the very fabric of their lives, they can put on a show about it. Until then, they can go to the authorities, and the authorities will at least consent to file reports. I’ve also yet to hear about an adult Egyptian man being sexually harassed on an Egyptian street.

I’ve just looked at some notes I took by cell-phone light during the play, and the rest all reads “bedan neik” and “what the hell was that?”. I conclude from this that I did not enjoy the rest of the performance. Specifically: where the fuck do the directors think they get off, actually choosing a skit that deemed abortion as IGNORANT? Ignorant of what? Do they think those women going around getting abortions and risking their lives are unaware of the possible religious implications? Or necessarily care?

And yes, there was a whole bunch of hand-against-the-forehead snivelling. I can’t believe, like Amnesiac, that someone complained about a married man telling her he loved her. If I understood the piece correctly, she was in love with him too, but him stating the love ruined everything and demeaned her. Hey, it takes two to tango…and in a polygamous culture, how is that adulterous anyway? It’s okay to marry two but not to fall in love with two?

And the one plaintively whining for a man to hold her! Now, that was full-on anti-feminist. I know these are stories from the community – but has anyone considered that the community might need a sharp slap? I’d like to think that input from all women is valuable, but this show proved that not to be the case. I would place the rest of the acts in the category of “get a life, or failing that, a writing style”. And missing from the show: any mention of sexual intercourse, and people having and liking it. Women do that, it’s been rumoured.

Finally, the piece about the apartment in Sharm bears some mentioning: even for privileged, and young, making fun of a person’s poor English and education is not humour, and it isn’t feminism either.

Posted in: Egypt, gender