Earlier today, Lebanese minister of internal affairs Nouhad el Machnouk gave an impassioned speech celebrating International Women’s Day in which he proclaimed Lebanese women are not that far behind compared to their male counterpart in the country, something that no other country in the region has achieved. In coming to that conclusion, Machnouk was in part reliant on the fact that Lebanese women were named among the world’s sexiest.
Congrats Lebanese ladies, your value is now directly correlated to your rack and how tight-clad your skirts are. Cue in the applause.
I’m sure this comes as no surprise for a governing body that is as disenchanted and disenfranchised from the population it’s governing as Lebanon’s governments, both current and past. The garbage on our streets is proof enough for that.
The thing about Lebanon, however, is that it is the center of multiple international studies, as are most countries around the world, especially when it comes to the gender gap and women rights. Among those international studies is one carried out by the World Economic Forum, which was published in mid November 2015.
That study’s findings can be summarized in the following infographic by LA Times’ Priya Krishnakumar:
This puts us on a shameful list of countries where the gender gap is so severe that the term second sex does not delineate an other-hood but rather inferiority. We are 8th in the worst countries in the world when it comes to equality between men and women, adding it to another worst-of-list for us to be “proud” of.
Happy international women’s day my fellow Lebanese.
Our women can’t pass on our beautiful citizenship to their children, but what matters is that they can wear whatever they want (if their male family members deem it appropriate).
Our women have single-digit representation in a triple-digits parliament, but what matters is that one of those representatives is stunning (and would make a healthy argument to being on that sexiest countries list).
Our women’s wages are always inferior to their male counterparts in the country, but what matters is that those men have no problem spending the money on those women (because financial independence is so passé).
Our women’s participation in the workforce is inferior to their male counterparts in the country, but what matters certainly is those women’s job as housewives, bringing up generations (of children whose girls grow up to be just like their mothers and whose boys grow up just like their fathers).
Our women can get beaten to death legally at the hand of their spouse with no legal protection against that domestic abuse, but what matters is obviously for that man to remain the dominant figure in that household, his word never repeated twice.
Faced with such a reality, some of us Lebanese will look at that list and say: but Saudi Arabia isn’t there. Women can’t even drive there. Yes, because looking up to Saudi Arabia is obviously the best way for our society to move forward. There’s more to women rights than getting behind the wheel of a car.
If our governing bodies think that the entirety of Lebanese women is summarized by the touristy reports they see about Mar Mkhayel on a Saturday night, it’s our duty as Lebanese to be aware that our country extends beyond its party streets.
I hope Lebanon ends up on the other part of that infographic one day. Such a drift will not happen if we don’t all contribute to putting our women forward. These upcoming municipal elections, encourage your mothers and sisters to run. Encourage all our women who are so excellent at what they do to propagate their excellence onto a bigger medium. Mentalities need to change, and that is the best way to do so.
Until then, less Nouhad el Machnouk empty propaganda, and more reality please. Happy International Women’s Day, everyone.