in brief: teen rapper challenges Egyptian expectations of women
Mayam Mahmoud, a hijab-wearing, teenage Egyptian rapper, is bringing inspiration to women in the Middle East, using her music to stand up for women’s rights. She addresses the normalisation of sexual assault, and encourages women to stand up to their attackers.
Since her appearances on the TV show Arab’s Got Talent, the 18 year old has become one of the few Egyptians to achieve mainstream media attention. The performer currently receives around 50 Facebook messages of support each day. But she is far from being free of criticism. ‘Some say I’m creating a bad name for Islam,’ she says. ‘Or even that I’m an infidel.’
But interest in her music is rapidly growing. Mahmoud has performed at a handful of universities where the students have found her empowering.
‘The other day a woman came up to me and she’d been watching me on TV with her friends,’ says Mahmoud. ‘She said: keep on talking about the things we don’t have the courage to talk about. You’ve become the hope. You’re pushing people to start doing stuff.’
Mahmoud is perhaps found most inspiring by her willingness to address sexual harassment – a local taboo. A staggering 99.3% of Egyptian women report being sexually harassed, with 91% feeling insecure on the streets as a result.
The young rapper’s music confronts sexual harassment head on. Mahmoud condemns her society for accepting harassment as a part of everyday life and for laying the blame on the victims.
Mahmoud is certainly challenging the Middle East’s expectations of women in many different ways. Rapping is not a common career choice for anybody in Egypt, let alone a woman. By pushing the boundaries of what her society expects, and using her music to voice her beliefs, Mayam Mahmoud has begun to bring inspiration and hope to the women of the Middle East.