Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fighting without violence

Why, at every juncture, with such frequency, do I feel like being a woman is having to fight?

Whether it's against the bouncer in the bar, who tells me that he won't let my 3 male friends into a bar because they don’t want a “cock fest”. So I ask him if he would prefer a “tit fest”, and he says yes. I say that he’s being sexist, staring him straight in the eyes. He smiles; I don’t. He realises how serious I am, so he capitulates, “Yes, fine, your friends can come in. And by the way, I’m not sexist”, smiling again. Yeah, right.

Whether it's against a male acquaintance, a friend of a friend, who I have known for some years. He has always been fond of me, has manifested his attraction physically, and in a way that I have never been comfortable with, mostly because of the fact that for the vast majority of the time that I have known him, I have been in a long-term, stable relationship with another person. The friend is well, well aware of my boyfriend. So why does he still hit on me, does he still place his fingers on me invasively, does he profess to harbour a shallow love for me? Why does he not adhere to my articulated clear-cut boundaries of “friendship”? Sometimes, though, I am doubtful: where I am normally more forceful, in reaction to random guys who harass me in the street or bars, my rebuffs of him have always been mild. Yet, I thought, firm. They were not the venom that I reserve for random sleazes because he comes under the category “friend”. I suppose I was more tolerant of his advances, though undesired, because of a supposed friendship and respect. But the advances never stopped.

Whether it's against my own boyfriend, or “husband” as he is known to some (we feign marriage in order to legitimise our collocation in the eyes of the more conservative segments of society.) I told him that this guy, the supposed friend, who had been with us all night had been speaking to me and touching me in a way that made me uncomfortable, compromised. I told him this, not because I wanted to start trouble, not because I wanted to stoke tensions in our social group, but because I was disturbed. And I voiced my disturbance to the person I trust most: the man who I have spent the best part of five years with. Obviously my words, my vulnerability, did not resonate. My words spoke to him more about his own insecurities, his own pride, his own frustrations or regrets that sprung from not dealing with these repeated incidents coming from the same person, than my own well-being. I had sought comfort, while instead he sought to challenge those boundaries that had been crossed. He insisted that enough was enough, and he was going outside with the bloke “to talk about it”. I asked him not to, but perhaps was not forceful enough, as he did go out to “sort it out”. Five minutes later, he’s walking back into the bar with blood on his hands after having punched the guy in the face. Great, what a really mature, thoughtful, unselfish way of dealing with the situation, oh enlightened male partner of mine. I leave the bar overwhelmed in embarrassment, guilt and rage.

Whether it's against a faceless stranger who assaults me on a deserted flight of stairs as I try to escape all the stifling chauvinism that surrounded me that fateful Friday night. I see him descending the staircase behind me, him on the right and I on the left. About half-way down, out of the corner of my eye, I notice him moving in my direction. My immediate thought is that he is going into one of the entrances of the apartment buildings that line the staircase. But before I realise it, he is putting his arm around my head, his hand around my mouth, pressing his weight against me and pushing my body down towards the ground. Somewhere there is something sharp, maybe a key, and it scratches against my neck. His other hand yanks at my handbag. I scream with all my fucking might, scream. Screaming, over and over and over. As I scream, the thought flashes into my mind that I know, I know in all my time spent engaging in issues of violence against women, that screaming is the best way of deterring an aggressor. So I scream until it rips the back of my throat. And it works. I hear a window bang overhead, and he lets go of me and starts running back up the stairs, reaching the top just as a door at the side opens and a man steps out. I have stopped screaming, and I am caught between hysterical sobs and choked words of explanation. “Harami”, I manage to utter. “Thief”, as I enter the safety of a shard of light escaping from the open door.

Whether its against that very sleepy shop owner, that angel in disguise, without whose presence I dare not think what would have happened on that staircase. That kindly man who offers me water and tries to calm me down, but insists on saying “women should not walk alone at night.” But why? Why can't a woman effectuate a short 10-minute walk home in her own neighbourhood? Why are we made to be afraid?

All this occured, believe it or or not, within half and hour on a Friday night.

Now, the next day, I cannot wrap my head around the violence. The violence of prejudice, the violence of sexual objectification, the violence of uncontrolled jealousy and pride, the violence of harsh assault.

Why is there so much violence?

Why are women so often reduced to the sum of their physical parts?

Why are women used as an excuse for men to be violent towards one another?

Why do women have to be afraid to walk alone at night?

Why is there so, so much violence?

It is the fear of violence that oppresses us. Yet it is the anger about such violence that mobilises us.

Yes, I am left with a festering anger. I'm angry at the bouncer for his shameless exhibition and denial of sexism. I'm pissed off at my so-called “friend” for repeatedly groping me, disrespecting me. I'm angry at myself for not having been forceful enough. I'm furious at my boyfriend for his lack of self-control and punching someone in the face. I'm livid at the prowling assailant, whose footsteps and approaching silhouette will now haunt me when I walk alone in the dark.

The great challenge, I suppose, is to allow neither my anger nor my fear to push me to reproduce violence. The challenge, now, is for me to transform these negative, traumatic experiences, into a productive outlook, a proactive stance that will say: I will continue to fight. I will continue to express my dissatisfaction with sexism; I will continue to not let people touch me in a way that I am uncomfortable with; I will continue to combat violent solutions of problems; I will continue to scream when I am most threatened.

I will not let my fear, my anger, prevail. I will stuggle to not give into them, allow them to harness me, to inhibit me, to silence me. I will sum up all of my forces so that, at the end of it all, it is the anger and the fear that will give me strength to keep fighting. But to fight with my words, because I feel that is the only way to exhibit a strong, viable alternative to the violence that I have seen.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Congratulations on "Democratic" Elections?

The results poured out late on Sunday and supporters of the March 14 coalition rushed to celebrate their victory of the majority of the 128 seats in the Lebanese Parliament. "Congratulations, Lebanon, on a peaceful, democratic elections," said every media outlet there is. Congratulations to whom? For what? Democracy? Liberalism? Secularism? What empty, hypocritical words used to describe our elections.

Congratulations, Lebanon, shining democracy of the Middle East. You have dropped from ranking 126 to 131 (out of 137) worldwide in the percentage of women in parliament. Today, we have 4 women out of 128. A few days ago we had 6. You thought that was bad? What we have now is 3.125%. Yes, that is among the lowest in the world. See the 2008 stats for yourself.

Among all the things I am fuming about right now - sectarianism being at the top of my list, I am fuming most about the amount of money spent on this elections. It was one of the most expensive elections per capita in history. Millions of dollars spent on plane tickets, leaflets, all that paper wasted, campaigns, ads, and the billboards. Yep. Who can forget the billboards? Maya Zankoul can remind you here. Sois belle et vote.. sois egale et vote.. almar2a oum wa oumma.. What a waste of the people's money, time, and intelligence.

And you know what's sarcastically funnier? The guys blame us. Yep. It's our fault we don't get engaged in politics. Why demand a quota? The floor is equally open to men and women. Women should run. And look! You got 4 women! So to run and win a seat in parliament, who cares what you want to do for women's rights. You have to ride the FPM ticket like Gilberte Zouein. You have to run for the dreams of your assassinated father like Nayla Tueni. You have to be the sister of an ex- (also assassinated) Prime Minister like Bahia Hariri. You have to be the wife of a popular party leader like Strida Geagea (only because he can't run himself).

Independently running Magda Braidy got 1966 votes in Zahle. Bravo, Magda. Good for you.

Here is the plain and simple argument for a women's quota in parliament. There are visible and invisible power dynamics that prevent women from running and even more from having a chance of winning. The overall sexism is an invisible example. Sure, you can't see it in a law or in the consitution, but it is there. Here's a simpler argument for you sectarianly-crazed Lebanese people. You love and uphold sectarian representation because - God forbid - a sect is not represented in parliament? Well, we need the same for gender representation.

Don't get me started on sectarianism right now - I am disgusted to the bone with how acceptable and important it is for Lebanese to refer to each other by their sects. It feels illegal to me. It feels like anyone who calls another person by her sect should be thrown in jail. That's how terribly it disgusts me.

Those poor lobbyists for the women's rights to nationality campaign. It’s been over 6 years of them screaming and shouting, and once again they ride the roller-coaster of empty promises. The domestic violence bill? We got excited about it for exactly 2 hours when we heard it was listed on the agenda of the Ministers’ meeting. And then it got bumped, just like that. Countless days of hard work gets thrown into the recycle bin by a mere few words from some guy in power.

And they had the nerve - both March 14ers and 8ers - to address women in their campaign and ask them to vote. And the women were ignorant enough - those hundreds of thousands of women - to volunteer countless hours for them, to go and vote for them. 3ala shou? What for? I am so disappointed in our social activists. Scratch the skin of most of them calling for women's rights and human rights and you will find a deep-rooted, subtle, malignant sectarianism and fear of the other. I am so disappointed.

This coming 4 years - just like the ones that have passed - we have to propose our plans for legal reform, for equality, for fair treatment, for all social justice to the same exact men in parliament. Either those or clones of them. And unless women get together somehow - beyond sectarian and partisan divisions - and demand (not request or ask for, but demand) equality in the true sense of the word - equality in all the visible and invisible manifestations of the word - we're not going anywhere with our rights.

So instead of wasting my time on anyone last Sunday, my friend and I drove around the polling locations in Beirut. We watched them in dismay. We got handed hundreds of little papers with candidates' names on them. We took pictures. One young woman wearing a "Je suis belle et je vote" t-shirt struck a proud pose for us in the middle of the street. It's true. She was beautiful and she had voted. And then we walked down the empty streets of Hamra and had coffee. And we drew a picture for what we thought was a truly democratic Lebanese election. And then we listed the 1million things we had to do over the next 4 years to make that a reality. And then we promised each other that we would devote every minute of our lives to fulfill that plan. And then we argued over the number of seats we wanted for women. She said 75, I said 50. We settled on 64 and then smiled at the issue we were arguing over. We have a long, corruption-infested road ahead of us.

And we'll see you in 2013.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Live blogging the sex workers' debate in the FC house

the first issue is to understand the diversity of sex-work (paid intercourse, phone sex, internet sex...)

The second thing that is often overlooked is male sex-work and how a great majority is from non-white men, another great percentage is transgender individuals.

I had students that worked as escorts. From these conversations I realised that often sex is not involved. Sometimes escortship evolves into sex.

If we want to look at sex-work rights as labor rights, then we need to work on it in order to establish sex-workers unions in order to get rights. Because there is a lot of exploitation and exploitation needs to stop.

Why is there this so much exploitation, according to radical feminist theorists this is the nature of sex-work. According to Marxist feminism it's because there are very little rights, most of this work is done in the dark.

I don't know how this form of activism takes place on the ground, but I know one case study is from the UK where the unions worked to provide english language courses to the sex-workers, the language is one way to help them acquire the material they need to protect themselves (condoms and STDs for example). But also to push them to lobby.

Live-blogging the sex workers' debate in the feminist collective's house

Our speaker is Sarah Bracke a gender studies background. next generation, a feminist network in europe, there were an issue with sex work.

At some point NG, first network that evolved in europe in the social forum.

The conflict started in the 2nd forum, in 2003, in paris. That social forum started with the women's day. The day became de-politicized, which was a problem for us. The 2 great issues were: the headscarf and the sex-work. There was a law-project against "passive soliciting. It was supported by many feminists in the forum. We had proposed a woman that worked a lot on trafficking for a panel. They wanted a young eastern european woman from a trafficking issue.

Then they asked about an abstract, so she was going to talk about how this problem is used for anti-immigration. SHe was excluded.

Then there was a workshop about gender-based violence. As we predicted there was a lot on sex-work (more than work).

We found it problematic that sex work is only discussed as a form of violence against women. So when one woman of our group that wanted to voice her opinion they cut the electricity from the mic.

There was a final report that was very miserable and negative, so a couple of us (in the mass of 3000) stood up and started shouting that they are not saying everything.

A group from barcelona, that had pink umbrellas (for another project) so those who couldn't shout they opened the umbrella... and then women with other umbrellas started opening theirs.

So they had to give us the mic, so I spoke and said that there is an official line before the debate. Then we started talking about the scarf and sex work.

So on the spot, we improvised a position and we refused to answer that, but they wouldn't listen and it degenerated into a "you take our husbands" kind of conversation.
After this we had to go home, over the years we tried to continue the conversation and to reflect on the issue.

Definition of trafficking:
There are different legal definition of traficking. It's usually when people are exploited because they are smuggled or helped by traffickers to come and lose their papers. This work can be anything, but it is usually associated with sex work.

We had a position about trafficking, since everyone has "policies and position" about it. The woman, (get her name) would explain to you, how these women that wish to migrate, they don't have access to routs of migration other than trafficking. They don't want to go home! These women keep on coming back, time after time.

For us it is clear to us, this "saving" project is a feminist political issue. So we decided to go and talk to them, to inform them if they don't know or expose their complicity with anti-migration policies.

There is a great problematic gendered view on trafficking.

It was clear for us that this position of "saving the poor other" holds a very sad history, colonialism and such.

But still we were not prepared to the prostitute debate. People concluded that we were the "prostitutes collective".

A dichotomy emerged for us: it's either you're a pro-prostitution or you're an abolition. For us this was not interesting. We said, wait maybe the problem is the way we see it. Sex work is an umbrella term for very different situations. So we voiced our interest in looking at it different.
In feminism it matters a great deal how you imagine the source of gender oppression. This is why there are so many feminisms.

This fear of economics and this fear of sexuality, are both represented as two separate things. This separation is something we could say really works against the feminist debate. hence the sex-work's difficulty.

If you combine these fears, we start looking at other things, like marriage where economics and sexuality come together. So sex-work is not just this marginalized groups, it's maybe marriage.
And when you start looking at it this way, you start seeing it differently.

Marxist feminism also looks at reproductive rights. And this idea that all the affection and care, that are seen as unpaid work, and it is very much gendered.

What we also see in europe, as women start entering the working field, where the traditional women is replaced by another "type" of women, that are economically and ethnically inferior!

We start seeing things differently, we look back at marital love is not so just affection, economics come into the picture too... and sex-work is not that isolated from marriage after all.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Women and elections

After the "Sois-belle et vote" turmoil, adnkronos an Iranian presidential candidate, Mohsen Rezaie, also targets women. But Mohsen on the other hand is not just stating that pretty women should vote [for him], he is pledging to pay house-wives for being housewives.

Women are often an ignored minority in most society, and even more in the Middle East. In our patriarchal systems, it is the man's eyes that see the world, therefore a virtuous man would have virtuous eyes that don't give women indecent attention. Which often leads to women getting no attention at all.
But in fact we are there, in societies like Lebanon and Iran, women have almost equal chances of education and unsurprisingly they are eager to get an education. So we fill up universities, in Lebanon I can't really find statistics (if someone has information about this issue it would be greatly apreciated), but if we were to believe adnkronos, then about 70% of annual graduates in Iran are women.
These female graduates are not translated into the money generating sector. Why? Stupid tradition, gender-based underpayment, sexual harassment, lack of social support for family units... The list is long, too long even. But the truth on the ground is that women often end up as housewife (aka overworked, underrespected, unpaid individuals for the great majority).
This is exactly what Rezaie is talking about and/or exploiting. Women are educated and they are housewives, if he can draw their attention and convince them to vote for him then he is winning the votes of a a very big target group.
Resaie is not the first one to see this potential in women. The issue is how to convince the women to vote for him. And that is one of the three interesting points about this statement.
Resaie wants to pay women for being housewives, is he trying to appeal to women? Is he trying to improve women's status? That is not certain, in the end, upperclass society doesn't care if women make money or not. It is the working class that would care the most. So in fact, Resaie is appealing more to the more deprived layers of the iranian society rather than women per se.
And the million dollar question is: Hypothetically speaking, if Resaie wins the presidency and implements this plan, will that improve women's situation in Iran?
The answer is unfortunately no. Women's will not have a better life if their work at home is validated more. The problem is not that women's work is not legally rewarded (afterall, Islam does valorize women's labor and imposes on her man to pay her). The real issue is that women are just housewives. Framing housewiness into a money-generating business will reinforce that idea, women will be even more forced into becoming housewives and sexists will have an additional argument to convince women they should stay at home.
Hm, this is even trickier than I initially thought :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sex work. What’s feminism got to do with it? - Discussion

We don't usually promote events or discussions on the blog, but this discussion is different. This is one of the most controversial issues that we are supposed to deal with as the feminist collective per se, or as feminists in general.
Please find below the invitation to the discussion.

Sex work often puts feminists in difficult positions. On the one hand, many feminists consider that ‘selling one’s body’ cannot be understood outside of patriarchal mechanisms that keep women, and gender non-conform persons, oppressed. That it amounts to violence against women. On the other hand, many feminists know that self-organizing and claiming one’s rights is the way to transform the world. And that this by no means differs for sex workers. “Only rights can stop the wrongs,” says the slogan of sex workers groups all over the world. This talk tells the story of how within a transnational European queer feminist and anti-racist network, called NextGenderation, we came to wrap our heads and hearts around sex work, when we were confronted with the strong refusal of a mainstream women’s movement to acknowledge the complexities and the issues at stake in sex work. We’d like to share our trajectory until now, in order to continue the discussion together.

Friday, May 15, 2009

I am not my hair - pseudo-review

As I was running around the Internet and youtube, I stumbled upon a song for a certain India.Arie, the song is "I am not my hair" I had never heard of either the song or the singer.


The message is clear, she is not her hair, she is the person behind the appearances.
In theory we all agree that we are not our hair, we are not our appearances we are the humans within. A human being is a human being regardless of the color of the sink, the fair, the shape of the head, the waste and anything else related to appearances.
But what is interesting about this song (and the message behind it) is not the simple statement, it should be common knowledge. I agree that it's sadly not true when it comes to the actual life, but in theory everyone agrees we should be seen according to who we are not to the way we look.
But anyway, put that aside, what is interesting about this song, is the way the message is formulated. The singer is not arguing with the gossipy-gossip girls gossiping about the way she looks and the way her hair is done... No she is saying who she is!
So thumbs-up for Arie, you are not your hair, you are the person behind those appearances and judging from this first encounter, it's an awesome person behind.
Interesting fact #2: in the third paragraph, India mentions women struggling with cancer. And not surprisingly, this song became a symbol for women's struggle against cancer. With this paragraph Adrie certainly hits the right cord. A woman is so used to putting so much importance into appearances that when she loses a fundamental component to that beauty (such as a woman's crown aka her hair) she loses a lot, though she is fighting for her life she finds herself attacked with either disgust or pity, because she "lost her hair" when did hair become more important than life?

If you google the song you might find dedication made by women to women fighting cancer and those who have lost their hair if not their lives in this battle. India wrote this passage as a dedication to Melissa Etheridge (Female rock star, Lesbian activist, Environmentalist, survivor of cancer in 2007, mother of 4, blond... you pick the identity you want to label her with) inspired by the latter's triumphant performance during the Grammy awards where she appeared bald and alive.
Her performance brought tears to my eyes," Arie says. "At that moment in time, her performance was a juxtaposition of pain and beauty. It symbolized the beauty of strength

Interesting fact #3: check out the lyrics of "I am not my hair"... there's an adsense bar at the bottom of the page, I would bet you anything that it is an ad for cosmetics, non? You see, even if the singer is literally attacking shallowness and attachment to appearances, a robot like google ads would assume that the people reading this article would also be interesting in reading about products that help them cheat to improve the appearances.

Just thought like sharing :)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Event Review: Taste of Culture


On May 2nd, the “Taste of Culture” festival was held in Souk el Tayeb to honour the labour of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon, followed by panel discussions in the evening in Masrah al Madina, a photography exhibition, and a hip hop/reggae concert to end the long day with.

FC members, Zainab and deema, sat down and talked about the event.


deema: So how did the taste culture festival at souk al Tayeb go?

Zainab: It was good. Good food, good music. Simba Rousseau, who was responsible for organizing the event, said that she was very satisfied. Basically, it was Saturday, it was Souk Al Tayeb, and there were many people there, from Lebanon and other countries; they weren’t there for that particular event per se, but people seemed interested in approaching the people who were offering the food, asking about the dishes and then buying. And those who were selling the food—cultural dishes from six different countries, seemed to be enjoying their time selling what they had prepared. I tasted the Sri Lankan food, chilli chicken with rice—very delicious!

deema: The event was held to honour migrant domestic workers on Labour Day. Were there many migrant workers there?

Zainab: No, not so much, which is understandable, because many workers are not free to leave the houses they work at, or to attend events. And how about the panels at Masrah Al Madina. There were two panels there, right? What were the topics discussed?

deema: Yeah, there were two panels. The first one was a “Lebanese panel,” of “experts” giving an overview of the situation of migrant workers, presenting a gendered look at how racism and sexism of the Lebanese society is working against migrant workers, and talking about the efforts caritas is doing to help.

The other panel, which was by far the more interesting, and the more important panel, had the leaders of the migrant communities in Lebanon to speak about their situation. The first speaker, from Madagascar, told about her work with migrant women, how she listens to them and offers them affection. As she told us, these women have sad stories to tell, not just about their lives in Lebanon, but back in their home countries as well.

The second speaker, a woman from Sudan, also went over the particularities of the Sudanese migrants’ case, where they willingly flee their country and come to Lebanon with their families, but their visas expire and for political reasons, don’t get extended. And so they become unregistered. Sudanese migrants may not live in their employers’ houses, but they face similar attacks of racism from society: from harassment on the streets, to bad treatment and underpayment where they work, with their children also experiencing racism at their schools.

The speaker from the Philippines added her perspective, telling us that the minute migrant workers step off the plane, the bad treatment begins. Employers expect her to work all day, she said, from the moment she opens her eyes till they decide to go to sleep. And she has not yet found the family that treats her as a human.

Zainab: Could you talk a bit about what went wrong? Cos some of us, and not just from the FC, expressed dissatisfaction during the panels.

Yeah, what went wrong was that we seem to think that the migrants can’t speak for themselves. That we need “experts” to introduce the issue and to give us an overview. But those women know their own situation pretty well, they know about the law that doesn’t protect them, that throws them in prisons under the worst conditions and forgets about them there. So that first panel—the “Lebanese panel” was not really necessary. It lasted too long, and we didn’t really learn much from it. It should’ve been all by migrant women. So that’s a lesson for us for our next event!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dirty Hands

By Amani:
Yesterday was just another day for me. I woke up got dressed in my favorite sweatpants and t-shirt and headed out to open my store. I was going to be working alone without employees, so I wasn`t really looking forward to it. I got there and the day was quite slow. However, at around 5, the door opens and this guy comes in. He needed help in choosing an outfit for his girlfriend, something short and sexy, something that shows lots and lots of cleavage. That’s when he got his first black point from me, but I smiled and remembered that this is business and I had to put all my feminist feelings aside for the moment. Something kept bugging me about the guy though and I kept thinking maybe it’s just the outfit that he wanted for his gf. So I shook off all those feelings and kept helping. Finally he decides on 2 dresses and tells me to please put them on me so that he can see if they are good. Naturally I refused and turned around to tidy up. And then just when I’m not paying attention he pulls me to him hardly and grabs my breasts. I yelled out so loud and my neighbor came in running and pulled him off me and they hit him.

I sat and cried not just because I felt invaded because some creep forced himself on me. I cried because I felt that what I was experiencing was a drop in the sea of the experience of rape victims. I cried for every woman that was ever harassed by a look, a touch, or a grope. But mostly I cried for women that were the victim of rape, women that did nothing wrong to deserve such a punishment. Women that were raped just because some asshole long ago made it a general case that women were the weaker sex and thus made every slime on the face of earth think he can manhandle a woman.

Now I’m not crying anymore, and I’m not ashamed of what happened to me. I want everyone to know because this can happen to anyone of us anywhere and anytime. This did not break me, it just made me stronger. At first I felt I was dirty, but now I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Dirty hands touched me, and when they did they made me a hell of a lot stronger. Before yesterday I had a brain that thought about women and said they were not treated as humans. Now my blood runs with feminism and my brain calculates how best to use my bad experiences with men to empower women. DIRTY HANDS TOUCHED ME AND MADE ME STRONGER. DIRTY HANDS TOUCHED ME AND FUELED MY BLOOD WITH THE FEMINIST REVOLUTION.

Makhfar

April 24th was the commemoration of the Armenian genocide on the hands of the Ottoman empire. April 24th also marked 94 years of denial by the Turkish government that such a thing ever happened… and they called them casualties of war…

I go to work like any regular Tuesday. I log on Gmail and my friend, Lynn, gives me the link to an article in the press praising the Turkish cultural week. I do not understand, because two days ago was one of the harshest days in the year for me; two days ago, I was wallowing in transgenerational trauma and reading William Saroyan. I got angry and confused and after talking it over with my friends, I realized that Martyr’s day is in a week and it all made sense… How perfect to put a cultural event in the between these two events and diverge the minds and thoughts of everybody from Turkey’s past and its ongoing denials.

So Lynn tells me, let’s do something, let’s hold up a banner, peacefully. I agree with the idea; we tell our friend to create a page on facebook and we start calling up our friends and acquaintances.
At 7.30, we are around 17 people, we go to UNESCO , we walk in under the banner that says something along the way of Turkey, nation of peace. I laugh. Lynn had brought a camera, I take it. We start dispersing. Our friends, Ali and Sara, take the stairs and the rest follow and they drop the banner and my friends start going : “Hey up here!” So everyone looks up and I start taking photos, hysterically, because we know that the photos will mean the most, along with the banner.

A T.V. cameraman turned his lens upwards, I hear the security guy say : "check which T.V. that is and stop them.” A moukhabarat guy goes up and rips the banner, he starts yelling at Ali and Sara, tries to calm things down; they take us outside. In the meantime, we manage to give the camera to our friend and tell her to just leave with the photos, just in case they take it from us inside, she does.

We stick together and are eventually led to the Makhfar ( police station ). All 15 of us.
The faces of the officers were priceless, I guess seeing 14 girls and a guy in their twenties walking into the makhfar was not so regular, or was it?
Inside the Makhfar, they asked us for our IDs and some had left them in the car and had to call our friends to get them for us. To be very honest, what they ended up charging us with was walking around without identification which is quite hilarious and very George Orwell fiction-like.

Anyhow, they took those without IDs to another room, a room with a small television hanging in the corner. The officers were watching football. We sat there and a bit later, the channel was switched and names in Turkish alphabet started popping on the screen, we just looked at each other and smiled.

They thought we were all Armenian. We were, in some metaphorical way. I should have reminded them of the day Hrant Dink was murdered in Istanbul and the Turkish crowd gathered in the streets shouting : "We are all Armenians”. However, on paper, of the 15 people arrested, only 4 were Armenians. The officers didn’t like this much, they didn’t really understand why a bunch of our friends were with the cause. They kept asking us : "enno, you hate the turks, is that it?” We do not hate the turks, I do not hate turks, I hate any government or the power that denies others the right to live and oppresses them; I hate any government or power that chokes ideas and freedom ( Orhan Pamuk and Hrant Dink anyone? ), I hate any government of power whose basic value is denial of the pain and anguish it inflicted, I hate any government or power whose morals are to spread their culture by erasing other’s ( no need to let you know what is happening to the historical Armenian landmarks in eastern Anatolia ). I have nothing against the brainwashed masses, they are brainwashed, lobotomized and ashamed, one can only try to speak out and break the silence and the walls.

The head of UNESCO came to tell us how hurt he was, I snickered and Sarag, my friend told him, well my people have been hurting for 94 years and this is what you care about? A diplomatic affair? Before your fellow citizens?. We shamed them, they said. I wonder if he realized how much he shamed me as a citizen when he disrespected my culture, our dead, our memory.
We sat there waiting for the event to end so they’d release us. A phone call told us that people outside had gathered, around 200 of them, from parties and universities. They were not related to us, but knowing they were outside made us all the more proud and we felt strong. We called our friends to let them know we are inside, we changed facebook statuses. Nadine managed to update hers from within the police office. There was just something so powerful to be inside a room, with friends and colleagues and people who were there to support a cause you always deemed yours and that had suddenly become theirs as well.

They released us at around 11.40 p.m. we walked out from the same place we had walked in, in front of all the officers and the UNESCO main entrance. Some diplomats were still leaving. I was smiling.

We gathered at a friend’s house, got some beer, it was very emotional to say the least. My friend, Sarag , came up to me before leaving, she automatically realized what I was thinking about. We had discussed our identity so many times before. At the risk of sounding sappy, we hugged, we couldn't help but cry. It all made sense, made real sense. The banner, the arrest, our friends supporting our cause, the feminists supporting a human issue, it all made perfect sense.

The next morning my mom called to ask me if I heard about the protest, I said yeah, she told me : " your dad wished he was there." I replied, "mom I was there, it was our idea." She was shocked. She finally asked: "were you arrested? " I said yes. She laughed and told me she was proud. I thought of the police officer that kept nagging and wanting to be right about all of us being Armenian and IANs and I felt like saying, my mom isn't and what makes her special is that she gets it. She gets the cause, our cause, and like my friends, she views it as something beyond a specific race and ethnicity, as something fundamentally righteous, fundamentally human.


Shant

This article also appears in Menassat: http://community-en.menassat.com/profiles/blogs/personal-account-protesting

UNESCO ACTION.

(To chant and sarag)

I could feel the heartbeats of a 15 feminist among the crowds gathered to celebrate the Turkish Cultural week. I heard 15 heartbeats rushing together forming one symphony and taking over the noise produced by the hundred or so persons gathered in the fancy hall of UNESCO. Diplomats, politicians were amongst the crowd, sipping wine and eating refined appetizers, and I could not help myself but wonder if they enjoyed the taste of blood lingering at the mouths after each bite and after each sip.



Most of us rushed to the upper level of the hall, and held a simple handmade banner: "Recognize the Armenian Genocide." The banner, during the first couple of seconds of its appearance made no sense to them, and slowly the noise started to fade. Few shouts from our side to confirm that yes, your worst nightmare is here, yes, inside your very intimate gathering, breaking through your revised history and shameful celebrations only 4 days after the Armenian genocide commemoration.



In the lapse of one minute everything changed. In one minute, and it seemed so much longer, everything made sense, why we were here, and why we were taking these actions, and why we will not stop from taking action again. Everything made sense. This is how people create their own revolutions. Upstairs, and before the Turkish secret service came to rescue turkey from this public shame, I felt I was one body, but with 15 heads working, thinking and acting in one organized harmony. I felt unbreakable.



In the hours that followed, we survived everything, the tactics of breaking us apart, by choosing the only male and asking him to walk with them to the police station, and it didn’t work. Some of us had IDs and some of us didn't. Still, each and every one of us refused to leave until each and every one of us was out. We sat in the gray room, we added colors to it. We sat and experienced anxiety, content, and anger.



The Darak defiantly got perplexed; a bunch of girls and one boy, the majority of whom are not Armenian, are all together for an action for Armenians.



Our action was successful, our point was made and it reached that Turkish ambassador and his ambassador friends celebrating with him. It is not in Beirut that you will be able to rejoice, and not in our cultural centers and not in our name. We made a point to the Lebanese people as well, that every time they will allow a circus of culture to happen, we will be there, smiling, looking as fabulous and as feminist as they imagine.



Now, that we are all out, safe, stronger and powerful, we need to thank our Armenian friends who inspired us to go. We, and now that we are all out, should believe that we are all Armenians from now on, we are all Palestinians, we are all working class people looking for inspiration, we are women eager to make the change that will set us all free.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Our Feminist Activists Are Out!

Inside the UNESCO Palace, during the celebration of the cultural ties between turkey and Lebanon, our feminist activists dropped the banners that called for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. For that, fifteen feminists were detained, and their ID’s were taken.

Finally, three hours later, when the “celebrations” ended, they were released and their ID’s were returned. They're all fine and in great spirits.

More details later!

Cultural Ties, Genocide and Democracy


Posted by Jay:

Tuesday April 28, 2009: Today morning, I got to work, and I logged onto Gmail, as usual. A while later, I saw my friend Shant’s chat status voicing rage towards the Lebanese government. Intrigued, I asked her what was going on. She pasted the below excerpt from the Daily Star for me:

“BEIRUT: Turkish Cultural Week opened Monday evening with a lavish meal organized by the Turkish Embassy in Beirut. The week's events aim to strengthen cultural ties between the two countries, with a wide range of activities taking place in Beirut and in the northern city of Tripoli, with the goal of embracing the cultural richness of the two Mediterranean countries.”

Naturally, I understood her frustration; I was more than irritated myself. To launch a “cultural tie strengthening” event with a nation responsible for mass genocide a mere THREE days after the Armenian Genocide’s 94th year unrecognised is more than disrespectful - it’s downright disgusting. Slowly, it flared up, and resulted in a decision to protest the Cultural Week at the turkish traditional and contemporary music concert that was to take place at the UNESCO Palace later in the evening.

We spread the word throughout the day using our available means (namely Facebook) – and the number of people to confirm attendance steadily rose during the day. At 19.30, armed with nothing but banners stating “Recognise the Armenian Genocide”, 15 young women and men set out to Corniche el Mazraa, to the UNESCO Palace, and revealed the banner there.
Around an hour into the sit-in I wasn’t able to attend, I sulkily texted Shant and asked her how it went. Her response? “We are in the makhfar (police station).”

...That is democracy for you, ladies and gentlemen. A few minutes into their having displayed the banner, the police showed up and took “their measures”. Currently, the 15 feminists are being indefinitely detained in the Ramleh el Bayda Police Station. Everything is under control, however, the activists are calm and composed, and we are working on solving the issue.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

About Us, And Them.

I remember— back in ‘06, when a bunch of us were helping CRTDA gather signatures at AUB, in support of their Nationality campaign. A boy signed his name on the petition, then he asked me: would this mean that a woman would be able to give her Lebanese nationality to Syrians? And I said: yeah.

So he just scratched his name from that petition and walked away.

Strange how that ability, that power of women to determine who to give their nationality to, scares people. Like we have the power to change the entire demographics of this country. Like we can turn this country into a Palestinian state, into a sub-Syrian state.

Strange how racism works with sexism and with classism. Swayable, easily seducible, women can sleep with the “enemy.” Poor women, women of certain regions/sects, have lots and lots of babies, tipping the sectarian balance to “their” favour. Them. The Syrian workers. The Palestinian refugees. And then there are the migrant domestic workers. The women. The women of da7hyi and the South. The sexually active women. They’re all equally threatening. To the nation. To the middle class. To the family.

Sometimes I think that some men (particularly the very sexist ones) are more aware of our capabilities and potentials than we are ourselves. I don’t mean our abilities to change the distribution of the population in that racist/sectarian way, like that AUB boy was afraid of. I mean our ability to change things for the better. To introduce new ways of understanding things.

And that’s why we’re here. Because we see things differently, because we can see how things are wrong, from the little things that we have grown numb to, like the pressure on women to conform to impossible beauty standards, like street harassment, to more blunt things like how migrant workers are treated, how women can’t give their nationalities to their husbands and kids, how there are no laws against domestic violence and marital rape. And because we know we can/must change that.

That’s why we’re here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Top 12 Reasons Why the Billboard Campaign: “Sois Belle et Vote” Is Offensive to Women

Feel free to add yours.

  1. Oh, so now you’ve noticed that women are important? When you want their votes?
  2. You’re using a play on the saying “sois belle et tais-toi” (shut up and look pretty)? Really? So you think you’ve done it justice by changing it to “vote and look pretty?”
  3. Are you implying that women are too stupid to engage in real-life politics? That the only way you can appeal to their voting power is by reminding them to look pretty?
  4. What does being “pretty” have anything to do with the democratic process of electing a parliament that represents our voices?
  5. How many Lebanese girls look like that model in the picture? Better yet, how many Lebanese girls put their bodies through pain and confinement and self-loathing to try and look like that model in the picture?
  6. Isn’t your ad really saying: “Hey, men! Look at us! We have hot women! Vote for us!”
  7. If you care so much about women, where’s the 50% women’s quota in parliament? Or do you just want women to vote for men who care nothing about their rights?
  8. Where are the women in your candidacy lists? Not a single woman?! So you want women to vote but you don’t want them nominated?
  9. Wouldn’t it be better if you sought to change the Lebanese elections system so that candidates are forced to represent issues and not religions? Wouldn’t that make more sense for women voters?
  10. Where are women’s rights in the 19 elaborate points of your political platform? Hmm?
  11. How about instead of spending thousands of dollars on those useless billboards, you put up a campaign that promises things women really need like protection from family violence, the right to nationality, and protection from sexual harassment among hundreds of other things?
  12. So you want to settle for looking cosmetically progressive? How about some real political feminism?

Give me a break! All of you parties are useless. I’m going up to Baabda in June to exercise my right to vote in these elections because I can think, because it’s one of the only rights I have as a woman in Lebanon. But none of you will get my vote until someone presents a progressive gender equality platform. Till then, I’m voting blank.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What is Feminism?

So what happens when you give a Chantal a camera and permission to harass feminists with a simple question:

What is feminism?



Enjoy :)

The Feminist Collective Song Contest

The Feminist Collective is organizing a song contest. The purpose of it is to come up with a Feminist Anthem while promoting and encouraging the art of songwriting and composing. Our primary focus is to have a great song, written by one of you great people, to become the voice of our collective.


I-Applicants:

The contest is open to all Womyn and feminists in / from Lebanon.
Only one entry is allowed per person for the contest, and any multiple entries will be deleted. Your initial entry will still be valid.
Participants can submit a song to be performed as the Feminist Collective Anthem.
Participants can submit their songs on C.D. to the Collective’s headquarters or by email : Info@feministcollective.com

The information sheet at the bottom of this document should be attached to your track.

II-The Contest:

Upon completion and submission of the C.D. or by mailing in an entry, eligible contstants will be entered into the Contest for a chance to win our Prize.
The Application Deadline is July 16, 2009
The winners will be declared end of July 2009


III-The Jury:

Once all tracks received, they will be compiled and all members have the eligibility to vote for their favorite song to determine the winner.


IV- The Prize:
There will 500$ awarded as a prize to the winner.


To attach to your track :

Applicant’s name/nickname :
E-mail:
Phone Number:
Track/ Song Title:
Duration :
Genre:
A few words about you:

Monday, April 20, 2009

So what was going on since we last posted here?

Actually a lot has been going on. And that is probably why we haven't updated the blog much. Anyway, to make my life easier, i will be posting separate updates throughout the day.

First things first, the results from the International Women's Day are finally out (Sarag had shared them with us more than a week ago so the actual publishing delay is my fault entirely). If anyone wishes to receive these results as PDF please do contact me and I would be pleased to send them to you by email

What is interesting is that the results are more consistent than what I thought they would be. Apparently, women are in general annoyed and frustrated by gender inequality in Lebanon. And that is in all of the areas that we interviewed women in.

Thanks to everyone who has helped us in this adventure :) !

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Honor suicides

Source:Women told: 'You have dishonoured your family, please kill yourself' by Ramita Navai for The Independent.

This is one of the saddest truths that we have to think about when we use international pressure as our tool for social change. Yes, women's groups have achieved victory when they imposed mandatory life sentence to honor crimes... but since not enough has been done to change mentalities, parts of the populations have simply moved from killing the woman (according to this same articles there were more than 200 crimes per year) to suiciding the woman.

And sadly, this is even worse, there is virtually no way of proving it. So instead of having the killer going to jail for a limited amount of time, he doesn't go to jail at all!

Now I am not saying that the Turkish groups didn't do enough, or that we should never use international pressure. No, they did a great job and Turkey is a really big country with various problems and a heterogeneous population. Sometimes even the best intentions are not enough, this just means they still have a lot of work to do.

First (woman) judge in Dubai

Source: Dubai appoints 27-year-old as first woman judge By Bassam Za'za' on Gulf News.

Apparently Dubai appoints a woman judge, I can't really say I saw that coming. it's a pleasant surprise of course. But then again, how much do we know about this lady? From this article we can only know that she is 27, has a masters (with distinction from the police academy) and an experience in education. The four other (men) judges that were appointed apparently have only bachelor degrees in law (or law and sharia).

Interesting, non?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Residues of March

It’s April already. But March has been long and eventful, and there are things that happened this past month that I just can’t get over so easily. Things like:

Some women on the streets during our IWD event. When we asked them what they thought of women’s rights in Lebanon. They replied, “the issue does not concern me,” On the other hand, we did encounter some amazing ladies out there.

A woman telling me on that same day, “I don’t care what my daughter grows up to be. I want her to do what she wants. If she gets an education, that’s fine. If she doesn’t get an education, kamein mni7. Whatever she wants to do, I’ll support her.” Sweet really. Although I don’t know if not getting an education would get her where she wants in today’s world. And I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt that if this little girl, a good few years from now, happens to come to her saying, “I’m not going to marry, I’m going to move in with my boyfriend,” or if she tells her, “Mom, meet my partner, Leila,” I’m hoping the mom will say, “ya binti, I love you and support everything you do.”

IWSAW celebrating women’s day by paying tribute to the women soldiers in the Lebanese Army. On the one hand, I understand that the army is sometimes the only “respectable” place for many working class young people, mainly from rural areas, to turn to, but at the same time, why must we honour an institution that is built on machismo and violence—that is a basic facet of the nationalistic patriarchal world we live in. While I always respect individual women who are getting themselves into male-dominated spaces, I think, as far as women’s rights groups go at least, we could focus our efforts more on creating a world free from militarism instead, even if people call us crazy and utopian now; I think it’ll be worth it on the long run.

My friend and I getting harassed on Hamra. I wanted to kill those guys. Ok, I understand that violence may not be the best way to counter street harassment, but damn, the idea of it felt good. Good but still made me angrier and angrier every time I thought about it, about these idiots who think that they own the streets, who think they can disrespect women like that.

Discovering Winona LaDuke. Reading her All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life. Awesome woman, awesome book.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Disabling people out of habit - Marvelous world of Sexual Harassment

Again, I need to vent! A couple of days ago I finished reading one of the very few studies in the Middle East about sexual harassment. Not surprisingly, the study comes from the Egypt, one of the very few countries that have finally broken the wall of silence around street harassment. I expected it to be bad. I expected to find an outrageously high percentage of women that have been subject to street harassment (83% for Egyptian female citizens), I expected them to blame the woman’s outfit (62.5% assumed that a woman is more likely to get harassed if she is wearing a provocative outfit) only to contradict themselves a few seconds later (31% of the women who had confirmed being the victims of street harassment also confirmed that they are usually veiled and decently dressed when harassment takes place).
In my mind, I expected all that, but what I did not expect is how men willingly admitted that they had often harassed women on the street (62.4%), shamelessly as if they were doing nothing wrong going as far as pointing/hinting at or exposing bodyparts (4.3%) and a decent percentage even admitted they don’t even feel anything when they do these crimes, they just do them out of habit (19.3%).
Now that shocked me! What does this mean? What does it say about our society? I just think we live in a very sick society where degrading and humiliating women just because they are women have become the norm. When you know that 83% of women are fully aware of the fact that they are harassed, their humanity is aggressed. They are aware of how damaging this is but no one does anything about it. We don’t even want to talk about it.
This has reached a point where men don’t even see anything wrong with what they do, they admit that they harass women as if they are just stating that they like football. Women are afraid to go down to the street and avoid doing so, they have nightmares and depressions, their academic and professional productivity are reduced. Why? What for? Whereas some men enjoy it, others feel nothing at all, they just do it as a habit… Just a habit… For a retarded, stupid habit, women are deprived of the street that should be theirs just as it is anyone else’s.
Men often brag about how they are better drivers, how they are more productive at work, more successful in everything, more confident. And I have a question that anyone is kindly asked to answer: if you had to go through a debilitating experience, such as walking on the street when you are a woman; If your space is either limited to the safety of your home; if every excursion is a terrifying experience… would you be able to compete, excel and perform?
Most men adopting this oppressive patriarchal system are more vulnerable and weak than any other creature, but they are protected by patriarchy, by the fact that they can let out any anger or feeling of weakness on women, yes women, Women on the street, family members at home, or female colleagues. That is the sad truth of this great value that we defend so fiercely, our values in this beautiful Middle East have been degraded to humiliating women just because they are women who breathe.

The study is written in Arabic and I would recommend you read it: غيوم في سماء مصر

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Attending Lade’s workshop:

So I was attending this workshop today, it was organized by LADE or the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections. But I will not go through the details of the workshop, there is only one detail that made me smile (but not in a so positive way). You see at a certain point, there was some chaos which is understandable it was the after lunch session and everyone was a bit tired.

But what I found typical and unacceptable, was that one of the opinions was expressed by a young, intelligent woman. She was repeatedly interrupted by an older man who just happens to be a professor in some university. I wouldn’t have given it that much importance if it would have happened like twice or three times and if it wasn’t so evident. Nermine (the young woman) would start her sentence, after so much effort to get the attention that should not be so difficult to get in this ultra-civilized and ultra-cultivated environment, only to be interrupted before she would finish. Not by someone (who is the great male professor) who is making a point opposing hers, no she would get interrupted because the guy just had a point that he was making minutes ago and didn’t deem he should wait for Nermine to finish hers. No why would he.

And if that wasn’t so compelling, then another professor named Toni, started interrupting little Nermine just the same way.

Ok so maybe it was a Nermine thing. You may say that maybe Nermine just didn’t know how to impose her own authority. But then again something slightly similar happened with another young girl. Who was expressing a very simple concept which says that regardless of whether or not media coverage for one electoral candidate was positive it is a positive thing for the candidate because it is media attention none the less. But some guy that was sitting next to her did not agree, and he insisted on his point of view without giving any substantial evidence or even thinking about what that young lady was saying.

But if you still don’t believe me then you should have been there and you would have noticed that for example women were present but did not have much to say, as participants. The most persistent commentators were men. Nermine and her friend were almost the only females that talked.

I am not saying that the organizers or facilitators were sexism or misogynists. No, they were not. And I am not saying that the professors were consciously interrupting or silencing the women. No they were not aware of it. But in our minds (all of us) respect is always more due to older, men with degrees than it is to younger women. And again if you do not believe all you have to do, is google professor, and tell me at which page will you find the first woman?

Friday, March 27, 2009

if kids can do it then so can we - مؤازرة

بإختصار القصة وما فيا، كان في رجّال عم بيجرّب يخطف بنت زغيرة (سبع سنين) من مدرستا. فواحد من رفقاتا (ثمان سنين) بيهجم عليه وبيضل يلبّطو توقع المجرم

هيدا اللي لازم يعملوا النسوان! لازم نوقف سوا ونلبّط. يمكن الرا لوحدا ما بتقدر تربح مشكل مع رجّال (أنا بقول مبلى، بس إنو سلّمنا جدلاً إنو لأ) بس إذا إبن ثمان سنين وقّف عملية خطف فا أكيد أيّة مرا كمان قادرة توقّف ايّة جريمة. النسوان بهل مجتمع لازم يفهموا إنو كل مرة أنا بشوف مرا عم تنهان أو تتعنّف واجباتي إتصرّف. وإلا أنا بكون أنا كمان مشاركة بالجريمة

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sexual Harassment - The Frustration

I always knew I would end up working on street harassment, I just knew it. At times I felt it's too much work to do, that it's too big for me or even for civil society all together to work, at times I thought that the world is just waiting for my signal and that I will change the WORLD.
So I finally got my act together and started writing this plan, how to eradicate street harassment... right? And in my head it seemed like such a cool plan.
Now I after spending a very long weekend writing and fixing the plan I was only done with 50% of the first draft of the plan and then more time passed and I worked even more. I still had like 20% but I was stuck. So I thought I'd research what others have done and now I am not sure how to quantify that I have over with.
There were and there are lots of people working on street harassment, it's an agonizing job. The more I work the more I realize my work is so far from being complete. I never understood how can writing a plan take so much time, but now I understand. It's like the more you do the more you find out you need to do more.
I am not sure if I am supposed to be thrilled about that or frustrated. On one hand, harassment is very personal, very intimate, very complicated and each survivor has to go deep inside her/his being to find answers to harassment, its motives and its mechanisms. But at the same time, the woman's body has always been the battlefield of the most political/public war ever (and no, the use of "ever" is not exaggerated).
Society has to change, women have to change, men have to change, you have to change, I have to change, you and me have to change.
That's a lot of "changes" that need to take place, don't you think? And all this to stop sexually frustrated and blind mobs from scaring the shit of every penis-deprived person on earth.
Back to the plan I guess.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sexism is a Sin!

As we all already know, March is Women's month, and among the causes women fight for around the world, is a cause I have believed in since I was very young; Women's Ordination. For those of you who don't know what that means, it consists of women's right to become priests, deacons, and bishops in the Catholic Church.

While preparing for our international women's day activities last week, a friend of mine asked me how I can be a feminist and still be religious. I answered back with a question: how can you be a feminist and still live in Lebanon? Lebanon is a country where women are extremely oppressed. Lebanese society does not acknowledge women as full human beings, and, still, we're here instead of moving to another country where women have full equality. We stay here and fight for our rights because we love our country, because we believe in it, and because we believe things can change.

The Roman Catholic church has a patriarchal structure that oppresses women today, and a lot of people who don’t want to give up on their religion and their church work on changing this situation to "return the church they love back to the example of Jesus, to be a radical table community where all are invited and included." The Women's Ordination Conference (WOC) is an organization that fights for women's equality in church, and celebrates diversity of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, language and symbol in the church community. Among their causes are:

1. Work for women's equality and justice in all dimensions of life and ministry in the church

2. Eliminate all forms of domination, discrimination and oppression against women in the church

3. Advocate for inclusive, democratic and transparent church structures

4. Promote feminist, womanist, mujerista, and other liberating spiritualities

5. Change the word ‘man’ to ‘person’ in Canon 1024

So, the reason I am posting this today is because next week, on March 25, they celebrate the World Day of Prayer in Support for Women's Ordination. Among their very cool slogans are:

“Sexism is a Sin!"

"Jesus included women. When will you?”

" You can't preach justice unless you practice justice."

"Equal RITES for women,"

and my personal favorite: "God is not a boy's name."
Rania Ig.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lebanese Writer May Menasa Calls on Lebanese Women to Unite

Thursday, March 12, 2009

بمبة سيليكون - Review



On my way to see the play “بمبة سيليكون” in LAU I was telling my friend Amie why in Lebanon we have sense humor that u don’t find in any other country in the Arab world (according to her). We are funny, yes we make fun of everything, we laugh and joke about our wars, our politicians, our pain.

We have it our blood we are funny people that make fun of everything without realizing the amount of pain behind it, we make fun of politicians and people laugh and people from out side this country do they realize how much pain and hard living these politicians are causing us.

بمبة سيليكون a play that’s being shown for free on the occasion of International Womyn’s Day directed by a feminist as I heard, so I was very interested to see what it is, I walked into the theater a woman sleeping on the floor in a living room that sounded very much from our reality.

The stage was divided in two spaces, the first was where the caller’s bedroom and it occupied most of the stage and the second was the office of the operator which was above the rest of the stage and restricted to the left side only. In the background Majida El Roumi music and the sound of the TV indicating that the story took place during the 2006 war.

The play starts with a woman screaming and calling the doctor’s clinic, at that moment u would think that she was having a baby. After calling the clinic 4 times the secretary walks in and answers the phone and then the woman stands from behind the coach and you would notice D33 size boobs.

My silicon exploded because of the pressure of war planes and bombing, said the panicking woman.
Well the doctor ran away with his family and I can’t really do anything for you, answers the secretary in the office.

These two sentences started the dialogue which was the backbone of the whole play.

And then after something exploding in Beirut they both freak out and start screaming one of them is scared for her life while the other is scared of the silicon is in her blood which she fears might kill her. The secretary makes it clear that it won’t happen.
Both characters go through a lot of emotional stages, at some point they are crying and then they would be gossiping about their lives and they would forget the war outside.
That explains exactly the reality of a lot of women in our society and shallowness of their lives.

It was a funny play and I couldn’t help myself from laughing although I see it as a sad play.

The audience laughed all through the play especially when the actresses were making a fool out themselves; talking about bra sizes, marriage and sex-positions that will make you pregnant.

It was not funny at all and I know for a fact that the woman who wrote the play wanted people to see the sad reality behind this humor, but the question is how many people really saw that and understood it.

We make fun of things, we laugh at our own misery and people laugh with us, without paying attention to the suffering behind every joke. And that is our main problem while working on any issue in this country. We are too busy laughing that will always create boundaries that will prevent us from addressing our issues and changing mentalities.

Zainab Nasser

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

IWD - a round-up of resources

Today is Wednesday the 11th of March 2009. Three days after the memorable IWD 2009. The community is still very buzzed about it. Everytime two FC members meet they still talk about either the event itself or the reactions to it.

The staff and participants did a great job putting up resources (pictures, videos and articles). If you want to check pictures please check:


In the last two days our resident filmmaker Chantal edited a lot of short movies that she uploaded to the YouTube Channel that she created also. For now, we have four interesting videos:


Now as for Press Coverage, the FC has been mentioned, so far, in:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Solidarity With Domestic Migrant Workers in Lebanon - International Women's Day

Sunday was a day to remember, as we all walked proudly with our shirts, made especially for this occasion, in Hamra street and then on Corniche el Manara. People couldn't help but look at us since we were walking in groups of twos and threes, because maybe for some, we looked like a football team.

Yesterday was beyond amazing. At first, we had a sit-in for Foreign Workers in Lebanon and to me the cause was something that matters more than I show because these people don’t have any other resort in a country that is not theirs and they don’t have anyone to fall back on.

At 2:00 pm, all the Feminist Collective members headed towards Hamra, Al-Madina theater and it was overwhelming for all of us. I got there with couple friends of mine at exactly 2:30, got a banner from my friend and stood with every one.

Then I started looking around and I asked myself: where are the foreign workers? Where are the girls to whome this issue matters the most? I know it matters to us but this is the biggest cause in their lives.

The more I looked, the more I realized that this was like the upper class protesting for the lower class, or white people for people of color. I’m not saying there is something wrong with that but in a way it always looks like the upper society is feeling sorry for the lower, poor and unfortunate people and I never liked that.

30 minutes later, the foreign workers came and they seemed very shy and reluctant to come and be a part of it. Can you blame them? Really. Afterwards, everyone started to encourage them to come into the middle which was the right thing to do-- they should be the middle of the sit-in. But it was obvious how uncomfortable it was for them.

And when they finally felt a bit encouraged, the cameraman from a tv station started to harass them to get more footage and after they refused to stand more he reacted very violently; he took his camera, said to his assistance in the meanest tone ever: “ emshe ya 3ame sho mana netrajehon” and they took off…

After that it was time for us to leave for our own sit-in.

We live in a country where people criticize the West for being racist and abusive to non white people, and we live in a country where the color of the skin does not seem to be an issue because we don’t have black and white but we do have non-Lebanese people... We don’t really see that when it comes to racism we are still where the west was 50 years ago.

Lebanese people tend to think they’re better than anyone who is not Lebanese, European or American. They don’t see it and don’t notice it but it's out there, and I think it will take a lot of time for this to change.

Zainab Nasser

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Day Has Come

If you were given a penny for every woman being beaten up at home, you’d be rich. And this home we are talking about, where she comes every day to sleep, to cook, to do her second full time job, which is a mum or a wife, this home would be built on her economical and emotional contribution.

Women on Sunday the 8th of march would be celebrating IWD "International women’s day" and while some women in far some place are celebrating this day, others are being beaten up until they bleed at home, being raped in dark alleys. Posters and billboards objectifying women’s bodies are all over the roads from Jounieh to Beirut to somewhere else in Beirut, to Tripoli, to Saida, to Sour, everywhere in Lebanon.

To fathers that make there daughters get married to their rapists, for Honor, in what world is that fair? And what honor is that if I may ask? What is honor? Define it for me, and what definition allows another human to kill for it. Honor, honor was made for humans, what is honor next to death? Next to losing a daughter, a sister or a wife.

I still remember when I first discovered this awful fact, and I couldn’t believe it, by logic, if a guy shoots your daughter and stabbed her, would you make him marry her, to hide the shame. And what is shame really next to a lifetime scar and billions and trillions of psychological problems. So now let me get it right, why can’t every man who wants a woman and she didn’t say yes, rape her simply, and yah take her sister too, it’s a garage sale, rape one get one free.

Am not so fond of statistics but by logic I can say that our economy and it’s a new trend, is based on Botox and beauty products, loans for plastic surgery, little girls buying barbies, and tell me why barbies can’t stand on their feet? I’ll tell you why, because it’s a subconscious message for a little girl since she is 1 that she can’t stand up alone, she always needs a man to help her up,
but look at me, look at us, women, we go to a fulltime job, we come back home to the other full time job, we raise kids, we do stand up while we carry babies inside us, and we stand up for 9 month. We are actually standing up, ON OUR OWN. Fairytales are over, no prince charming anymore, there are women in the world and women can manage homes, and can run this freaking world, get over it.

Yesterday was the 8th of March 2009. A lot of women went down to the streets to ask other women what they think of woman’s rights, a lot said: “in my surrounding there is no violence. I am not concerned”. If you saw some of these women, please a message from me, tell her, wake up, not for you, not for me but for my nieces, for your daughters, for your sisters, and even your own mothers.

After Sunday the 8th of March 2009, for every woman I mentioned above, we went down to the streets to rebel, with signs and voices that cannot be shut down anymore. God know I’ve been waiting for this day, and the one after it, and after it. That day HAS come.

Maya

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Migrant Domestic Workers Rights sit-in - What an FC had to say

It was 2:10 pm as me and Layal were approaching Masra7 Al Madina in my car and the big shock was the humongous number of people who were there.  We were surprised to see all these people we didn't even know standing there while holding very colorful and meaningful posters in their hands and raising them up. 


We stood with them and we started realizing that they weren't people we knew, they weren't from the feminist collective, yet we didn't feel lost since all of them were there for this specific cause which is defending the rights of foreign workers in Lebanon.  I was amazed by the different nationalities and gender of people attending the event. 

As more feminists came and joined us, we felt more excited and more enthusiastic about defending our rights as women. Personally, I was thrilled to participate! I got goose bumps as one foreign worker started talking to one television station about her suffering and about her boss treating her like she was a slave! 

It's about time we open our eyes and truly see what is happening in our society, no matter what gender we are, no matter what nationality we have, no matter what religion we believe in, we are all humans and we will continue fighting for our rights as humans. 

We're not gonna take it, we're not gonna take it, we're not gonna take it anymore! Today was the launching of our cause, we will not give up and we won't stop until every woman in Lebanon has all her rights, no matter how long it's going to take, we will fight for it because we simply are feminists!
Farah Jaafar

at the corniche, we celebrated that something has tried to kill us and has certainly failed.

As long as I remembered the Corniche, it was the space to hang out with friends to chitchat about some vital personal issues; also, it was always the space that required certain attire, something that would make me the least visible.

At the corniche, the notion of womanhood should meet the constructed idea of what a female in a public space should be. Nevertheless, women do break this pre-assembled idea by exercising within that space. The image is quite powerful for such a context, a woman who might be for example jogging, while wearing her tight sportswear, is certainly breaking the social codes, that is of course male constructed, yet it remains acceptable since these kinds of women are immediately labeled as rich or bourgeois. This labeling doesn’t mean that they are exempt from sexual harassment that might occur, but it fits within the idea of who comes to the corniche and the things they can do there. Women's liberty to practice a certain action is dependent on the economical class she belongs to.
Today's action at the corniche was both intimidating and exhilarating at once. The idea of using a public space that is fully functional on traditional dynamics and behaviors of men and women in public spaces combined too many layers. Before arriving to the space, the Corniche was as usual occupied by those who are familiar with its rules. It was the Corniche where people are enjoying their sunny afternoon. When we, the Feminist Collective appeared with our banners, attitudes and "looks," the space was immediately interrupted; an event was happening (whether we had planned to actually have a sit-in at 5 pm or chosen to simply walk) regardless of what we wanted to do there.
The interruption of the "mechanics" of this space influenced the already constructed idea of women being at the Corniche. It has done so by transforming the idea of a female, on one hand being in a state of proving constant decency and seeking invisibility, and on the other, to being one that is standing, fully co-owning the space and using it to her sole and complete benefit, one that does not comply with any of the already made tags for women within that particular space (such as " walking the kid, walking with male/family friend/ jogging, etc" but completely doing a different form of action that was clearly sending a very strong message " I'm not afraid to be seen"). This was all very intense, and perhaps very offending to the male pedestrians, which have made it very clear to us that we were not welcome. Yet, a question lingers in my head: "What about the women? Did their feelings/experience of the corniche change due to our presence?"


Our presence that corniche also created a spectacle, in which specifically, the "male viewer," was intrigued to watch, yet he was constantly offended by the message that "our" spectacle was delivering. Simply, the messages that we sent revolved about a new presentation of the notion of womanhood, where "he" specifically as a male had no role in that at all; and moreover, there we were, in his face, and completely out of his "control."

The intimidating experience of all of this creates a certain territorial relationship for us as women in Beirut. Some territories are friendlier to women than others. In addition to the amount of hostility that the women demonstrating had to endure, I personally felt that we endured as a collective and not as individuals an amount of hostility that might discourage some of us to continue or would create a certain preference to work only in certain areas. We need to understand that everything is changeable, and the few hours that we spent at the corniche is a vivid example, all we have to do is to gather around each others, regardless of where we live, what history we had and what do we know about life.


Today at the corniche, we celebrated that something has tried to kill us and has certainly failed.

The end of the Second day

Ain el Mreisse. Yes the Feminists went to Ain el Mreisse! A spot reputed for the harassment taking place so intensively. But the feminists did one hell of a great job!




3an jad bravo everyone.

What funny/sad was that the girls got harassed exactly as they were talking about... harassment. Sara actually had to listen to some misogynist comments and sexist slurs as she was reading the Feminist Collective values.

Some random guy selling coffee on the street came specifically to us to tell us that women only fit in the kitchen, cooking riz bla7m, w tabboule w, w... And then he goes on to enumerate all the great meals that women can cook. And then at the end he also mentions the fact that they can also raise kids. Thank you Mister sexist! Thank you for telling me about all the terrific meals that we can cook.

Another random woman totally tricked us, she came to the sit-in saying this is very interesting and seemed very pro-women's rights. Then as soon as she has the flier in her hand starts wondering "what's the big deal?" then she goes on and on about how her life is awesome and that there is nothing to complain about. I mean of course, if she has her rights then I bet others don't matter do they? Another piece of wisdom that she kindly shared with us was the fact that if a woman is harassed verbally on the streets then she must've given that guy a queue, said something, winked at him... anything to allow him or invite him to harass her, then she turns to some random guy, that had been annoying all the girls and asks him: "if you didn't feel the girl wanted it would you "tlattesh 3laya"". And I don't really need to tell you what he said, we all know sex-predators' mentality, right?

Another interesting form of discrimination was one of gender expression, as a bunch of young men started harassing one of our members because she didn't really look like a "girl"... Interesting, non?

Now you may ask why we chose Corniche for the sit-in, why not some easier region? where people would just agree with us?

The answer is simple, Corniche is OUR Corniche. This was the perfect location, the girls were scared a bit, frustrated at times, but still they stood out for what is theirs, the street are ours and no one has the right to scare us, and we will not be intimidated.

And if you think that we just wasted our energy, then you are greatly mistaken. You just should have been there, as the Feminist Collective values were being said, some predators were just saying sexist stuff behind her, but behind the girls there were women GRINNING! These were not the women that came to us and told us about their stories, they were people who just didn't interact with us, they just sat in their corner but they listened to us and they were smiling. That was priceless!

In addition, there were a lot of women and men that came to us with a lot of positivity, some talked about custody rights, a lot about nationality rights, and so many others too.




We even recruited one tiny feminist into the group, her name is Rahaf and she is nine, as soon as the feminists spoke to her she got all excited and saying that she wants to defend women's rights, women don't have rights and she wants to change that! She sat with us, wanted a feminist shirt, held a Banner, she was just all over the place... Just ask yourself, how does she know she has no rights? Behind every baby-feminist there is certainly a feminist parent an overwhelmingly oppressive society.

Then when all was over and we had to go to the center, all the feminist got into someone cars and we headed to the house where we shared our thoughts, and now as I am writing this the girls are arguing... about villagers and wolves!

P.S.: Villagers and Wolves is actually a party game, so don't worry the Feminist Collective is not really arguing ;)

صبرا وشاتيلا : اهلا بكم الى عالم الفقر

صبرا

مشيت في شارع صبرا، رفيقاتي معي، كانت الرحلة التي قمنا بها الى صبرا وبعدها الى سوق الاحد ضرورية، فسوق صبرا التجاري من اكثر الاسواق شعبية واكتظاظا في بيروت. فهو السوق الذي يحبه ابناء الطبقة الفقيرة والمتوسطة في لبنان، بفئات نقدية قليلة تشتري ما يكفي. في الصبرا، تشعرين انك في فضاء اخر، فالمشاهد التي تنظرين اليها والاصوات التي تسمعينها قوية، نساء يشترين ويتحادثن ويتجادلن مع البائعين، الاطفال التي تبكي وتضحك، اصوات السيارات والموسيقى التي تأتي الى اذنيك من الجهات كلها، تضعك في مزاج اخر " اهلا بك في عالم الفقر." 

النساء تمر من امامنا وقربنا ولكهن سرعان ما يهربن عندما نتطلب منهن لحظة للتكلم معهن، ربما في صبرا النساء لا يملكن اللحظة هذه، فالبيت ينتظرهن والطبخة يجب ان تكون جاهزة قبل ان يأتي الزوج والاطفال، في صبرا تتردد النساء عن البوح برأيهن وتتفاجأ بالاسئلة، فنحن لا نبيع شيئا ونطلب شيئا، نريد فقط ان تسألهن ان " شو رأيك ب وضع المرأة؟". في صبرا ان النساء لا يملكن امتياز الرأي، الفقر لا يأتي بأمتيازات. 

شاتيلا
في شاتيلا، أنظرالى ازقة المخيم. انا من فلسطين واهل شاتيلا من فلسطين ، يبدو لي وكأنهم من فلسطين اخرى! ماذا عن النساء في المخيم، ما رأيهن في " وضع المرأة؟". لم نلتقي بنساء يميشن في الازقة، التقينا بإمرأة كبيرة السن ولدت في فلسطين، كانت تقف تنتظر شيئا ما، سألنها عن احوالها، اصرت ان الزمن الماضي كان اجمل، واحد وستون سنة من إنتظار العودة قد يجعلون المرء متشائما! احسست اني من فلسطين اخرى، لأنني ارفض ان ارى الفقر والتعتير والكارثة التي يعيشها الفلسطينيون في لبنان وبالتحديد النساء، فهم سجينات هذا المخيّم.

كونكلوجين:
يجب علينا كنسويات ان نعير اهتماما خاصا للنساء القاطنات في الامكان الشعبية والامكان التي ما زالت تعتقد ان النساء "ناقصات عقل ودين". 
يجب ان نتطور لغة وادوات للوصول اليهن دون ان تقوم بتدمير حياتهن. 
يجب علينا ان تضع كل ما نعرفه عن النسوية على جنب، ونذهب الى الشارع والى البيوت ونسمع حكايات النساء على الصمود وعن الحيّل التي يطورن للحصول على مساحة خاصة بهم، ان نتعلم منهم عن حياتهم، فنحن اذا اعتبرنا اننا في معركة، يجب ان نعتبر ان النساء الفقيرات هم في الصفصوف الامامية من جبهتنا المفترضة، فأكثر الضحايا والاصابات التي تقع، تقع في صفوفهن. 

في رحلة صبرا وشاتيلا تعلمت شيئا واحدا اساسيا، ان الفقر هو اقسى انواع العنف، انه سواء كنا فلسطنيات ام لبنانيات او اثيوبيات اننا واحد في الجوهر. اننا في توحدنا نعيد انتاج علاقات سليمة في مجتمعنا. فلا فرق بين مرأة ومرأة الا بدرجة نوع القمع.