Lebanese Women Don’t Need A List Of Reasons To Be Considered “Dateable”

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On International Women’s Day, a local website called the961.com decided to publish a list of 7 reasons why you should date Lebanese women.

As it is with Buzzfeed-esque lists that rely on stereotypes, generalizations and healthy doses of sexism-coated misogyny, the list of why you should consider a Lebanese women as your date range from her being “beautiful… supportive… family oriented… well dressed…” and, most importantly, that SHE CAN COOK! Again, on International Women’s Day, out of all days, the one day that women around the world call for their rights as loud as they can, scream against being objectified, and fight for gender equality.

I don’t know whose idea it was to publish a list of generics and think it’s a celebration of Lebanese women, when all it’s doing is annihilate every inch of evolution that the Lebanese women empowerment movement has accomplished over the years.

At a time when many Lebanese women are leading NGOs, being listed in Forbes as some of the most influential people around the world, challenging stereotypes left and right, forming start-ups, trying to break into politics, forming political movements, becoming reverends, their worth as people is sure as hell not defined in a silly list posted on some random website to get clicks and ad-money. There’s also a “why date Lebanese men” list too to serve that purpose. 

So instead of a celebration of our women who are breaking boundaries in Lebanon, the Arab World and the entire world, it was decided to summarize them, in the only thing about them that’s worth dating, and that is being them standing behind their men, looking pretty and dressing well enough, as well as being able to cook for them.

The notion that no woman on this Earth is defined by any man seems to still escape many people, in 2017. So let’s say it loud and clear: Our women, Lebanese or otherwise, are not defined by what they can offer men, especially when they’ve been subdued by patriarchy for decades now, down to having our male parliament members vote down laws on sexual harassment in parliament because “it opens doors for us that we don’t want opened.”

Do you know why you should date a Lebanese woman? If she’s the gender you’re attracted to and you’re interested enough with what she has to offer you, then why don’t you?

To the women sharing that horrifying list, stop. It’s not a list that’s flattering you. It’s a list that keeps you in that box that many men, whereas Lebanese here or abroad, want to shove you in and keep you there.

It’s okay not to want kids.

It’s okay not to know how to cook.

It’s okay not to want to be anyone’s support and to put yourself first.

It’s okay not to dress the way society thinks you should be dressing and not to give any fucks about it.

Your self worth is not summarized in a silly list on a silly website. Any man who’s worth anything would know that.

If her not dressing in Chanel or looking like Gigi Hadid is a deal breaker, or is even a consideration as to why you’d consider having any person on Earth as your partner, then you’re the embodiment of the problem with men who don’t think there’s a problem with the stereotypes they’re perpetuating in the first place. Maybe you shouldn’t even be dating anyone to begin with.

When Gebran Bassil’s Goons Don’t Understand Freedom of Speech

Breaking news: Gebran Bassil turned out to be yet another racist Lebanese politician. I have no idea how this piece of news was in any way a surprise, but over the past few days it’s almost the only thing people are talking about, apart from the fact that our phones now need Maps updates in order to skip the roads where garbage bags have started to take up lanes.

The details are as follows:

A few days ago, Gebran Bassil’s twitter account was quoting a speech he was giving in the United States to an audience of Lebanese expats ($10 says they’re voting for Trump in 49 days). In that speech, Bassil dropped the following:

The speech excerpts translate to:

  • I support giving Lebanese women who marry foreigners the right to pass on their nationality to their children but our constitution and societal fabrics don’t allow to give the Lebanese nationality to 400,000 Palestinians.
  • I support the law that allows Lebanese women to pass on their nationality to their children, with the exception of Syrians and Palestinians to maintain our land.

Of course, it has probably escaped Bassil in that moment that St. Maroun, after whom his sect was named, was Syrian and Jesus, after whom he prays, was Palestinian, but that’s besides the point. Certainly, however, Bassil wouldn’t have had a problem if those Syrians and Palestinians weren’t mostly Muslim. I wonder, how different would his statement have been had those refugees been mostly Christian like him? I can imagine him now, à la Oprah, distributing nationalities left and right: YOU ARE LEBANESE, YOU ARE LEBANESE, YOU AAAAAALL ARE LEBANESE!

Context to Bassil’s tweets, however, remains important. His statements do not come from void. They emanate from a public sentiment that has only managed to gain popularity over the past few years with around 2 million Syrians seeking refuge in Lebanon. Of course, as is the case with Lebanon’s statistics, numbers do not exist. But it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that Bassil’s speech is not at odds with what the prevalent majority of Christians believes to be true, and a sizable portion of Lebanon’s Muslim community.

Yet again, the sentiment in the aforementioned denominations arise from their incessant need for self-sectarian preservation and are devoid from any national affinity towards a more global Lebanese state. Either way, I digress.

The uproar towards Bassil’s statements has been deafening. Human Rights Watch issued a statement whereby they found what he said to be abhorrent, in contradiction to the international treaties that Lebanon has signed in regards to women rights, and shameful to come from the minister of foreign affairs who is, whether we like it or not, the face of Lebanon to the world. Sorry #LiveLoveBeirut, you’re not it.

A slew of tweets and Facebook posts criticizing Bassil were also widely circulated, of which the satirical Facebook page Adeela led the forefront with a bunch of posts addressing Bassil’s tweets:

Lebanese blogger Mahmoud Ghazayel had a tweet (now deleted) in which he corrected Bassil’s statement to this:


So far so good, right? Except this didn’t remain as just a manifestation of Lebanese online degrees of freedom because before you knew it, the situation – thanks to massive reports by Bassil’s online henchmen – became as follows:

Every single post that criticized Bassil about his racist tweets was removed because of Facebook reports, while the social media platform never bothered to check for the background upon which those reports were being filed in the first place, or the statements being criticized to begin with.

As a result, if you try and say something negative about Bassil’s statements, thousands will end up putting you in Facebook jail for at least 24 hours because you somehow violated the terms of being on that website, by simply expressing an opinion.

Maybe it’s fear of  exposing how ridiculous Bassil’s proposition – even if echoed by many – is. Maybe it’s wanting to keep his image pristine in their eyes, albeit it being irrevocably damaged in the minds of many others. Maybe it’s them wanting to keep a semblance of pride.

What Bassil’s goons seem to fail to grasp is that with every post they manage to bring down, ten more will spring up in their place. As it is their right to believe and want to defend what Bassil said, it is the right of every other Lebanese who categorically and irrevocably disagrees to not only criticize but mock those statements until kingdom come, whether they like it or not.

As the stench of garbage and filth overtakes their nares in every cubic meter of air in Beirut, as they spend countless hours without electricity, as they pray for the heavens for internet to be fast enough to load the images in this post, as they debate whether to flush or not because water is scarce, let them have all of that pride and the politicians whose image they want to keep. Let them have their “holy” land, their “better-than-thou” attitude towards anyone and anything they deem lesser. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many Facebook reports are issued, common sense will prevail.

PS: Dear Facebook, re-assess yourself, why don’t you? 

Nadine Njeim Takes Lebanese Women Back 100 Years: Men Should Have Premarital Sex, But Not Women

Nadine Njeim

Former Lebanese beauty queen and current actress Nadine Njeim recently gave an interview to a program on Future TV in which she was asked about sex for men and women in society.

The conversation went as follows (my translation follows the video):

Reporter: Suppose your son turned 18 and said he wants to sleep with a girl he loves. What would you say?

Nadine: Go for it, certainly. He’s a man!

R: You allow a man but not a woman to do so?

N: Yes! He’s a man. If a man doesn’t get experience, he will be a 40 year old who won’t satisfy his wife. Marriage shouldn’t happen early for a man in my books.

R: But Nadine, religion equates men and women in that they are both not supposed to engage in premarital sex.

N: Yes, I agree. But at the end of the day, this is a boy. Boys have no flaws. You can’t tell a boy not to do such things. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t mature. You feel he has a weak personality if he doesn’t sleep or date women. Sex or no sex, love or not, fun or not. This is a boy. He needs to have his adventures in order to grow.

R: You’re saying this as a girl with a strong personality.

N: Yes, I’m not with equality between men and women.

R: Why?

N: I want women to stay women. If they equate me with a man, I’d feel like a man. I don’t want to. I want to stay a woman.

If you thought we were moving away from such conversation, think again.

I wonder which vagina Nadine Njeim’s son is supposed to penetrate in order to grow and be a “man” in all the Arab, patriarchal sense of the word that she means if she does not want women to have sex too.

It’s such a shame to see a woman with her status and reach set back women in the country and the region eons in their struggle for equality, starting with the most important liberation of all: their bodies. When Nadine Njeim insists that women should not engage in sexual activity but men should for whichever reasons she cites, she is inherently demeaning her gender as entities that are not allowed to enjoy their bodies, seek out the same “growth” she wants for their penis-equipped counterparts in society and, well, become strong and independent and whatever comes with sexual liberation in a society that thrives on sexual oppression of women and men alike.

At a time when we’re fighting tooth and nail to give Lebanese women a much-needed advantage in our societies, be it in laws, political representation or simply advancing them in places where they’ve been subdued for years, it’s a shame to see one of those women take such a public stance against her own gender, and to have that woman have a megaphone as big as Nadine Njeim’s.

By proclaiming that men and women should not be allowed to have the same experiences, Nadine Njeim is inherently approving of the fact that men should have an upper hand when it comes to other aspects as well. It’s not a far stretch to assume the gender that is allowed, according to her, to sleep around before marriage would also be allowed to hold a prerogative after marriage, such as forcing his wife to have sex even when she doesn’t want to or beating her into submission because she dared oppose him.

It starts with sex. Other matters of male and female equality will fall into play as well: job opportunities, careers, salaries, economic independence. Perhaps Ms. Njeim needs to be told that women wanting better, achieving more and seeking out their own pleasures, whichever those may be, does not mean they are becoming men, but rather fulfilling everything that them being women entails?

For a woman who has made millions playing strong independent women in horrid soap operas, she sure does not do that in real life. Someone give her an Oscar for going so hard against her grain.

I pity the daughter who’s gonna have her as a mother. She may inherit her mother’s good looks, but that mentality will not get her to the places she deserves to get to.

Lebanese women, don’t listen to Ms. Njeim. You deserve more than what she wants you to get.

Edit: Nadine N. Njeim explained herself in the following way:

via Lebanese Memes on Instagram.

It’s horrific she thinks this is an enough excuse for her objectifying of women, turning them into nothing more than pleasure toys for her son.

An Advice to Lebanese Men & Women: Stop Wearing Provocative Clothes – Another AUB Outlook Article

Way to go, Outlook! Way to go!

Over the past couple of days, the student newspaper in AUB has published two articles that will make your head roll. In one, a student proclaimed that homosexuality, being a choice, will lead to society becoming immoral, among other things. All the focus went to Mr. Sibai’s chef d’oeuvre. No one noticed another piece that ran in Outlook, written by Mr. Ali Kassem entitled: The Decline. You can read his “outstanding” article here.

The Decline of what you ask? Of Lebanese society that is, according to Mr. Kassem. Why is that? Because shorts have gone way too short for his liking.

1 – Clothes are a necessity. For many, they are a fashion statement, an expression of identity or  simple social obligation. For some, they are lacking. We live in Lebanon and we spend most of our time at the American University of Beirut. Some people seem to think that such facts justify the lack of clothes, they do not. Without the details, foreigners have come to Lebanon and expressed their surprise as to the number of prostitutes present in the country and how such commerce is so widely and openly exercised. Naturally, it is not so but these foreigners seem to believe that what our fellow citizens wore befitted prostitutes.

Please, I need the details. I cannot but feel the need to know exactly which foreigners you’ve spoken to. Why so? Well, for many reasons. Unless this foreigner is coming from a very oppressed/conservative country (I shall throw Iran as an example, see what I did there?), what Lebanese men and women wear wouldn’t bother them at all. Why? Because people in his or her society would be wearing the exact same thing. Does that bother your, Mr. Kassem?

Besides, I fail to see how the correlation between “revealing” outfit, the extent of which is in the eye of the beholder obviously, can immediately spring up the correlation with prostitutes. Let me tell you exactly how saying that sounds: the wall is red, therefore you must be a biology student. Doesn’t it make sense much? Well, neither are you.

2 – Why would people not wear clothes? Attention seems to be the most obvious of answers but the degree to which people have went to please others is disturbing. The human being is a free being and enslaving one’s self to society is, simply put, an injustice. People may look at those that do not have much clothes on but they do not look in respect. The looks and their intentions vary, but they are never of respect.

But you see Mr. Kassem, people are wearing clothes. Them not wearing the clothes you want doesn’t mean they aren’t wearing any. It is here that I need to stop for a moment to define “nudity: having no clothes.” Do you see women with their breasts hanging loose around campus, Mr. Kassem? Because I sure didn’t. Regardless, I’m fairly certain you are not in a position to analyze why people wear what they do. Have you ever contemplated the possibility that it may just be more comfortable for them?

“It gets worse.” (Literally, that’s a quote). After a paragraph in which Mr. Kassem rambles on and on about how high school students were shocked by a guy’s shorts upon him entering Jafet, he makes a keen observation about how the attention women receive is inversely proportional to their shorts as well.

3 – It gets worse. Assuming that the students of this university, in particular, have decided that clothes are a social forced artifact and that they would not like to ascribe to such social norms they have  the right to do so. Nevertheless, they will be held responsible, in both lives. The right they do not have is that of hurting others and that is exactly what they are doing. A certain number of students at this university ascribe themselves to certain religious norms and values that prevent them from materialism, this objectification of the female gender and this loss of self-respect. These people, upon seeing the show of materialism on display will get uncomfortable; their rights are transgressed upon. Upon seeing the saddening figures around our lovely campus they are led to places they do not wish to seek. Upon seeing the horrors on our campus, they are saddened, disrespected even.

Now we’re talking. Mr. Kassem, people not wearing what you think is appropriate doesn’t mean they see clothes as forced on them. May I ask Mr. Kassem, what would you think is worse in God’s eyes: someone not covering up just because some people like you find it offensive or someone trashing those that don’t do what they think is right?

You talk about certain students in AUB who follow religious norms that prevent them from materialism and whatnot. Yeah, right. Those people’s rights are transgressed upon when they see a woman wearing a shirt that shows cleavage, as you said. The concept that you fail to grasp Mr. Kassem is that similarly to how your people are free to cover up, others are free not to. The only difference is? They sure don’t find those who wear what you think is appropriate Mr. Kassem to be trangressing on their rights. Why’s that? Because what I wear is my business and mine alone. What my girlfriend wears is her business and hers alone. What your sister wears is her business and hers alone. You want to force your sister (or brother) to wear what your religion tells you to or what you feel is appropriate? Fine, be my guest. I won’t judge. But if my girlfriend’s going to offend you just because of something she wore, then we have a serious problem Mr. Kassem.

3 – Society has drawn low, very low. Lebanon, in fear of being called ‘backward’, has drawn low. I do not fear being called ‘backward’ because what I ask for is the very opposite of backwardness. I now it is the proper thing, the civil thing. Whether others do is their own matter. If the lack of clothes is a sign of modernity than (sic) pigs have outdone man for centuries.

Let me tell you what draws society low, Mr. Kassem. It is articles like the one you wrote that degrades who doesn’t follow the set of rules you think should be law. What makes society low, Mr. Kassem, it is the backward mentality that finds it permissible for it to judge left and right, up and down. What’s worse? It takes its judgements to be scripture. You know what’s driving Lebanese society backwards, Mr. Kassem? It’s the fact that there are people who think driving a society forward can only be done by that society repressing more and more until it curls up on itself like a cocoon. You know what’s bringing out the low in Lebanese society, Mr. Kassem? It is people who forget that they are, at the end of the day, not the whole country and act as if they were, be it politically, morally or socially.

You know what’s modernity Mr. Kassem? It is the fact that you can come from your house to AUB every day to see those “atrocities” without it taking you a day’s travel like it took your ancestors. It is you being able to type on your computer an article such as the one you wrote. Modernity, Mr. Kassem, is people knowing that there are others who are different, who will forever be different. And that’s something you cannot change – whether it’s their clothes, their taste…

The moment basic liberties become up for discussion is the moment we can kiss whatever modernity we have in Lebanon goodbye. Any discussion that infringes on people’s right to wear what they want, however silly that may be, opens the room for an infringement on other liberties. Mr. Kassem may not have a problem with that. But I do. Millions of Lebanese do.

So here’s how things should be, Mr. Kassem. You wear what you want. If your girlfriend wants to, let her wear whatever you want. But don’t make that into something that everyone should follow.

On a related note, Outlook, you are humiliating the reputation of the university that allows you to exist by running such articles in your newspaper. 

The Hurdles Facing Lebanese Women Today – Happy International Women’s Day?

This is a guest post by Agnès Semaan, a current law student at the Université SaintEsprit de Kaslik (USEK). You can follow her on twitter here.

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I’ll start this article by sharing with you some of what I learned at law school:

1) If you want to cheat on your wife, do it with many girls not just one long-term extra marital affair or simply don’t bring your mistress home because only then can a man be trialed for adultery.

2) I learned that if my rapist married me, his crime would be nullified.

3) I learned that I cannot sue my husband if he raped me.

4) I learned that if I want my children to be Lebanese, I better marry a Lebanese because that’s the only way for my children to get my nationality.

I’m not a Feminazi. I’m just someone who noticed how this day lost its political flavor. The International Women’s Day is not about forwarding some cheesy Whatsapp message to all your girlfriends wishing them a nice day, It’s a day that honors the work of the Suffragettes that campaigned for women’s right to vote and most of all to remind us that inequities still need to be redressed.

And it is here that I address the following:


1 – Nationality

Why nationality is needed is quite simple: if you don’t have the Lebanese nationality you must continuously secure residency and work permits that enable you to live and work legally in Lebanon and you are not granted access to public education and other services at the same low fees that Lebanese citizens do.

Here’s a fun fact: an Ottoman law allowed women to naturalize their children, as in grant full citizenship rights, when born on Ottoman soil regardless of the spouse’s nationality.

I can go on and on about how not being able, as a woman, to pass your nationality to your children weakens the woman’s status and role because she’s not treated as an equal citizen; thus contradicting the Lebanese constitution, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). But let’s face it, it comes down to the Palestinians and the right of return. Some lawmakers are against this in order to protect Palestinians’ right to return to Palestine (UN General Assembly resolution 194). So since that’s the case, why are we not worried about Palestinian women who get married to Lebanese men?!

2 – Penal code

Lebanon must amend discriminatory laws to ensure conformity with CEDAW and international standards like the international Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995. The sanctity of the private home, guaranteed in our constitution, should not be a getaway in affairs of sexual domestic violence because marital rape is still rape and it definitely needs legal recognition (art. 503 and 504). However, this law needs to have a safety net for the husbands because they will be abused if the law is overprotective and over cautious because otherwise one will be able to blackmail their spouse using the prerogative bestowed by this law upon them. Many reforms must be made to the criminal law for the simple reason that it’s not acceptable that a rapist not be prosecuted and his conviction be nullified if he marries the victim (art.522) and that a man will only be tried for adultery if he has extra-marital sex in the conjugal home or if he has a long-term extra-marital relationship along with a much softer sentence than a woman would get in such circumstances (articles 478, 488 and 489)?

3 – Inheritance

Current status: an absolute failure.

It’s 2012 and a Muslim girl still gets half of what her brother inherits. I can’t even begin to describe how dreadful this law is. Every single word in the formulation of that law is insulting and to go into every detail would make this post extremely long and repulsive. The Christian personal status law, although better, still fails in different areas mainly with all the “smartassery” there, such as the implied notion that Muslims cannot inherit from Christians. What we need is an optional civil law, point à la ligne.

4 – Elections and the quota

Yes. Women should not be limited in a certain number of candidates. Why can’t all the 128 deputies in parliament be females? It’s a viable question and absolutely rightful to be asked. But let’s not get carried away in our wishful, foolishly optimistic thinking: Half a loaf of bread is better than no bread at all, and this is an effective way to encourage women to run for elections. So that’s why we should at least start by ratifying a women’s quota bill before 2013.

5 – The women?

Why do we find time to complain about traffic, politicians, watch a soccer game going on in some European country and get carried away, change our display picture on blackberry 20 times per day, tweet about Christian Louboutin’s new collection, comment “hayete kom t belle!”on EVERY.SINGLE.PICTURE. but we can’t find time to address the previously mentioned issues? Rights are not given, they are taken and that’s why we need to raise our voices to make ourselves heard in a sea of male politicians who quench our voices simply by them outnumbering us in every way possible. It is here that I find that women are the main hurdle facing women. We tend to be cynical with regards to each other, pessimistic about each other assuming power, that we believe the best options out there are not really women. And the cycle repeats itself, leading to more and more marginalization of this half of the Lebanese society.

I’ll finish by saying this: it’s not hard to change laws. Get a bunch of influential women into parliament and you’re well underway. Our greatest challenge here is not changing the laws but changing Lebanese mentalities. Ratifying new laws might be the first step in that direction. Until next year, here’s hoping my fellow Lebanese women that we’ll see some change.