Gender And Family
Egyptian society is organized on the principle that men and women simply have different natures, talents, and inherent tendencies. This becomes most apparent in the realm of the family where each gender has a different part to play. Men are created for going out in the world and are responsible for providing financially for the family. Women are suited for remaining within family boundaries, caring for the home, the children, and the husband. Further, women's inherent sexuality is believed to be constantly endangering the social harmony of society (specifically, men) and is, therefore, best controlled through women's modesty and women remaining as much as possible within the private sphere of the family. This belief is reinforced through cultural and religious norms that are increasingly advocating that family roles of both women and men are fundamental in maintaining societal structure; dominant gender constructions therefore support keeping women in the home and oppose women working and abandoning their primary roles (Macleod 1991). Nonetheless, contemporary images of women as economic assets and providers are rapidly coming into conflict with what are perceived as divinely inspired roles.
Gender roles in Egypt derive much of their legitimacy from the Qur'an. In particular, women are often the focus of quotes that supposedly refer to the appropriate roles and behaviors of women. At the same time, references to the role of women are scattered broadly throughout the Qur'an and are subject to interpretation.
Existing side by side and sometimes in contradiction to the reality of women's daily struggles in Egypt is the cultural and religious ideal of complementarity between the sexes. Within this concept, women are not devalued as persons, somehow considered to be inherently less valuable than men, or thought to be lacking in abilities. Instead, Egyptians tend to emphasize that everyone—men, women, and children—is thought to be part of an interrelated community, and that gender complementarity is part of the message of the religion. This concept of gender complementarity, particularly in the realm of the family, is an integral part of understanding the social structure of Egyptian society.