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The First Posts from the Exploring Taboos Project

The “Exploring Taboos” project conducted by the Nazra team has finally started with workshops attended by five people: two females and three males. Fatma Emam, one of the project's coordinators, said all attendees were in their mid-20s. She continued saying that the first day the training focused on video journalism, and techniques of producing visual content; the second day was about sexuality theory and its manifestations in the Egyptian society, and the third day was about social media and how to use it to discuss these issues.

Fatma showed us some of the posts by the attendees and added that this is just the start – as the projects organizers are waiting for more articles to arrive.

rebel with a cause [640x480]

The first output of the workshop was a blog post written in English by “Rebel” titled “Sexuality education woes in Egypt“. The post starts by explaining why sexuality education became a need in the Egyptian society.

The talk about sexuality hardly ever surfaces in Egypt. Even when an article or a speech is given by an enlightened intellectual, waves of rejection and censure usually follow. Discussing sexuality usually stirs accusations of spreading vice and encouraging promiscuity. Consequently, the debate on sexuality education here is starkly lacking and flawed, just like the process of sex education itself.

[…]

Public education ignores sexuality information, except for a class on human reproduction during preparatory school and some skewed information on sexually transmitted infections. A lot of young people remember that awkward science class where the teacher was too embarrassed to effectively convey useful lessons on sexuality, or skipped the class altogether.

He then explains the role of the civil society in such process saying:

Civil society organizations have recently recognized the importance of delivering sexuality education programs to young people.

[…]

Reality is unfortunately far from this. Instead of providing a positive approach to sexuality, it is often portrayed as an evil desire that needs to be controlled. Instead of promoting tolerance and understanding, it’s not uncommon to find Sex Ed programs that foster negative attitudes towards sexuality and gender.

He ends his post by further explaining why opening such talks are important.

Sexuality is closely associated with people’s happiness and productivity. Providing comprehensive information regarding sexuality is a goal that must be achieved equally and effectively for a better nation.

True colors [640x480]

Another output of the first workshop was an Arabic blog post written by “Just a human” titled “Men also Cry.” Fatma said that she's happy with this post as it is so bold that it comes from a male who questions the typical gender roles assigned for men, and even raising the homosexuality dilemma in a very candid way. She's also glad it is in Arabic to break the fear of the social stigma.

The post starts with these words:

منذ صغرى و انا اعانى من مشكلة حقيقية مع كلمة “ذكر” و التى تتطور مع تقدمك فى العمر لتحل محلها كلمة “رجل”..لا اتصور انى فى يوم من الايام فهمتها او استوعبت المعايير الحقيقية لها .و لا اتذكر انى فى يوم من الايام كنت فى حالة وئام مع المجتمع الذى اعيش بين افراده شاذا و شاردا عنهم لا لشىء الا لانى لا احترم ذكوريته.

Since my childhood and I have a real problem with the word “male”, which was then replaced by the word “man” as I got older. I don't imagine that I have ever understood this word, or the standards it complies. I don't remember a day I've been in harmony with the society I have been living with its members with feeling of weirdness, for nothing except that I don't respect its masculinity.

The post sheds light on various aspects of how “Just human” feels this strangeness in the society, where the climax starts when he talks about crying in an Eastern society:

تربيت منذ الصغر على ان الرجل ابدا لا يبكى ..و انه اذا بكى سقط عنه شرف الرجولة و حينها يتم وضعه فى مرتبة اقل حتى من تلك التى تحتلها “النسوان ” و عذرا لاستخدامى تلك اللفظة ولكن مجتمعى يفضلها لانها تشعره بنشوة جنسية غريبة .
الغريب انى املك القدرة على البكاء ..بكيت كثيرا ..عندما مات “جاك ” فى “تايتانيك ” بكيت..و عندما مات “هانى سلامة ” فى “انت عمرى ” بكيت ..و عندما مات ” جاك تويست ” فى “بروكباك ماونتين ” بكيت ..و عندما مات صديق لى منذ سنوات ..بكيت ..نعم لقد ارتكبت هذه الجريمة ..بكيت و شعرت بتلك الدموع الرقراقة الشفافة و هى تنساب من عينى على وجهى ثم ملابسى ..لمستها و رايت من
خلالها آدميتي واضحة امامى بدون خوف او خجل

Ever since I was a child, I was raised to believe that men never cry. And if a man cried, then he turns into a “woman” – losing the honor of being a man. The strange thing is that I have the ability to cry. I cried many time. I cried when Jack died in Titanic. I cried when Hani Salaa died in Enta Omry (Egyptian film). And I cried when Jack Twist died in Brokeback Mountain.

I also cried when my friend died few years ago. Yes, I committed this crime of crying – and I felt tears flowing from my eyes onto my face, and then my clothes. I touched it, and saw through it my humanity without fear or shame.

He then tries to define masculinity the way he relates to, from his own perspective, and according to his experience.

الحقيقة هى انى فشلت فى ايجاد تعريف مناسب للرجولة يتجاوز التصنيف البيولوجى الخاص بالكروموسومات و الذى لا يستهوينى باى حال من الاحوال ..و الحقيقة ايضا هى ان ايجاد تعريف لمعنى الرجولة لم يعد يشغلنى على اى من الاصعدة ..لانى اعرف ان اى تعريف قد اصل اليه سيظل عاجزا عن ايجاد نقطة يستطيع التقابل فيها مع تعريف المجتمع للرجولة ..و لعل هذا ما يفسر تفضيلى لان اطلق على نفسى لقب “انسان” ..اجده اكثر حميمية وقربا لقلبى ..فهو فى النهاية يحمينى من شوائب تعكر صفو انتمائى لهذا اللقب ..لذا لا يشغلنى حاليا سوى ان اكون مجرد انسان.

The truth is that I failed to find a proper definition for masculinity other than the biological classification, which I don't like in anyway. And the truth is also that finding a definition for the meaning of masculinity became of no concern any longer. Because I know that at any point, the definition I will reach will be incapable of concordance with the society's definition. And maybe that's why I prefer the title “Human being”. I find it more intimate and closer to my heart – for it is in the end protects me from anything that disturbs my belonging to this title. Therefore, nothing concerns me now except how to be just a human being.

4 comments

  • The two posts are simply wonderful! Great start for this promising project. Although sex is no longer a taboo in Taiwanese society, it is still vulnerable under media exploitation and old-school politicians’ control.

    Also, I like the way you start workshop by teaching video production first, but not writing. This might be something NomadGreen should follow in our future workshops.

    best,

    Portnoy
    Project Manager of NomadGreen.
    Taiwane author of GV

  • Thanks a lot for sharing these insides with us and allowing the topic to surface via social media and new communication tools. Great start for this project and looking forward to the ongoing debate.

    Best,
    Olaf
    Heinrich Böll Foundation

  • Este post figura ahora en español:
    This post is now in spanish:

    http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/2010/09/24/los-primeros-articulos-del-proyecto-exploring-taboos/

  • […] have already reported about the first workshops and the first blog posts of the Exploring taboos […]

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