Fact: 99.3 percent of Egyptian women, i.e. nearly all females in the country, have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lives. The country's capital was even named the "most dangerous megacity in the world for women" in 2017.
It doesn't take an expert to tell that women don't feel safe in public spaces and that abuse targeting women is a serious issue. So, when Egyptian singer Tameem Youness released a song about a man who does not take "no" for an answer and handles rejection rather poorly, his work did not go down well with the public. And when he suggested the video mocks misogynistic men and addresses women's struggles in a light, joking manner, many people didn't feel compelled to laugh along.
In his latest song, Salmonella (yep, that's already a red flag), Youness sings about being rejected by a woman.
Basically, he sees a girl at a café, low-key stalks her, and insists on getting her number. He flaunts that he would buy her jewelry and a nice apartment, cook for her, and get her flowers. When she turns him down, he insults her, wishes her a doomed romantic future, hopes she gets salmonella infection, vows to tarnish her reputation, and generally reacts in a rather aggressive manner.
The music video gives off creepy, macho vibes and screams toxic masculinity, whereby the singer - or rather, the character he portrays in the song - suggests he is willing to get violent in pursuit of his love interest. (Joe Goldberg from YOU, much?)
There's no denying that the song was enjoyed by many listeners, having drawn positive feedback and amassed over 5 million views since its release on Jan. 1. However, it was also met with outpouring criticism.
Many believe the song normalizes violent behavior against women, asserts male entitlement, and encourages men's toxic dating habits. While Youness insists the song is satirical, opponents believe some men might fail to notice the sarcasm and thus take the song's content at face value and feel further empowered to carry on with their problematic habits.
In response to the backlash, Youness posted a video in which he claimed his song is meant to empower women and mock obsessive men who act irrationally and violently under the guise of romance. "I could not mention this in the description because it would have spoiled the surprise in the music video," he explained.
"I'm a jokester and I love to joke around. I will never stop joking around," he added.
Despite the clarification, many people deem the music video as tone-deaf and believe it undermines the gravity of gender-based violence in Egypt. Here are some reactions from social media users:
Many women felt triggered
And found the song disturbing on many levels
Why carry this sexist energy into 2020?
"Trash men will use it as their anthem"
BTW, women's struggles are not a punchline
"The Arab Joe Goldberg"
Meanwhile, others believe it's a satirical sketch meant to start a dialogue
Youness is facing sexual harassment allegations
At least two women have taken to social media to share their experiences with being sexually harassed by Youness. These women say the singer touched them inappropriately, including in professional settings, and reacted with threats and pushiness when his advances were not reciprocated.
Youness has not directly addressed these allegations. However, on Sunday, he posted a Facebook status in which he thanked fans for their support and asserted that he is open to criticism.
"I strongly refuse the false personal accusations," he added, without specifying the nature of these accusations.
On his Instagram Story, the artist can be seen reposting other people's stories as they are filmed dancing and singing to Salmonella. The majority of these people are women. Could this be his "women like my song and everything is alright" message to critics?