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Online Presentation of Gendered Selves among Young Women in Egypt

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Social media and Facebook in particular have become an important arena of social interaction and premarital romance in Egypt. In a society where dating can potentially harm the reputation of young women, a decent public image is considered valuable symbolic capital. This is especially true for brides-to-be. Many university-educated young women have found Facebook useful for impression management. It is necessary for them to mask aspects of their behavior that may be condemned as morally inappropriate and they have thus developed strategies for navigating through certain moral expectations about female sexual purity, virginity and modesty. I define the young women who edit their profiles in order to conform to the prevailing norms of decency, in Goffman’s terms, as ‘cynical performers’. As I show, the embellishment of the self is a pragmatic solution to the problem of coping with existing dating practices and conflicting norms of proper gender interaction, often understood as ‘Islamic’.

Affiliations: 1: University of Helsinki


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