- First of all, if you have not visited the feminist collective's website I strongly urge you to do so. The International Women's day is approaching and the collective is working hard for this event, the idea is quite interesting, on the 7th and the 8th of March the feminists will invade the streets of Beirut, talking to women and whoever would be interested to listen, about women, their rights and their day.
So if you are interested, please do visit the website and here is the link to the event details in Arabic and in English.
- Now the second thing I wanted to talk to you about was the cool archive that Deems has been sustaining for a while about Arab Media dealing or discussing issues relative to one or more of our core values or issues. The Blog is called Feminist Archiving of Arab Media and it is still under construction.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
Part of the work I see the Feminist Collective doing is creating a space for self-refection and critique of women’s and feminist politics in Lebanon – and the Arab world more broadly. I would like to offer up one such critique to the women’s movement: We need to stop fetishizing our own victimhood.
In every feminist discussion I’ve ever encountered on “honor” crimes, the outrage at the phenomenon is almost invariably followed by a disclaimer that points to the fact that an inordinate number of women are posthumously found to be “innocent” (read: virginal). The underlying assumption is that the crime would somehow seem less heinous, or at least more defensible, had the woman in question actually been “guilty” of having sex, the act which supposedly led to her murder. Honor crimes are made all the more tragic by the apparent sexual innocence of the victims.
There is a sort of twisted logic to this. To further the cause, it becomes politically necessary to strip agency from the victims. To gain people’s sympathy and to allay fears that by challenging the legitimacy of these killings we’re encouraging promiscuity or allowing women to get away with having illicit sex, the victims must be presented as pure and innocent. How else can we get people to identify with victims when they seem to have committed such unspeakable crimes? Soiled women don’t make good poster children for the cause, after all. By playing into this on strategic grounds we are vindicating the logic of the very system that allows for these sorts of crimes to happen with impunity.
This is not only a problem of practice, but it also points to the larger problem of how human rights, as a normative legal system, represents certain events and reconstructs people as victims of a particular human rights violation. This conception creates a set of disempowering and counterproductive social categories: firstly, that all victims should be innocent, and secondly, that all victims are in a perpetual state of need, denying them subjectivity and agency. When working on issues related to sexuality, this becomes acutely apparent. In advocating for the repeal of anti-sodomy laws for example, gay activists constantly find themselves having to downplay the actual act of gay sex itself. To sell the cause, we must create sex-less beings, we must transform them from criminals to victims, innocent and act-less in order for the issue to be palatable to a conservative social order. Instead of focusing on the illegitimacy of criminalization as such, we look for other issues to push the point: police brutality, invasion of privacy, torture, etc. Although this is strategically sound for our purposes, we nevertheless inadvertently end up selling ourselves short: Disembodied beings, we look up wide-eyed in supplication and ask for the world’s sympathy, insisting on our sexless innocence. It’s almost like applying a band-aid over a malignant tumor.
Still, this strategy doesn’t work for everyone, particularly not for the less “popular” victims of human rights violations such as sex workers, who suffer from systematic state persecution, situations of legal limbo (particularly if they are migrants), violence, denial of health care, and a host of other abuses. Discussions on the rights of sex workers in the human rights community are almost solely centered around their right to be free of sex work, and the possibility of some sort of agency or will in the decision to engage in sex work effectively becomes null and void. The solution becomes to reconstitute sex workers into victims of trafficking, forced into the sex trade against their will – which is firstly not necessarily true, and secondly often leads to the adoption of policies that further marginalize and criminalize.
As feminists, we really need to start critically interrogating this idea of innocence. We need to move beyond the dominant human rights model of innocent victim vs. evil perpetrator. Once we dig a little deeper and start looking at systems of social control and oppression rather than individual violators/victims, the question of accountability becomes murkier. We need to restore a model where people are active subjects of human rights rather than passive recipients, able to frame their stories and lives with autonomy and on their own terms.
من فترة كنت عم بقرا مقالة من السفير، عنوانها: إمرأة نصف عارية مجرد «شيء» لدى الرجل
هلق طولوا بالكن وسمعوني شوي، تعوا لنحلل المكتوب بالسفير والمكتوب بالدايلي تلغراف (المصدر)... أول شي، السفير بتأكد إنو "الرجال" بيشوفو النساء النصف عاريات على إنن أشياء. بالوقت اللي ريتشارد ألاين أكد نقلاً عن سوزان فسك إنو الرجال المعروفين على إنن عنصريين ضد المرأة بيتفاعلوا مع صور النساء النصف عاريات متل ما بيتفاعلوا مع صور أشياء
ما بعرف أنا بحس في فرق... مجتمعنا اللبناني بيمتاز بالذكورية والإجحاف بس إنو نقول إنو الجال بيشوفو النسوان النص عاريات على إنن أشياء... سمكن فيا شويّة ظلم بحق الرجال كلن
واللي مش مصدقني يقرا المقالين ويصلّحلي
As I am back from the infoactivism camp, I am looking back at all the tools that I have been informed about during the last 6days. And I find myself wondering, why? why would it be so important for us as feminists, to work along side with geeks? I mean no matter how cool my website is for example, using online technology ultimately means that I am excluding a big chunk of people who simply do not have internet access, right?
That's absolutely true. But if you ask me, in order to get to our audience we will have to use the internet, along with other things. Plus, keep in mind, that most of the work that we want to be done is based on public opinion, convincing people and promoting certain ideas, this work can only be initiated by us, if the people don't pick up feminist values and argue about them, then we will just keep on preaching ourselves, whether we use the internet, books, tvs, radios, newspapers, or even podiums and public speeches.
The greatest lesson that I have learnt over and over again is that we have no control over the revolutions that we push for. we can just say the first word, it is the people/others that will take the values that we thought are ours and will adapt and alter them to what they believe is right... And as they are doing so, our job is to keep on talking/typing/reading so that diversity is expressed.
So open those browsers, pickup those pens, turn on that tv, grab that newspaper and start thinking, acting and reacting... show me the world that you want to live in. It isn't just the internet that I want to see the world using
Friday, February 20, 2009
The coolest declaration I've ever read!
WORLD SOCIAL FORUM 2009 - Belém do Para, Brazil
WOMEN'S ASSEMBLY DECLARATION
In the year in which the WSF joins with the population of the Pan-Amazon, we, women from different parts of the world gathered in Belém, reaffirm the contribution of indigenous women and women from all forest peoples as political subjects that enriches feminism in the framework of the cultural diversity of our societies and strengthens the feminist struggle against the patriarchal capitalist global system.
The world is currently experiencing various crises that demonstrate that this system is not viable. Financial, food, climate and energetic crises are not isolated phenomena, but represent a crisis of the model itself, driven by the super exploitation of work and the environment, and financial speculation of the economy.
We are not interested in palliative answers based on market logic in response to these crises; this can only lead to perpetuation of the same system. We need to advance in the construction of alternatives. We are against the use of agro-fuels and carbon credit markets as 'solutions' to the climate and energy crises. We, feminist women, demand a change in the production and consumption model.
In relation to the food crisis, we affirm that transgenic foodstuffs do not represent a solution. Our alternatives are food sovereignty and the development of agro-ecological production.
With respect to the financial and economic crisis, we are against the withdrawal of millions from public funds to rescue banks and businesses. We, feminist women, demand employment protection and the right to a decent income.
We cannot accept that attempts to maintain this system are made at the expense of women. The mass layoffs, cuts in public spending in social fields, and reaffirmation of this production model increase the work involved in reproduction and sustainability of life, and thus directly affect our lives as women.
To impose its domain worldwide, the system resorts to militarization and arms; genocidal confrontations are fabricated that reduce women to spoils of war and use sexual violence as a weapon of war in armed conflict. Entire populations are forcibly displaced, forcing them to live as political refugees. Violence against women, feminicide and other crimes against humanity are committed on a daily basis in armed conflicts, while perpetrators enjoy total impunity.
We, feminist women, propose radical and profound changes in relations among human beings and with the environment, the end of lesbophobia, of hetero-normative and racist patriarchy.
We demand the end of control over our bodies and sexuality. We claim the right to make free decisions in relation to our lives and the territories we inhabit. We are against the reproduction of society through the super-exploitation of women.
We express our solidarity with women in regions of armed conflict and war. We add our voices to those of our sisters in Haiti and reject the violence perpetrated by the military occupation forces. We support the Colombian, Congolese and countless other women who resist – on a daily basis – the violence of military and militia groups in conflict in their countries. We stand together with Iraqi women facing the violence of the US military occupation.
At this current time, we express our particular solidarity with Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip under military attack from Israel, and we join the struggles for the end of war in the Middle East.
In peace, as in war, we support the victims of patriarchal and racist violence against black and youth women.
Equally, we express our support and solidarity to all sisters in their resistance struggles against hydroelectric dams, timber and mining companies and mega-projects in the Amazon and around the world, as well as those who are persecuted as a result of their legitimate opposition to this
exploitation. We unite with those struggling for the right to water.
We stand with all women criminalized for the practice of abortion and defend this right. We strengthen our commitment and join together in actions to resist fundamentalist and conservative attacks, in order to guarantee that all those women who need to, are entitled to safe and legal abortion.
We support the struggle for accessibility for disabled women and for the right of migrant women to freely "come and go".
On behalf of all these women, and of ourselves, we continue committed to the construction of the feminist movement as a counter-hegemonic political force and an instrument for women to achieve the transformation of their lives and our societies, by supporting and strengthening the self-organisation of women, dialogue, and networking between social movements' struggles.
On 8th March and during the Global Week of Action 2010, as women around the world we will unite in our confrontation of the capitalist and patriarchal system that oppresses and exploits us. In the streets and in our homes, in forests and the countryside, in our struggles and the in the spaces of our daily lives, we will maintain our rebellion and mobilisation.
Belém, 1st February 2009
Posted by Nadine Moawad at 5:17 AM
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The first time I came out to my parents, I came out to them as a pagan, I was thirteen. Being from a catholic background, outing myself as a pagan was just as bad as outing myself as Queer.
There was always something in spirituality that attracted me but during our religious studies at school, nothing made sense. I had questions and so many and instead of having them answered I would just get kicked out of class under the pretext that I was causing discomfort and opposing the teacher.
It never made sense to me, the sudden birth of an Adam and Eve, it didn't make sense to me that all the prophets were men and wisdom and spirituality was accessible through their words only, it didn't make sense to me, that I, who was supposed to be the image of God, as taught in my religion, found him white bearded and old in our religious study books.
I came across Gaia, mother earth, I came across all her elements and bit by bit, in my teenage head the world around me made sense. I was the image of a god, but this god was not defined by gender, this god was a one and this "One" combined all genders. This "One" combined all my facets, all the elements. Fire was in the energy of rubbing your hands against each other, air was in every breath, water made up most of my mortal flesh and this flesh was to return to dust, to earth… and all this sheltered a spirit. It made sense to be part of the One, a small particle of something big. With this I understood that we are all similar particles, that there was no hierarchy in defining human existence, that there shouldn't be.
I don't understand why my questions caused such a riot in my catholic school, had they looked deep enough beyond dogma they would have realized that these are the basic founding teachings that they were supposed to transmit.
As I dwelled deeper into my pagan readings, I came across feminism and matriarchal societies, I came across woman deities and strong female mythology figures. None of this was taught at our school. No one had told me the role Ishtar played, no one had explained to me the evolution of Adonis into a certain prophet centuries later, no one had given me the option to make up my own path. No one had told me that women could be warriors instead of just child baring beings, they had not explained the sanctity of a yoni (the vagina). A woman belonged to the "Father" and from the father, passed to the husband and Lillit was nowhere to be found, she had rebelled, copulated with the devil, unworthy to go down in history. So they created Eve, but Eve could not possibly be an example for mankind, let us not make her so, let us burden her with the original sin which we shall burry between her legs and breasts. And so it was decided, what an evolution!
I grew up hiding my breasts, I grew up crossing my legs, I grew up choking my words, my thoughts, swallowing the apple over and over and over again as whole, having it stuck in my throat blocking every potential thought that dared to try to escape. They fed me that apple and St. Paul asked me to shut up and "not speak, for the Man is speaking" and I hid my breasts and cursed my period and got disgusted by my own blood and choked all of me…
The apple has rotted, it has fallen to pieces swallowed and released. I have found the One within and this is what they fear, for you to find that your hand can move energies that your breath can do miracles and that , as it was once, your body is indeed a holly pathway.
Monday, February 16, 2009
As an Islamic/Arab child, I was raised on Islamic beliefs and how Mohammad came and told people about God, saving humanity through the Koran. We heard all the stories about how he marched to the Ka3be, and destroyed all the stone idols, throwing them away and ending the adoration of idols in his time.
Personally, I was always fascinated by the way people told these stories. And I used to agree: we "should" only worship a one and only God.
After hanging out with way too many radical feminists, I started hearing about goddesses. And these immortal figures where each god and goddess represented something different. All of my life I've heard about how islam fought against idols. And now I was shocked to hear about goddesses and deities. And there was this contradiction in my head…
Now I realize that the stone idols were representations of these goddesses… people didn't worship stone! They worshiped the gods! And they created a symbol to represent them… just as we have the sword of Ali, or the Cross in Christianity.
And then I started researching these goddesses online. And I couldn't find anything written positively about lilith. Although from what I heard and understood: she represented the women who refused to obey the first man Adam. She rebelled.
During my research, I found out that she is said to be evil. She disobeyed god. She ran away from heaven, and then god sent her two guys to tell her that she had to submit and come back to heaven. She refused. They told her that as a punishment, she was no longer able to give birth! To revenge against her cruel sterilization, she said that from now on she was going to kill other mothers' babies. At the same time feminist describe her as a woman who wanted to be on top.
And then in the islamic world, lilith is said to have slept with devil and that was how jinn were born
I was intrigued because…in islam, jinn came before adam! Wtf?!
And then there is a resemblance between the devil and lilith because they both refused to submit to adam and they were both kicked out of heaven. And they made a promise to god that they would have a way to come back at god.
And so, after what I just learned through my research, and what I have learned all my life , I know that I wanna be a believer of the one and only God and his prophet, but also of the goddesses that represent something that I did not find in religion.
Friday, February 13, 2009
This story has been lingering in my mind for while now. Last week, I don't remember which day I was going home a bit late. Nothing extraordinary about it, I knew that there would be predators on the road and all. But luckily for me there was a certain distraction, there was another woman on board, which is rare to say the truth, I'm usually the only female at that time taking a bus.
So to describe that woman, she had very well done hair, tight cloth and all the accessories and make-up. And no I am not saying it was excessive, it was just more than me, but she was quite conforming to the social norm, if I may say.
But apparently, the predators thought otherwise. Now at first when we were at dawra, in the bus, waiting for it to move, this guy gets closer to the window and leans over it. The girl who had an open window tried to ease her way out of the situation with minimum friction and scandal. But the guy doesn't seem to care, he just leans over from the window and starts inviting the girl to drink from his redbull!
Now I had been in bad situations where I get harassed and I had been in situations when I see racism taking place and I had made myself a promise not to let such behavior go on, like to do something, anything, at least give these predators an evil look. It usually doesn't work.
This time, when I heard him, I turned back (because this was all happening in the seat behind me) and I gave the guy a look, a very obvious what the fuck kind of look. But still the guy didn't care, he didn't even turn to me or anything, he just didn't notice my presence. But then when he was done (and she didn't drink his redbull) the girl looked at me and I just said: "He's an asshole"
Then the bus leaves, but of course the driver had to turn back and ask the girl where she was going... There were no reason for him to do that but he wanted to talk to the girl. Then he tries to initiate an aggressive annoying and abusive conversation but she just puts an end to the conversation, so the driver turns and laughs with his gang of obnoxious men.
Then the girl smokes a cigarette! Big mistake if you are not in a safe environment, a female-smoker is a free of charge prostitute in the minds of abusive people.
Then the final punch was right after the girl left the bus, the guys kept staring till she disappeared and then the driver launched his chef d'oeuvre:
حدا يعطيا سيف العبد
Someone give her Seef l 3abed
and if you don't know what seef l 3abd is then it's this label of cleaning equipment and it's one of the most racist things ever, do you remember the famous nigger heads thingy?:
yeah the seef l 3abd is pretty much the same and you can guess what the obnoxious driver was implying to.
Yes the girl was brown, ironically, she was not african, she did not have the facial traits of one but she had a darker skin.
Now you would understand why this girl attracted so much harassment, she just happens to be darker than the average Lebanese... or should I say normal Lebanese.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Today I was refered to this article in Assafir Online magazine: أبناء الجزائريات جزائريون
- The first 4 results talk about Lebanese women's struggle
for citizenship rights.
- In the first page only 3 out of the 9 results also spoke of the
Lebanese women's struggle for citizenship rights.
women's rights activists in Algeria, you have achieved a great
milestone. Now I have not yet worked on that issue, I haven't even
cooperated with the CRTD on this issue. But I know how difficult it
can be and how resistant patriarchies are to giving anything to
struggling so hard and for so long for this very basic right. No this
is not right, it is not really my problem if anyone worries about the
demographic balance in this country. I will not pay my rights as a
citizen for peace in this country. Not because I am not into peace,
but simply because, this system failed to preserve peace with
or without giving woment their citizenship rights. I don't see how
depriving women (and so many other minorities) of their rights
has helped prevent any of the wars that took place in my beautiful
country. So give me a break for once, try it my way, try giving
people their individual rights for a change and let's see if we will
have peace or not.
Friday, February 6, 2009
Last night, a good friend of mine told me a story that is all too familiar to my little feminist ears. She was running late on her way to pick up a friend of hers from Jisr El Moushet at the junction of Dawra and Zalka. When she arrives at the meeting point, she reaches for her cell phone from her bag to find a bunch of missed calls from her friend. Frantic, her friend rushes into the car and tells her that she was just assaulted by a man on the pedestrian bridge. "He followed me and wouldn't go away, no matter how much I ignored him or shouted at him to go away," she said. "Then he grabbed me and tried to kiss me, so I screamed and ran away. He kept following me till I reached the gas station where a bunch of people were standing waiting for buses." Her story was covered up with tears and sobs and my friend got super angry and went back home to get her brother-in-law and his friend to come find the guy. They all arrived back on the spot and looked everywhere for the man but they couldn't find him. "I wanted us to beat him up and then give him to the police," my friend explained.
How do we begin to tackle this problem? Do we start with:
· The lack of safety of our public streets?
· The "I will get away with it" mentality of some men?
· What women should or shouldn't do in these situations?
· How these cases should be reported?
I was thinking about these questions on my way back from Jounieh last night when I passed the pedestrian bridge. How many hundreds of cases like this happen every month? How many women get raped or harassed or assaulted in this very spot? What am I going to do about it? What I imagine the girl and her friends or family did about it was say: "Don't go out after dark alone anymore!" or "Don't go walking on that bridge anymore!" But how much is that really going to solve?
So I started to wonder about strategies to take back the night: empowering women to be less afraid, creating an emergency response unit for these cases, raising awareness among people about guarding their community. holding night walks or vigils. Traditional sorta stuff. And then I thought: if she was strong enough or ready enough, she would have fought him off and pulled out his eyes. Predators fuel up on fear. If she were less afraid and more confident in her physical strength, he would fuck off or lose a piece of his flesh. By that time, I was passing under the Nabaa bridge of Bourj Hammoud and to my right I saw a sign for a gym. Oh, I thought: a feminist gym! We should have a women's gym that's not about losing weight or looking good, but about looking darn nasty and building some muscle. Put in all the un-girly sports: boxing, kicking, iron-pumping, wrestling, mortal combating!
Ok, so maybe a feminist gym won't solve all our problems with public sexual harassment. Maybe it's a symbol of what we women need. Strength. Some biceps wouldn't hurt.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
So, on I went this morning to the launching ceremony of two reports issued by the Ministry of Social Affairs and UNDP. With titles like "The Mapping of Human Poverty& Living Conditions in Lebanon, in 2004"and "Poverty, Growth, & Income Distribution in Lebanon," I knew these were two reports that I didn't want to miss.
The ceremony itself was a classical Lebanese event. It was a bit late, first of all. Many of the people present seemed to know each other, which made me feel like that, in many ways, this was a social get-together for the usual crowd. Mostly older people. Though there were the younger women there as well. Then the event officially started with a national anthem, where people had to stand up and women and men alike had to boast how our country is a "manbitun lil rijal."Anyway... the whole thing was an interesting presentation of 2 important reports (at least because it's good to have that data available to us), though I do wonder why the publication of reports about poverty does not seem to invite low-income individuals. Because such presence would definitely create a different dynamic than having all of us middle class people looking at these statistics and treating them as charts and figures.
Thankfully, there were plenty of handouts for me to take home, as well as the reports themselves. Because there was a lot to process in those two hours. Some things stuck, however. Like, how female headed households represent only 14% of families in Lebanon, but 44% of them live in poverty—mostly those whose heads are women widows. How a change in the health conditions or physical ability of the breadwinner is one factor of sinking into poverty. How many low-income families are actually older couples, or families with many children to support. How there may not be a large number of people living in extreme poverty, but there is a large percentage of people who are living below the poverty line. And, very importantly, how there should be policies that are biased to low-income people and families.
Ya3ni, to make a long story short, these reports are good to have out there, and you usually do get to learn one or two things from attending the launching of them; but mostly, as many of the attendees there noted, it's about what we do with the reports that matters: how we use them to come up with viable initiatives and policies; making sure that all these resources that went into making these reports will ultimately become a good investment into improving the lives of low-income individuals and families and dealing with the socio-economic and cultural problems that locks them into poverty in the first place.