Harassment or harmless flirting? Egypt viral video sparks debate

1 / 3
Egyptian police women stand by as women protest against sexual harasment in front of the Opera House in the capital Cairo. (File photo / AFP)
2 / 3
Menna Gubran took the short video of him approaching her and posted it online, igniting an online debate in which many people, including women, took Soliman’s side. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)
3 / 3
Mahmoud Soliman has been given the media spotlight since the video of him making an advance on Menna Gubran in a Cairo suburb went viral this month. (Screengrab courtesy of social media)
Updated 27 August 2018

Harassment or harmless flirting? Egypt viral video sparks debate

LONDON: It’s the story that has everyone talking. Did Mahmoud Soliman’s behavior toward Menna Gubran amount to harassment or was it merely harmless flirting? And was she wrong to film his advances and post the video online?
Sexual harassment is no trivial matter in Egypt, with an international poll last year describing Cairo as the world’s most dangerous mega-city for women. In fact, the practice has been illegal since 2014 and carries a penalty of up to five years in prison. However, the law is rarely enforced, not least because it fails to define the different forms sexual harassment can take.
The consequence is the sort of argument now raging over the Soliman-Gubran encounter. Opinion is divided, with some branding Soliman a “harasser” and others appearing to blame Gubran for the way she dressed, even though she does not appear in the video she filmed.
“Frankly, what happened has confused me,” said student Laila Elazhary, 23. “I can’t figure out what was right and what was wrong.”

Another woman, who declined to give her name, offered a robust defense of Soliman. “He is our friend and we have known him for years. He comes from a good family, and what happened was a normal and decent way of approaching and introducing himself to a woman. What is the big fuss about?” she asked.
Others took a more tongue-in-cheek view.
“If ladies keep using videos to keep guys introducing themselves at bay then they won’t find potential husbands. They are surely hurting only themselves,” said accountant Akram Mohamed, 43, while actor Mohamed Kamel joked that the people involved in the video were now shooting an advertisement and would soon be announcing a production deal.
“We are really in the era of nonsense,” he added.
Needless to say, the two principal characters in the story give different accounts of what happened.
Gubran claimed she was “stalked” by Soliman, who circled her in his car and made comments after she refused an invitation to go for coffee with him in Cairo. He desisted only when she started filming him with her mobile phone, she said.
Soliman, however, said he simply “apologized and left” after Gubran declined his invitation and denied “bothering” her.
Gubran posted her video on Facebook and ignited a heated debate online.

The law against sexual harassment in Egypt was introduced largely because of the treatment women suffered — from groping to beatings and sexual assault — during the mass protests of the 2011 uprising.
But if the law offers little clarity, there is less uncertainty among commentators on social media, prompting the question: If laws are ineffective, could pressure from social media encourage changes in behavior?
Physiology professor Sawsan Mohamed of Zaqaziq University believes it can — but not always in the desired way.
“Social media are transforming our patterns and norms toward an unknown destination. In the past few years I’ve seen my students transforming from shy to aggressive. Social media platforms have surely helped to alter characters, habits and the culture through instant and continuous feeds. We can’t predict where this will lead our culture,” she said.
“What used to happen, and take months and years to be replicated and become trendy, can now happen overnight through one simple post,” said Shady Azmy, a digital marketing expert based in Cairo. “The impact gets distributed once major influencers and celebrities join the wave.”
Professor Damian Radcliffe of the University of Oregon has studied the effects of social media on the Middle East for almost a decade.

“This is a great example of the complexities of social media. On the one hand it can be a valuable tool for empowerment, entertainment and sharing legitimate information. On the other, it can also be used to promote rumors and inaccuracies as well as amplifying behaviors and attitudes which many people find objectionable. All of these different responses can be seen at play here.”
Radcliffe believes the threat of exposure or ridicule through “naming and shaming” on social media could act as a driver of change in social norms.
“Hopefully it will,” he added. “But we also need to be alive to the fact that people may be incorrectly ‘shamed’ online, especially if they have a common name, and that vendettas and trolling may also play out. Mistakes can and do happen. Sometimes that is accidental. Sometimes it’s more nefarious.
“Social media may help trigger discussions (on what constitutes sexual harassment), but any definition is likely to need — and require — offline as well as online discussion. Social networks can help provoke debate and challenge accepted norms and, in many cases, these important discussions can be triggered by ordinary citizens.
“The court of public opinion should not necessarily act as judge and jury, but in the social media age there is a risk that this can happen.”

The most visible brands of 2020 are…

Updated 03 July 2020

The most visible brands of 2020 are…

  • A large percentage of the pictures of the swoosh logo depicted international football players Neymar, of Brazil, and Argentinian star Lionel Messi
  • Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo was one of the top-photographed people in Adidas clothing

DUBAI: A strong visual element is a must-have for brands. Many of the world’s iconic brands can be recognized simply by their visual imagery from Nike’s swoosh to McDonald’s golden arches.

Today, every smartphone user is a photographer in some form resulting in more and more visual elements in social and digital conversations.

With this in mind, research and analysis company Brandwatch conducted a study of 40 million images containing logos to find the most photographed brands.

“For brands, the images consumers share provide a window into how their products or advertisements are seen in the wild – how they’re used, the context they appear in, and more,” the firm’s report said.

In fact, only 14.7 percent of the images studied featuring the most visible logo of 2020 actually mentioned the brand in the accompanying text.

“Being able to analyze images effectively, especially when there is so much that could be missed in traditional text-based searches, is vital to uncovering previously hidden insights,” the report added.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi sporting Barcelona’s Nike strip. (Reuters)

Nike: Brandwatch’s analysis found that a large percentage of the pictures of the logo depicted international football players Neymar, of Brazil, and Argentinian star Lionel Messi wearing Nike attire.

Although the logo appeared in numerous images of people practicing fitness in some form, there were thousands of images of individuals posing in relaxed positions wearing Nike clothes.

Despite empty stadiums and social-distancing measures in place this year, the most common setting for the logo to be featured in was an arena.

People appeared most in Nike logo images, but sneakers shoes also brought in thousands of mentions.

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo sporting Juventus’ Adidas strip. (Reuters)

Adidas: Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo was one of the top-photographed people in Adidas clothing, if not in the whole world.

Similar to Nike, arenas and crowds were common in Adidas logo images, which was surprising given the lack of crowds in the last few months.

“Something unexpected that pops up in the top scenes is romance, referring to people in athleisure embracing each other (in an SFW sense) or in other cute settings,” said the report.

Unlike Nike, images featuring the Adidas logo largely showed sports activities. “Speech is an unexpected addition to the list of common actions associated with Adidas logo images – these mentions actually come from quotes posted from soccer player Marcus Rashford (Manchester United and England), who has spoken out about making sure vulnerable children don’t go hungry in 2020,” added the report.

Similar to Nike’s analysis, people were the most common subject to appear in Adidas logo images. T-shirts were also widely shared, unlike Nike images which featured shoes and sneakers a lot more.