Harrassmap: Truth, Justice, and Standing Up Against Sexism

Harrassmap’s merging of collective and electronic technologies with a pursuit of understanding and combatting a serious social issue makes for a potent force. As stated on its website, it aims to “use the online reporting and mapping technology to support an offline community mobilization effort to break stereotypes, stop making excuses for perpetrators, and to convince people to speak out and act against harassment.” In practice, this appears to take a number of forms, all of which very well-conceived plans to address and resolve problems of harassment in Egypt. The main activity of this, of course, comes in the form of mapping, crowdsourcing to track harrassment and add consequences to such actions, but there are many other activities being done.

Research is one prominent area of their activities, and this can manifest in explorations of different issues, even outside Egypt. In a study they helped fund, for example, it was found that a number of toxic forces exist around men that pressure them to behave in certain violent ways to fit ideals of gender, such tensions existing internationally. These feelings of disillusionment among men have been bubbling up a lot in modern society, manifesting largely in hateful groups like the so-called “men’s rights activists” among others. I believe studies like this one are crucial to combating harassment by pinpointing these sorts of forces so that they too can be understood and overthrown, addressing the problem of harassment at its source of societal norms of toxic masculinity. Much should be done to combat such contributing concepts like normative traditional gender roles and encouraging of violence while stigmatizing emotional expression in men, and understanding how these dynamics feed in is the crucial first step.

Harassmap also organizes community intervention and organization. As discussed in this article, volunteers from the organization also speak to communities, appoint leaders, apply stickers, and more. There’s a two-way flow, with harrassmap reaching out to communities to combat harassment and communities reaching out to harassmap over social media to report it. They work with businesses, for example, putting up the stickers for awareness and labeling such places safe spaces, which women can then feel safe to access without harassment. Most Harassmap activities seem to address issues in such a way, creating awareness to combat harassment while pursuing for spaces women can be safe in and interacting with the community all the while.

They also mobilize bodies to take physical action, as recorded in one case in this article. In Cairo, where the map is focused and where there activities are most prominent, they have organized patrols in prominent public places to rescue women in need from harrassment. They see this as a necessary measure not only to combat harassment, but also to deal with what may be paid thugs attacking women in times of political unrest to cast doubt on the image of political protestors. It’s almost like a bunch of feminist Batmen, organized efforts of near-vigilante nature to combat this crime against women’s bodies and agency by protecting them and pursuing legal consequences for offenders. To loosely riff on a film quote, they certainly sound to be the heroes the women of Cairo deserve, and those heroes are created through collective solidarity in crowdsourcing.

-Kevin

 

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