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.

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Celebrating The Progress Lebanese Women Have Made In The Fight For Their Rights

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I long for a day when we don’t need days like “International Women’s Day” to remind the world that its halves are not equal, or when March 8 is the day for fancy slogans before everyone goes back on March 9th to their old ways.

Today, I want to celebrate the entirety of the women in my country who, for years, have risen up to the patriarchy and fought for their rights with everything they’ve got. It’s hard to imagine that some of the rights Lebanese women have today were fiction less than a few decades ago. Hindsight is always 20/20 in how intuitive some things are, as the struggle to obtain them fades from memory.

But our women’s struggles for equality was difficult, and it will remain as such for years to come as long as we have politicians who joke about their rape, about their being, about their bodies, and who view them as nothing more than commodities to stay at home, and as even some women bring up hurdles for their own advancement.

Here’s how far our women have come:

  • In 1952, they gained the right to vote and to run for office.
  • In 1959, they gained equality in inheritance for non-Muslim sects.
  • In 1960, they gained the right to choose their nationality.
  • In 1975, they gained the right for freedom of movement. 
  • In 1983, they gained the right not to be prosecuted for using contraception.
  • In 1987, they gained the right to unify end of service age between men and woman in social security.
  • In 1993, they gained the right to obtain degrees in real estate.
  • In 1994, they gained the right to stay in the diplomatic course if they marry a foreigner.
  • In 1996, they scored a victory with Lebanon signing the international decree to abolish gender inequality.
  • In 2011, they were victorious in abolishing article 562, related to Honor crimes.
  • In 2014, they were victorious in having parliament pass a law protecting from domestic abuse.
  • In 2014, they were victorious in modifying the laws pertaining to maternity leave.
  • In 2016, they were victorious in abolishing article 522, which allowed their rapist to be absolved of his crime if he offered marriage.

The struggle never ends. It’s not enough for a president to say he supports gender equality, as President Aoun did today. Talk without action never amounts to anything.

Our women still can’t pass their nationality to their children. They are governed with a personal status law that stems from religious law, which views them as the second sex in ranking. They don’t have representatives quota in public office. They can’t open bank accounts for their children without the consent of their father, or even travel with their children without the approval of their father while it’s not the case the other way around. Their daughters as young as 9 can legally be married. They’re still victims of the male gaze that seems them as nothing more than raw meat, and of a patriarchal system that scrutinizes them more than any man, among many more things.

I will probably never understand how violated women would feel in their own skin, in their own gender, because of the discomfort that many people of my gender puts them in, but I will sure as hell fight tooth and nail for that reality to change for every Lebanese woman out there, every day, and not just on March 8th.

The struggle is real. You’ve been victorious. And here’s to many more victories.

 

Lebanon Has The Arab World’s First Ever Ordained Female Pastor: Rola Sleiman In Tripoli Is Pioneering

A blog reader sent my way a Huffington Post article that was published yesterday about how Lebanon has the Arab world’s first ever female pastor: Rola Sleiman, who heads the Presbyterian Church in Tripoli, up North.

Rola was ordained as Reverend Rola Sleiman on February 26th, 2017 in a 23-1 vote that makes her, historically, the first Arab woman to ever be the head of a church. In fact, Reverend Sleiman was actually heading the church for the past few years as a pastor, but without being ordained she was unable to perform Communions or Baptisms, and needed to have a male priest oversee her work.

She is now the spiritual leader of her congregation, a job she’s been technically doing since 2008 – except right now, she doesn’t need any men of the cloth to supervise her anymore. Rola Sleiman thinks “it’s not a big deal” that such an event occurred. She says “I was serving my Church and will continue serving.”

But this is a big deal. The fact that a Presbyterian Parish in Tripoli ordained a woman to be their spiritual leader speaks volume about the strides forward that some parts of Lebanese society are doing. Rev. Sleiman is the first woman – ever – in the entire Arab world’s Christian population be be ordained as a priest. In other words, she’s the first woman to break into a calling that’s only been reserved exclusively for men.

That small congregation in Tripoli will now have the honor to be headed by Rev. Rola Sleiman for the following years to come. She’s a woman who is now championing equality in facets of Lebanese – and Arab – societies that we never thought could be broken into. It’s fitting that this occurs at the start of the international month for women empowerment.

Rola Sleiman’s ordainment is of vital importance in the climate of the world today where far-right groups are taking power and throwing minorities and women rights to the back of any tangible importance. As she told Huffington Post: “If the Church discriminates against women, what should we expect of the state? Christ is love, and love does not distinguish between men and women.” She is breaking tradition, ancient rules and cultural sensitivities.

In fact, she may be breaking some of the strongest traditions in the country and the region. For many, their highest form of authority is the priest who has always been a man. This time, it’s a woman. I hope Rev. Sleiman becomes the champion that her position permits her to be.

Of course, this will not change the status quo of the fight for equality between the sexes in Lebanon or the Arab world in general, but it can change some of its dynamics. To have a woman be ordained as a priest for a congregation – even if it’s small – and have that congregation not be opposed to it (as is obvious through that 23-1 vote) speaks volumes about how far we’ve come as a society, and it makes me proud.

In a country and a region where woman, despite being a demographic majority, are vastly under-represented be it in religious affairs, politics, business, etc… Rola Sleiman’s ordainment speaks volumes.

There will be people in this country, Christians and otherwise, who will have a problem having their Church headed by a woman. Catholics and Maronites don’t even allow it. But in a landscape filled by men, a change of perspective and, therefore, a change in direction is what is needed. Rev. Rola Sleiman can be that catalyst towards change in the heart of the Lebanese Church and the face of Arab Christianity.

Here’s to many more years to come in joyous and prosperous service of your altar and congregation, Rev. Sleiman.

Marine Le Pen Refusing To Wear A Headscarf To Meet Lebanon’s Mufti Is A Publicity Stunt, Not Standing Up For Women

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It was almost going to pass without the media splash that Marine Le Pen wanted her Lebanese visit to generate, but she finally got her wish towards the end of her visit to the only country so far whose officials have agreed to receive the far-right presidential candidate.

From her first-ever handshake with a head of state, to the visit making fake news website Breitbart headlines with it being to see Lebanon’s persecuted Christians, the biggest splash is how Marine Le Pen refused to wear a headscarf to meet Lebanon’s Sunni Grand Mufti Abdel-Latif Daryan.

It was only a matter of time that the Vice President of Le Pen’s party tweeted the following:

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His tweet, attached to a screenshot of a Le Figaro headline saying “Marine Le Pen refuses to wear the veil,” translates to: “In Lebanon, Marine refuses to wear the veil. A wonderful message of liberty and emancipation sent to the women of France and the world.”

Of course, this whole affair is anything but a “wonderful message of liberty emancipation sent to the women of France and the world.”

As she arrived to meet the Mufti, Marine Le Pen was faced by a man – as pictured above – holding out a veil for her to cover her head. She feigned surprise before refusing to wear it with the argument being that she had met the Mufti of Al-Azhar previously and didn’t face such requirements, in reference to a 2015 visit.

Her argument, however, is worthless. Marine Le Pen was informed yesterday that the Mufti would only meet her if she covered her head with a scarf, but she still showed up anyway with the only purpose to be as controversial as she possible.

It was nothing but a publicity stunt, and it worked. These are the current top news google results about Marine Le Pen:

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People like Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump know that the best way to get attention is to be as controversial, loud, and offensive as possible. In a world of post truth and alternative facts, that is the only thing that gets attention and gives them the spotlight they so desperately seek.

By orchestrating a charade of refusing to wear a headscarf even though she had known the day prior that she’d be required to do so, Marine Le Pen acquired the brightest spotlight of her Lebanese trip: one in which those that support her will think – as her VP said – that she’s standing up for women rights, except she’s not.

This is not about the validity of the request to wear the headscarf, per se, as that is another topic and a whole other discussion. I’m personally against forcing anyone to do something against their will, be it Le Pen or headscarf or otherwise. But I also believe that is my duty as a person to be mindful of the situation I am willingly putting myself in. If that situation – in this case being asked to put a scarf on – isn’t something I’d be comfortable in, then I simply would opt out of it.

Women in Lebanon don’t need Marine Le Pen to stand up for them, especially when the only facet of Lebanese women she cares about are those who wear a Cross around their neck or who roll their R’s as she does. Simply put, Lebanese women are not required to cover up. They are not coerced to wear the veil to walk on our streets. They can wear whatever they want as long as they’re comfortable wearing it. They are the most liberated of women in the region. Anything other than this is misinformation.

That is not to say that Lebanese women have equal rights with their male counterpart. The struggle is continuous. They are fighting for their rights as diligently as possible. It was only a few days ago that they scored a major victory with having a penal code law that’s detrimental to their well-being be completely scraped off. That occurred without Le Pen’s help. Lebanese women don’t need a woman who fosters the kind of hateful, divisive, phobia-centric rhetoric that Le Pen spews, and they sure as hell are not represented by having such a farce as this be painted as “fighting” for them.

It is unfortunate that Lebanon’s mufti played right into Le Pen’s hand. If I were him, I would’ve simply not put that requirement in place in order to meet someone who’s as notoriously anti-Muslim as she is, or I would’ve refused to meet her in the first place. He wouldn’t be the first religious or political figure to shut her out, and the message sent through such a refusal or through refusing her the controversy she so desperately sought out would’ve been much better.

Regardless, if Marine Le Pen wants the presidency she’s seeking with desperation, she should learn to respect the various cultures of a world in which she’ll possibly be heading one of the top states, some of which require her to let go of her hate and phobias in order to have a conversation. But she is who she is. I bet she’s the kind of people who refuse to take off their shoes before entering a mosque, or who refuse to wear a yarmulke before entering a synagogue.

If Le Pen wanted to meet the Pope she’d be asked to wear black clothes and a matching mantilla, or a lace veil worn over the head. I bet she won’t have an issue with that. Respecting differing cultures is key, and with people like her that will never happen. Until then, I hope people can see through the bullshit.

Lebanon’s Parliament Ridicules And Votes Down Anti-Sexual & Racial Harassment Law

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If you needed anymore proof that the current batch of patriarchal parliament members are no good, look no further than their constant ridicule and systematic decimation of women rights. Even the law they passed to “protect” women from domestic abuse a few years ago was passed in a near stillborn form after decades of labor.

A few days ago, that parliament struck again when MP Ghassan Moukhaiber’s proposed law from 2014, aimed at criminalizing sexual and racial harassment, came up for a discussion and a vote. Instead of behaving in a civil manner and actually discussing the many merits of the law, which is of vital importance for the betterment of any society, our parliament members met the proposal with uproars and ridicule.

When MP Moukhaiber was reciting his proposed law, he was met with sneering laughs from other men in parliament who found him ridiculous. Among the things that were said by those in office whose job is to legislate and come up with laws to better our societies are the following, as reported by Rania Hamzeh:

  • You have too much free time on your hands, MP Moukhaiber,
  • We need a law to protect us from women,
  • What if a female employee wants to get revenge off her employer and accuses him of sexual harassment?
  • Are we going to consider every inappropriate text or whatsapp message as sexual harassment? We don’t want to open up such doors.

Needless to say, the law was then voted down and referred for further debate and deliberation among parliamentary committees, because, as you know, it’s so complicated apparently to consider sexual and racial harassment as illegal entities. Who knows when this law, which has been sitting in a drawer for the past 3 years, will be discussed or put up for a vote again.

Patriarchy and the sense of male entitlement that dictates our laws and that has infested the minds of most of our legislators strike again. It’s like our MPs don’t even care about any facet of society that is not them and what they represent in mentalities and in genders, knowing that they’re going to be voted in anyway because of how rotten our political system is.

Where were our few women MPs when such a law were discussed to voice outrage at having such basic human rights turned into jokes? Nowhere to be found.

If there’s a need for us to get rid of the current lot rotting away in our parliament, it’s now with the parliamentary vote (if it happens) that’s coming up in a few months. We can’t keep on voting for people in office who think sexual and racial harassments are jokes and who are more worried about where they, as men, stand in a society or how they might be affected by a law that criminalizes behaviors some of them have become way too used to.

Dear Lebanese MPs, if you are this disconnected with reality and this afraid for the disgusting privilege given to your gender through years of constant oppression of women, then you have no place to be legislators for the entire country in all of its people and its divisions.

The country doesn’t need people like you perpetuating a status quo that’s seeing it rot away and stagnate instead of moving with the times towards a more equal society. It needs people who are aware that women rights are human rights and that sexual harassment is not acceptable in any form, not open of “ifs” and “buts” and certainly not a matter of comic relief for you while discussing laws.

In any other “civilized” country, such a topic wouldn’t even be a matter of discussion and if what happened in Lebanon actually took place, it would end up being a scandal of unprecedented proportions. Instead, the session was closed and no film exists of it. We don’t even know which MPs were in attendance and which ones said what was mentioned previously.

I am ashamed that in 2017 my parliament has members who think the law proposed was a joke and actually managed to vote it down. I am horrified that someone who represents me towards my state has the audacity to make that timeless “we need a law to protect us from women” joke while working in an official capacity. This is the strength that our complacency has bestowed upon them: they can make fun of us and know they can get away with it.

No, dear MPs, you are not the gender who has to take in their employers’ sexual advances because they want to keep their job or who are too afraid to speak out about them being sexualized at any given moment because of fear of how society will look at them, not at the person harassing them, and – given this new information – because they have no law to protect them. You are not the section of our society that has been constantly marginalized and made sure to believe its place was as limited as it could be.

Human decency is more important than the laws that our MPs are always worried about, such as those pertaining to oil or even that electoral law they won’t pass. We can’t have a progressive society striving towards a better future if all of its components are not respected. Lebanon’s current parliament is making sure that such progression never happens. Simply, disgusting.

No, Wanting to Date & Have Sex Doesn’t Make Lebanese Women Whores

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It’s 2017 and we’re still talking about this, but then again what can you expect when one of your country’s “liberal” TV stations is more conservative than America’s Fox News?

Earlier today, following this viral blog post, MTV decided to take part of the crusade against the seriously bad show on LBCI called Take Me Out.

Whilst the blogpost they tried to copy was somewhat conservative in tone as is the writer who penned it, a relative of mine whom I respect enormously, MTV took it to another extreme by calling the women on the show, without explicitly saying the word, whores.

This happened after a guy took off his shirt on TV. So the women got the short end of the stick? If you don’t get it, don’t even try.

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To them, being on a TV show about dating and wanting to go out on dates or – gasp – even have sex degrades the value of our women. The vocabulary used in that article was as degrading as it gets, reminiscent of those arguments that should have been way behind us as society but unfortunately aren’t, let alone arguments used by a TV station whose pre-requisite for female media personnel is them having good enough looks.

I quote (and translate): “Do the producers of Take Me Out accept for their daughters or nieces or sisters to participate in such a show? Don’t the women participating in the show have fathers or brothers who refuse the level of public prostitution that their daughters and sisters are doing on TV?”

Because, as we know, the only relevant reference for what a female entity can do in this country is always in reference to her male superior figure. This is just disgraceful and shameful.

No MTV (and whoever in Lebanon agrees with it), our women can do whatever the fuck they want without having entities like you breathing down their neck, thinking you are allowed to have the “moral” high ground. The only ground you get is a ditch somewhere where your disgusting backward thoughts can rot.

No MTV (and whoever in Lebanon agrees with it), our women don’t need their brothers or fathers to tell them what they can or cannot do. They don’t need a man to dictate their lives for them. They don’t need you to beseech that male figure that exists in their life to defend their honor because people without honor can’t call it for others.

No MTV (and whoever in Lebanon agrees with it), our women don’t need your approval or the approval of anyone other than themselves to go out on dates, sleep with whoever they want and do whatever they please. You’re shocked? Let me shock you further: our women have the right to enjoy their bodies as much as they want, drool over as many men or women as they want, and do whatever makes them happy. And the best part is? It’s none of your business.

No MTV (and whoever in Lebanon agrees with it), you do not get to preach about morals when you sell sex at every possible chance you get and would sell anything sexual whose rights you’re able to procure if it gets you enough ratings. You don’t even get to worry about the reputation we “sell” of ourselves to Arab countries because they’re not even a standard anyone should follow when it comes to reputations or women rights. Isn’t the fact that your shows are getting beaten according to IPSOS why you’re suddenly the knights in shining armor coming in to defend our women’s hymens?

We have a long way to go before our women can get the same rights and privileges as the men in our society, but that won’t happen when they’re still being shamed, in 2017, for wanting to date and have sex and seek out pleasures that others may not approve of.

You don’t want women to have sex? Well, keep it in your pants and cross your legs. You don’t want women to date? Then talk to your mother about arranging you the next available husband or wife. But don’t you ever think that you get to dictate your narrow-minded point of view on others, under the guise of morals, and get away with it.

You know we’re fast hitting rock bottom when a trashy TV show is used to spark a conversation about morals. To quote MTV: متل الش… يلي بتحاضر بالعفة.  W 7zaro l sh ya shatrin. 

 

Article 522 Allowing Lebanese Men To Rape Women Then Marry Them To Be Abolished

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One of the many backwards thing in the Lebanese legal system is article 522, which allows a rapist to marry his victim (or at least propose marriage) which would clear him of any wrong-doing. Add it to the growing list of abuses to women and minority rights that our laws allow.

Over the past few weeks, a growing campaign, bolstered by a superb viral video about article 522, aimed at getting parliamentary committees and ultimately parliament to abolish this law from the Lebanese penal code.

Today, the parliamentary committee on Administration and Justice agreed to abolish the law, with another meeting set up for December 14th in order to come up with a draft to be submitted to parliament for its abolishing.

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Of course, because this is Lebanon and a ton of things can go wrong, this doesn’t mean that the fight should stop now. If anything, we should bolster efforts to keep the pressure going especially given that there’s bound to be more than a few parliament members who are entrenched in Lebanese patriarchy that they’re definitely going to have more than a few reasons to want to keep this law around.

Such a law existing in 2016 is a disgusting abomination and reflects negatively on every single Lebanese citizen regardless of gender. It exists in the framework of keeping the “dignity of the victim and her family,” because in the Lebanese patriarchal sense, the only meaning of dignity is virginity, because having both your body and then your rights violated in the most horrific of ways is the best way to keep your dignity, not – say – throwing the rapist and criminal in jail for a very long time.

I hope our parliament doesn’t send this law’s modifications into one of its many drawers of laws left to die, with the justification that there are things more important for them to debate. There isn’t anything in this country that’s more important – electoral laws and whatnot included – than the sanctity of our rights and our bodies.

To Lebanon’s women who have been fighting for years against this transgression to their rights, here’s hoping the fight reaches an ultimately satisfying conclusion. Congrats on the first step.