Portrait: Madame

Caricature de Mazen Kerbaj

Madame est une dame respectable, Elle, pas comme ces jeunes filles modernes et devergondées, qui parlent de leurs droits comme si tout leur était dû.

Madame aime marmonner, elle bougonne dans son double menton de femme repue à longueur de journée: C’est Tout de meme un monde, qu’elle marmonne, c’est tout de même choquant, oui, choquant, elles n’ont qu’à prendre ce qu’on voudra bien leur donner, ces petites pimbêches. 

Madame est une sett de bonne famille, les jeunes se doivent de l’appeler tante, de la regarder avec déférence, de l’honorer d’égards qui sont dus, oui dus, parfaitement, aux dames de son rang et de sa classe. Ces choses-là se perdent malheusement, même les enfants de sa soeur ont cessé de l’appeler tante et se contentent de son prénom, voir d’un dédaigneux auntie, assené à la vite. Dieu, que Madame abhorre les américains et leur culture. Et maintenant, voilà que celle-ci s’invite dans son foyer! Madame ne le permettrait pas, mais sa soeur a toujours été trop libérée et libérale pour inculquer une once de véritable savoir-vivre à sa progéniture.

Madame passe ses journées assise là à sa fenêtre, régnant sur son monde comme un tyran sur son pays, aboyant des ordres qu’elle souligne de gestes dédaigneux de sa main constellée de pierres précieuses plus ou moins honnêtement acquises par son défunt mari – que Dieu ait son âme- en Afrique. Elle ne sait plus où exactement, vous savez, l’Afrique, c’est du pareil au même non?

Madame n’est pas raciste, oh non! Bien sûr que non, qu’allez-vous chercher là? Mais il faut bien reconnaître que les gens de couleurs, n’est-ce pas, ne sont pas comme nous. Prenez par exemple ces filles qui travaillent chez moi, elles sont idiotes ya haram, il faut leur expliquer les choses 20 fois. Sans nous, elles seraient dans une misère noire, et voilà que celles-là aussi se mêlent de demander des droits par-ci et des jours de congés par là! Mais tout le monde veut des droits ma parole! Ba3d Na2ess!

Madame n’aime pas les droits, et encore moins quand ceux-ci sont donnés aux classes inférieures qui risqueraient de menacer son précieux ordre établi. Madame aime les devoirs, ça oui, et l’Ordre, surtout l’Ordre. Si tout le monde remplissaient ses devoirs et ne s’occupaient pas de demander des droits le monde serait bien plus vivable. C’est donc pour celà que Madame remplit son devoir de femme riche à  ne plus savoir que faire de ses millions, et tend donc une main (diamantée) aux pauvres masses. Mais attention hein, pas n’importe lesquelles: les masses méritantes, pas ces dépravés révolutionnaires qui se sont trouvées un leader et clament à qui veut l’entendre que leur ère est venue. Quelle calamité!

 Madame se targue donc de faire de la charité et préside une union religieuse feminine à la tête de laquelle elle est parvenue à rester des décennies entières à coup d’intimidation et de soudoiement des autres membres. Bien entendu, Madame n’a aucune idée des programmes que son union met en place, et entre nous soit dit, s’en fiche éperdument, l’important étant d’être présidente et de se trouver à la tête des grands déjeuners du Country Club.

Assise à sa fenêtre, sirotant une limonade que Melat, son Ethiopienne (comme elle aime ce possessif! Comme si c’était sa chose!) lui a préparé, Madame contemple ce monde qu’elle ne comprend plus, voit ces gens manifester et les toise du haut du piédestal qu’elle s’est créé pour elle-même. Elle ne se commettra certainement pas avec ces manants, et appelle son amie Hoda pour tenter d’arranger le mariage de sa nièce, une fieffée dévergondée, avec le fils de son amie.

Dans son salon, le calme est revenu, dérangé seulement par le murmure des conciliabules matrimoniales.

Dans la cuisine, Melat crache, comme tous les soirs, dans la nourriture de Madame.

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France Culture Interview sur Osez Le Clito

Link: France Culture Interview sur Osez Le Clito

Interview that I did a while ago regarding the Osez Le Clito campaign, a bit disappointed that a 20 minutes phone interview has been reduced to a 3 sentences intervention but still, various opinions well presented! http://www.franceculture.com/e​mission-journal-de-22h-oslo-fr​appe-par-un-attentat-meurtrier​-au-moins-7-morts-2011-07-22.h​tml Go towards the end for the subject on the campaign!

How to Live With A Revolutionary Without Losing Your Head (or P-Diddying His)

Chapter #10: On the Revolutionary’s murky past

The revolutionary would love to believe that he was born with a copy of Das Kapital in the right hand and a copy of the Bible (aka the Permanent Revolution) in the left (what else?) one. Given the present situation of the revolutionary, as in, him living and breathing and talking the Revolution, you would tend to believe it too.

Muhahahaha.

You just could not be more wrong. Being the thorough writer that I am (another myth, perhaps?), I did my very own little research and found out that some God-awful, truly counterrevolutionary actions lie in the realms of the revolutionary murky past. But I’m no one to kiss and tell now am I? Ooooooh right okay, then maybe I am. If he asks, you did not get this from me. I’d probably quite literally never ever hear the end of it. “How could you?!!!! I mean, this has ruined my Rev Cred for life! And by the way, you’re just misinformed, this did not happen this way, nothing is black and white and you can explain my actions through the power struggles over the means of production blah blah blah”.

Brother, you won’t ideologise yourself out of that one.

The revolutionary hasn’t always been a real one. Not if you count working for a bank as an utmost counter revolutionary act anyway. Now the revolutionary will most likely tell you he worked – oh ever so briefly- in a bank to study the evil capitalist system up close. See, to counter the awful oppressive system, you need to know it inside out, he’ll argue. Elaborate your strategy based on a thorough study of your enemy and all that. That what he’ll tell you anyway. Clearly explained as it may, you still have some strong doubts regarding the credibility of these assertions. You’re much more leaning towards a much simpler, much straightforward interpretation: He did it (Oh Forgive him, Comrade Trotsky, for he knew not what he did) for the money and the women. Which he’ll deny, naturally. Don’t be fooled, you’ll have the pictures to prove it anyway.

Wanna be banker is not the only suspicious label that revolutionary sported. Once upon a time, the Rev thought he was P-Diddy (or Puff Daddy, as he was called back in the days), the same way he now thinks he’s Comrade Trotsky. He used to sing along to “I need a girl”, dress in bizarre outfits (baggy sweat pants tucked – er, why?- in a sock, yes, just one, for asymmetry or something), make all sorts of weird hip gestures with his hands and refer to women using interesting slang words that my feminist conscience forbids me to use, overally thinking he was IT. Money and bling do occupy the Revolutionary’s past, much to his desolation and despair, and no matter how passionately he will try and make you think all these things never happened, that he’s a feminist and a humanist, do not believe him. Yes people, the Rev used to be a lost cause, but one day, his path crossed Comrade Said’s, and he was Born Again.

So what happened there? How does one turn from banker/lover to Revolutionary? Was the revolutionary struck by Trotsky lightning one night, making him realise J-Lo and P-Diddy bling was utterly oppressive to the people and he had to lose the gold jewellery, spiky hair and pseudo East Coast codes and replace them with the Bible and a Kuffiyeh? We might never know, but we can always thank Comrade Trotsky for making the revolutionary stop thinking he can rap, thus liberating the people from awful sound pollution. Now he just sings l’Internationale, all signs of complicated hands gestures vanished, his fist pointed to the sky, the sickle and hammer shining in his feverish eyes.

You honestly don’t know what you prefer.

Dirty Laundry

Working in a women’s organisation and being active in the women’s movement is most of the times an incredible journey where learning, sharing and fighting for your rights tend to unite you. 

And then there are the times where you suddenly ask yourself if you belong at all. Times when what you hear is so at odds with what you stand for that you actually feel your blood boiling, all concepts of sisterhood immediately flying out of the window, all your senses geared up for a confrontation. Indignation and shame and anger usually are corrosive feelings, ones that seldom live little space for understanding. And hell, call me a sectarian if you want, but I firmly believe that there are times where understanding is not in order, and refusing and revoking and taking strong stands is our only way of creating positive change. 

I hate these times, because they remind me, not of the diversity, that is to be celebrated, but of the huge amount of work that is still to be done, even within the women’s movement. I hate these times because they force me to take a closer look at what I consider to be my ideological home. 

The women’s movement is not an abstract entity floating around asking for rights and equality: it is made of women who make the conscious choice to join it and declare themselves part of it, coming into it with their own sets of values and beliefs. 

It seems to me, though, that the movement in itself should not forget what founded it, and is entitled to outline and define some red lines that should not be crossed over. Feminism, at least as i like to understand it, is a revolutionary current, aiming at abolishing not only gender, but also all kinds of barriers.You can’t ask for equality and justice for women and not ask for equality and justice for all. 

So it is armed with these beliefs that I personnally entered feminism, along with many women’s gatherings and conferences. And in all fairness, I’ve met some pretty fantastic amazing, inspiring women when I did, people and ideas and actions that honestly make it all worthwhile, but I also had my share of disappointements. As an Arab woman, it’s easy to spot the imperialists disguised as feminists: they come to you with a look of utter pity on their faces, you know, because you’re not empowered enough, and bore you to death with talks of big corporations showering their organisation with money that they the used to “develop” countries like mine and “help” women like me. To which your only way out is to remain calm and launch into your little rant of I-don’t-believe-in-corporate-funding-or-in-any-earmarked-funding-for-that-matter-as I-advocate-for-independence-and-self-sufficiency-but-thank-you-for-the-empowering-session. They’ll look bewildered (after all, aren’t you supposed to receive their Gospel with a look of gratitude upon your face? Aren’t you glad they’re teaching you dignity? As if anyone could ever teach that! Note: dignity comes with humanity, each and every single human being knows what dignity is, and most importantly, what living in dignity means) but you trust they will get over it. Conservatism is a rife pandemic, and don’t you dare think for one second that North=Bad and South=Good. I’ve heard so many gems from women of all walks of life and regions and backgrounds that I stopped even acknowledging these factors anymore. Let me share with you some serious comments I’ve heard and overheard: 

– If everyone lived according to Christian beliefs, there would be no HIV. (Where do I even begin to show her how wrong, just utterly and completely wrong, that statement is?)

– I believe in God’s justice for all. (Right, but I’m living here and now, so I’ll settle for human justice now if you don’t mind) 

– I’m a women’s rights advocate, I don’t care about economic justice or environmental issues (yes, of course, because if a woman is unemployed, it’s not like she’d be more a risk of violence or more vulnerable to dependency, right what was I thinking? Sexual emancipation is the only factor of gender equality, the rest is unimportant) 

– In Europe we don’t really have any problems as women. Our only big problem is the migrant women who need to be helped because of their backwards mentality. (No comment) (Actually, I usually respond to this by asking how much she earns as a “European woman”, and how much her husband does, and take it from there)

– The Scarf. THE pet peeve, THE Horror Movie Title. As in: “Poor her! She’s so submissive! She wears “The Scarf!”

I believe there should be debates and discussions around these issues, if only to help shifting mentalities within the women’s movement. I guess my issue was that I had other expectations from women calling themselves women’s rights activists and feminists.

Trust me, I’ve debated a lot with what I’m writing right now. Shouldn’t I be out there, fighting patriarchy and dealing with the ugly internal stuff, well, in an internal way, not publicizing this, not openly talking about it? But I realised it would make me like a Palestinian Authority representative who would turn a blind eye on the acts of some thugs in the party while telling people who stand up against it to go and demonstrate against Israel. I don’t want to be that person. 

I want to be part of a movement I’m proud of, even if that means creating a movement within the movement, a movement that abides by some strong principles and raises awareness and mobilises women according to these principles. 

Call me an idealist, a naive, or a self righteous bore if you want, but if I wanted corruption and absence of transparency and tokenism and judgement and patriarchy and inequality, I would have gone and worked in a bank. 

How to Live With a Revolutionary Without Losing Your Head (Or Muting His)

Chapter #9: On Fashion and Entertainment 

The revolutionary keeps saying it: you need to get to the people. The people! Ah, the revolutionary gets such a rush at this word! It’s almost as if Comrade Trotsky was rising up from his ashes. But not quite, let’s not get carried away.

In order to get to the people, you of course need to go where they are. That could be a mosque, a church, or any other public space where the people are many and, according to what the Revolutionary believes, impatiently waiting to be saved by the Gospel (By Gospel, we mean: The Communist Manifesto, the Permanent Revolution and he would even throw something from Nietzsche if you show enough aptitudes).

This is why, in order to expand his constituency – sorry, silly me, his membership of brave Comrades- the revolutionary will need to get out and visit people in their places of worships, mostly bars and clubs and pubs. The revolutionary would of course rather, in order of preference: 1) be held by secret services while trying to go through the Rafah crossing (Amazing! such close encounter with the conservative oppressive forces! Such proof that the revolution is what we need!), 2) Stand on a picket line with his Comrades by minus 14 in London,  occupying some university or other and 3)Stay at home with Comrade Trotsky, Comrade Marx, Comrade Said and Comrade Achkar, a poster of El Hakim hanging in front of him.

In any case, if no police brutality or demonstration is in sight, the revolutionary will put on his best attire just up and get out in the glittery bourgeois wilderness. This is how it would usually go: by best attire, the revolutionary will mean his uniform. A pair of jeans and a t-shirt. The t-shirt can not be turquoise or mauve or green. Such bourgeois colors. Only utilitarian colors shall be admitted.: black, white. brown. Even gray is questionable. The revolutionary doesn’t care much about fashion, takes “fashion-impaired” (something you call him quite often) as a compliment, and thinks Anna Wintour is, well, he doesn’t give her much thought anyway, she hasn’t written anything worthy and was Rosa Luxembourg’s companion? No?.

No.

So there he goes, all decked out in his finest stakhanovist clothes, oblivious of your pleading: Let me iron it! No! You don’t have to! I’m not a bourgeois chauvinist pig! Tayb iron it yourself! No! Waste of time! Fashion is the biggest form of oppression anyway! HUGE impacts on body image! Loads of work force that are exploited throughout the world! How can you sleep at night? No need to tell him you don’t really, you hit your head on the corner of the bloody Russian revolution last night and it nearly gave you a concussion. 

The revolutionary therefore finds himself in a bar: scenario 1: he’s with Comrades. The evening flows on pleasantly, you know the usual, Trotsky is God, how can you say that, God is dead, Nietszche killed him, and don’t be a reactionary, and everything is imperialism and everyone is an essentialist anyway. 

Scenario 2: The revolutionary is among regular people, for whom the Bible is thet history of that old bearded guy (NO! NOT HIM!) and for whom Trotsky is a not particularly liked old remnant of high school. The revolutionary therefore sees the opportunity for sharing the Gospel. He will approach, dancing in a way that resembles your father’s (you KNOW what I mean, arms astretch, hand in fists, pounding the air thinking he’s IT)  (the revolutionary only dances well the Dabke, taught to him by Palestinian Comrades somewhere between a refugee camp in Nablus and Gaza). He’ll then start talking: slowly, people will turn green, then grey, then blue. Whispers of “make it stop” and “shut him up” might hit your ears. You think you’ve overheard a guy screaming: Aboussss allah wlak SKOT!!!!! (that might be one of his friend, a Rafeeq perhaps)

At the end of the evening, some might even mention razor blades, to kill themselves or him, you do not know. 

The revolutionary will go home, happy to have shared yet a part of the progressive wisdom and imparted positive change on this world. He’ll turn on his music, not the savage music he’s just spent the evening enduring, but normal music, like Comrade Ziad and Comrade Marcel and the Jabha (cha3biyeh) finest.

You’ll just look at him, decked out in your finest late of fashion peg pants and 12 cm heels. Strangely proud of his integrity. Pathetic.