Redefining Masculinities in Anti Gender Based Violence Initiatives Under Authoritarian Conditions

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
Helen RIZZO, The American University in Cairo, Egypt
Notions of responsibility are intimately tied to conceptions of masculinities and femininities in both collective and individual practices. Projects for gender justice and women’s empowerment imply masculine responsibility in formulating the problem and suggestions for reform, but men, while deemed responsible, are often not directly targeted by women’s-rights organizations in their awareness and conscious-raising campaigns and projects to promote gender equality, particularly in the area of gender based violence (GBV). This project examines Cairo-based initiatives and groups working to end public space sexual harassment and GBV to see if it is necessary to invoke “traditional masculinist modes of responsibility…” in order to change men’s perceptions, behavior and public opinion. The implications of not directly addressing the role of men and masculinities in projects for gender justice need to be examined especially in authoritarian contexts where the space for civil society has been severely curtailed, especially in Egypt since 2013. Until gender (masculinities and feminities) is fully addressed, particularly in the area of gender-based violence (GBV), such projects will most likely not be successful in the long term. This research discusses how and if various groups working to end GBV in Egypt, particularly public space sexual harassment, deal with masculinities and engage men in an authoritarian political context based on field work (in depth interviews with staff and volunteers, content analysis of reports and other written materials and observations) with independent initiatives, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), national and international organizations based in Cairo. More specifically, the findings will explain why men have been active participants as staff members and volunteers in anti-sexual harassment campaigns particularly and how some of these groups are trying to reconceptualize masculinity and masculine responsibility in ways that are not traditionalist nor patriarchal.