Blame The Mother

Scrolling down your Facebook feed should begin with a trigger warning: cringe worthy comments ahead, enter at your own risk.

Or at least this is what I’ve been feeling lately. Indeed, it seems that not a day can pass without criminal sociopaths deciding that they simply cannot stand to live another single day sharing the same planet as other people and proceeding to kill them.

Which is in itself, I’m sure you’ll agree, kind of an issue. However, I’ve been seeing puzzling captions and comments on social media with regards to  these news: captions wondering what kind of mothers produced offspring like the perpetrators of killings, how can mothers stand to see their sons parading with guns, how mothers should publicly condemn their children’s behaviour, how mothers’ hearts around the world are bleeding for the victims.

Which prompts me to beg the following questions: why is it always the mother’s fault? Why do mothers have to justify and support or reject everything that their children do? Why is it a knee jerk reaction to turn to the mothers and their assumed faults whenever someone turns out to be a maniac? And why would a mother’s heart bleed more strongly over loss and despair? Aren’t we all able to mourn losses, regardless of our maternal status?

Since becoming a mother myself, I’ve been reflecting a lot on a woman’s sense of individuality once she decides to have children: it seems that as soon as that bump is showing, society deems it its business to put you back into your rightful place of child incubator and Sacralised Mother, Keeper of the Home. You’re expected to reign over a realm of domesticity under the motto: I Shall Sacrifice Myself for My Family. Welcome to the motherhood, it’s definitely anther hood, where you’re apparently not your own person any more. Don’t believe me? Then have a little detour in that great place called the internet, where you’ll be pretty sure to stumble upon articles blaming mothers for their children’s behaviour, with so called scientific studies to back them up.

Any desire for yourself, any show of will to accomplish and fulfil yourself is perceived as selfishness, dismissing you as a ‘bad mother’, the kind of parent that makes criminals. Because surely, if these people would have had good mothers, they’d be crocheting scarves for the poor and not going around on killing sprees.

The sheer amount of such reactions I’ve seen on my timeline, posted by mostly youngish people (is 30 still young? Am I still a young person?) reveals that patriarchal beliefs and attitudes are alive and well, feeding into the news to extend further blame on women (are you surprised?).

Newsflash alert: no, it is not their mothers’ behaviour that leads criminals to act the way they do. There, isn’t it simple? You can stop wondering now.

Now that we have liberated space to have some serious discussions, perhaps we could focus on environmental causes, on socio-economic causes, on psychological causes if you must, on actual material causes that explain behaviours. We are all a product of our societal environment. Of course our education and family (a social unit) matter, but it doesn’t follow that everything terrible that happens in this world derives from the time your mom was late to pick you up from school.

So why this constant blame of the mother? Well, the myth of the ‘perfect mother’, as in, the Mother with a capital M, the woman whose identity is only defined through her children, the woman who sacrifices herself for her children (the notion of sacrifice in the patriarchal ideal of the mother is very important), the woman who is willing to suffer sometimes unnecessary suffering for her children is still ever present and pervasive, with constant pressure over women to fulfil that ideal. So alive and well that it teams up with capitalism to create new so-called ‘parenting trends’ that sell millions of books to tell mothers whatever they’re doing they’re doing it wrong, and that there is always a better way to be mothers. Of course, if you don’t follow all these ever changing rules, your child will become a sociopath and people will share articles about them on Facebook, blaming you for everything you’ve done wrong. Needless to say, the father is very rarely mentioned, as of course he did his part inseminating you and showing up from time to time, and of course everyone knows the essence of a woman is to be a mother while the very essence of a man is to go hunting and retreat to his man cave.

It seems women in general can’t win, and so can’t mothers.

You know what I’d love to see next time someone goes bat shit crazy and starts killing everything and everyone in sight? I’d like to see meaningful conversations about gun control policies, about systemic social inequalities disenfranchising people and making them vulnerable to becoming criminals, about unchecked privilege teaming up with rampant impunity and corruption, leading certain people to believe that life doesn’t matter except theirs, about growing militarism, the banalization of violence and lack of accountability from governments. I’d like to see more conversations about the root causes leading to such actions, and less about it all being the mother’s fault. Us women have been carrying the stigma of the original sin for long enough, and are made to feel guilty about everything enough without the whole world blaming us for the actions of our adult children.

Advertisements

Citoyenne de Seconde Classe

Featured

Chers petits fonctionnaires du gouvernment fantôme,

J’espère que vous allez bien (je mens, je m’en fous totalement, en même temps comment n’iriez-vous pas bien, vous profitez du pays et le pillez allègrement et après moi le déluge). Pendant que vous vous chamaillez et coupez les cheveux en quatre dans votre quête cupide et sectaire du pouvoir, les Libanais(es) continuent à vivre ou à tenter de survivre comme si de rien n’était, ce qui montre à quel point vos gouvernments leur sont indispensables.

Personnellement, je m’apprête avec grande joie à retourner au Liban pour des vacances. Plus d’un an que je n’avais pas remis les pieds à Beyrouth, je commançais à manquer d’oxygène. J’ai cependant une bonne excuse: pendant cette année, j’ai eu la plus sympathique, la plus maline, la plus intelligente et vive des petites filles. Avouez que j’utilise mieux mon temps que vous.

Mon enfant sous le bras et mon mari sous l’autre, je me prépare donc pour notre voyage: j’ai les vêtements, le babycook pour préparer des purées fraîches à ma fille, nos billets d’avions.

Et nos passeports.

Suisses pour mon mari et ma fille.

Français pour moi.

Pas un malheureux cèdre sur fond bleu en vue.

Etant une Libanaise de la diaspora, rien de fondamentalement étonnant à ce que j’ai une double nationalité. Je rentrais au Liban avec mon passeport Libanais et voilà.

Maintenant que j’ai une famille, je me range avec eux dans la catégorie des étrangers.

Apparemment, se marier avec un homme non-libanais vous ôte votre individualité Libanaise en tant que femme. Non que je sois particulièrement nationaliste, mais c’est un peu vexant, surtout que mes compatriotes masculins n’ont une fois de plus pas à se confronter à cet affront.

J’arriverai donc à Beyrouth, sur un sol que je foule régulièrement plusieurs fois par an depuis avant la fin de la guerre civile, je murmurerai des mots d’amour à ma fille en arabe (en arabe cassé peut-être, mais en arabe quand même), j’enverrai ma recette de Yakhnet Sbenegh à ma copine Emna, celle que m’a apprise ma mère qui la tient elle-même de sa mère, les femmes du Keserwan aiment bien se passer des secrets. Je ferai tout ça en me rengeant décidément dans la file des étrangers, parce que ce que je considère tout de même comme mon pays me considère Libanaise parce que mon père l’est et non pas parce que je suis une citoyenne à part entière. Je suis une citoyenne de seconde classe et je vous assure que ça m’agace.

Je me rangerai dans la file des étrangers parce que je ne peux pas donner ma nationalité à ma famille. Je répète: en 2014, une femme Libanaise ne peut pas donner sa nationalité à sa famille, tout simplement parce que le chef de famille est l’homme et que la femme est une quantité négligeable.

J’ai envie de dire, bravo. Une telle obédience au patriarcat, ça force le respect.

Et vous savez c’est quoi le pire? Le pire, c’est que je suis une privilégiée. Moi, je peux rentrer avec mon passeport français, ma fille est Suisse et Française, son avenir n’est pas en danger, enfin si, c’est une femme, mais elle a des nationalités, deux gouvernements qui la reconnaissent et à qui elle peut demander des comptes. Je suis une privilégiée parce qu’au Liban, il y a des femmes, des milliers d’entre elles, on ne sait pas vraiment, le recensement n’est pas votre point fort, qui sont dans une situation extrêmement vulnérable: leurs enfants, libanais pourtant, n’ont pas droit aux mêmes droits humains basiques que leurs compatriotes dont le père a l’heur d’être Libanais, et rencontrent des difficultés pour tout, de l’école au travail en passant par la santé. On les humilie à coups de demandes de permis et autre racisme social quotidien. En cas de séparation, les enfants seront la responsabilité du père. Et cela veut dire qu’il peut repartir avec eux dans son pays d’origine.

Ces enfants, nous les portons, nous vomissons pendant neuf mois, nous souffrons mille morts pour les faire venir au monde, et même si nous ne souffrons pas, ces enfants sont aussi nos enfants, et il n’y a aucune raison pour qu’on les confie automatiquement au père, sans aucune autre justification que d’asseoir un peu plus le pouvoir masculin sur la tête des femmes.

Moi je suis une privilégiée, certaines femmes doivent se battre quotidiennement pour que leur gouvernement permette à leur enfant ne serait-ce que d’apprendre à lire.

Mais moi et ces femmes avons ceci en commun: nous sommes, à vos yeux, des citoyennes de seconde classe.

Et ça nous agace.

 

PS: Vous avez vu comme je ne considère même pas vos sordides pseudo-justifications sectaires pour ne pas donner ce droit aux femmes, ce droit qui est le leur? Parce qu’il n’y a pas de justification possible: les femmes obtiendront leurs droits, point à la ligne. 

On Angry Feminists, Women’s Bodies, and People’s Sense of Entitlement

When I put myself in front of my computer this morning, I had every intention to work and write the 28th chapter of the Tales of the Phoenix City.

However, it seemed life had other plans for me.

Fate, or maybe it was just random bad luck, put yet another person in front of me who asked me “if that baby was coming”.

I gave an icy cold reply, and that seemed to shut her up.

I never got how people can be so insensitive and feel so entitled to meddle in affairs that have nothing whatsoever to do with them. I always felt that these questions can hurt a person trying to have a baby but not succeeding, or sadden a person who has just miscarried, or anger a person who doesn’t want to have a child, or just plain bore a person into a stupor as they simply really don’t feel like discussing what’s in or what’s not in their uterus with every half wit that crosses her path.

However, this issue is bigger than the issue of having a child. People’s sense of entitlement to ask women personal questions most of the times seems to largely go unquestioned. As women, it seems that people expect us to nod and answer gracefully all the questions that get thrown at us, regardless of what we feel and think. Are you getting married? Yes? No? If Yes, when? If no, why the hell not? Once you’re married, it’s the child issue that raises its head, accompanied with well and not so well-meaning old wives’ tales about how time is running out and if your body gets used to your partner’s sperm you won’t be able to conceive (true story. Someone actually said that to a friend of mine). When you’re pregnant, your womb becomes public property with the same random people rubbing your belly like there’s no tomorrow, as if for good luck. Seriously, can you imagine people’s faces if I went around caressing men’s bellies and making stupid cooing noises? Once you’ve had your first child, when are you going to have the second? And once you’ve had your children, it seems that the world gets filled with self-appointed experts criticizing right left and center the way you’re raising your offspring.

My husband gets asked all the time questions about the progression of his PhD, about how his activities are going. Very few people, save for some members of his close family, ever ask him about when we are planning on having a child. On the other hand, random people seem to have no problem whatsoever asking me about the future occupants of my womb, each and everyone of them giving advice I did not remember asking for, or stressing me out because apparently a pregnancy would not suit my job.

Should you snap at the umpteenth person putting his or her head up your ass, people frown at you as if you were the living embodiment of their version of feminists, I.e, aggressive women always barking at patriarchy and their ‘so-called oppression’. Let me tell you one thing: us feminists are angry, that’s for sure, because the minute we put on our feminist glasses it becomes impossible not to see the gender bias and discrimination we have to live under, it becomes impossible not to notice that women are expected to answer obediently to all the shit that gets thrown at them and nod submissively otherwise they’d be frowned upon if not mocked and degraded, and something inside us just snaps and starts wanting to bite people’s heads off. Feminists are angry because they question what society takes for granted: gender stereotypes, gender injustice, discrimination and society’s sense of entitlement.

This sense of entitlement to ask questions about a woman’s private life stems, at least for me, from the general perception that women’s bodies and lives do not belong to them and them only. Women’s bodies are society’s , their family’s, their community’s, but never their own. This being said, it derives that questions can be asked and comments can be made. It is only when we make the conscious choice to respect every human being body’s integrity that we can truly say we respect healthy boundaries and can have equal relationships.

Don’t give me advice if I don’t ask. Don’t ask me personal questions, especially if I barely know you. Don’t tell me what my child should eat or do.

After all, you’re not seeing me asking your husband how his prostate is doing. Therefore, I’d be grateful if you could leave my uterus alone.

The Greatest Threat: Women who want to work and gasp! Have children

People who follow my blogs usually know my style. I like law and statistics and facts I can build my argument on.
I like reading, I like the written word, I like everything that comes in print.
But sometimes, like, right now, I don’t really care about statistics and facts and things. I care about people and about their stories and nothing interests me more than the stories of women.
Women who get screwed over by patriarchy on a daily basis. Today I read yet again another article of a pregnant unemployed woman who was looking for a job only to be turned down with various degrees of contempt, condescension, anger and even outrage.
How dare she look for a job (while her unemployment benefits will dry out in a couple of months) while she’s pregnant? I mean, that fucking nerve of hers.
Thing is, as I grow older, I realize than there is actually something that bosses fear more than economic recession, lack of funding or the Apocalypse and that is Young. Women.

See, they’re faced with a desperate conundrum the minute they lay eyes on us.
We’re good at our jobs. We’re educated. We have experience. We have communications skills, we’re patient enough to put up with all kinds of various crap (trust me, I the woman whose first boss ever took to lunch to talk to about her affair with their common senior boss). We’re good, don’t get them wrong, we really are, there’s only one tiny glitch with us.
We. might. Want.to.reproduce.
Never mind the fact that this usually takes place with some kind of male presence involved. Men are not a problem, I mean they can go on and have 23 children and all they’ll get will be a pat on the back, a hearty handshake and a stiff drink. Let us celebrate the manhood of the new dad and graciously give him one or two days off and consider ourselves grand. The fact that said father might love to actually stay home and spend some time with his child is not a point of discussion. He shall drink and shut up. Thanks thanks thanks patriarchy.
The young woman, on the other hand, is a right pain in the ass. I mean, for fuck’s sake, she carries the child, that means she might feel ill sometimes, never mind the fucking fact she’s building and harboring a PERSON in her body, pah, that’s nothing. Then she has the terrible nerve of taking care of her new born child and get some rest and that means the big THREAT OVER THE WORLD: THE MATERNITY LEAVE.
Over the past year I’ve been hearing and living so many stories of women who had to endure the crass discrimination and humiliation of management trying to make these remarks pass as honesty that I’ve decided that we shall be silent no more.

Friend A has to endure stupid jokes by her boss telling her that ‘I’ll call you just to make sure what you’re doing with your husband’, and that ‘you know a pregnancy could ‘really fuck up the organisation’ and ‘oh the thing is legally there is nothing we can do about it’. Same boss also asked very subtly friend A what her doctor’s appointment was about, elegantly stating ‘as long as it doesn’t involve an ultrasound’, which is hilarious when you think about it because you can have fucking cancer so long as you don’t have an ultrasound and you’re not pregnant because that would be the real fucking tragedy. Same boss again (yep we have a winner), also goes out with people from other organisations, has a bit to drink and then goes on to confess his worries ‘I’m afraid friend A might get pregnant’. Trouble is, he confessed his worries to another woman, who not only defended Friend A’s absolute right to have children if she decided it was the right time for her but who also came back and told everything to Friend A. Women’s solidarity, in your fucking face.

Friend B was being interviewed when the two lovely men interviewing her beat around the bush for a bit until they finally managed to pop the question and, asked her er, if she were stable, and then, when she would not cooperate and do the job for them, articulated painfully if she had any plans to become pregnant, underlining that ‘they knew it was not ethical to ask such a question’. Also, and that was a little thing on the side, how would she feel about managing her assistant, you know the woman who used to occupy the position they’re offering but got downgraded because she had a child? Friend B held their stare, coldly, ever so coldly, and told them that yes, in fact, it was not an appropriate question to ask at all. Needless to say, she was offered the job. Needless to say, she did not take it.

Just a heads up: in Switzerland and in France, prospective employers have no right whatsoever to ask people they interview if they have plans on getting pregnant. If they do nonetheless, you can lie.

Another friend of a friend was cleverly fired when she announced her pregnancy. I say cleverly because they managed ‘not to renew her contract’, causing her so much stress her doctor warned her about weight issues and its potential impact on her baby.

Another boss told Friend C that taking one month of unpaid leave (her contract grants her a year. That’s twelve months) might jeopardize her job.

Yet another boss lost it on a former colleague when she announced her pregnancy.

I have so many other examples that come to mind but the result is the same: women fought and are still fighting to get access to jobs that interest them, just because they, just as men, need and want to work. Patriarchal beliefs and behaviors seem to wait for them lurking around the corner to keep them outside the big boys game, and pregnancy is just another pretext for society to keep women on the side.

Thing is, it might sound as shocking news to some, but women have the right to work and the right to have children if they want to. It’s as simple as this and there are laws that protect these rights and no matter how hard you try to pressure women into not having children or having them but stay at home, they will still claim their right to do both.

And let us be clear: this is not merely a privilege bestowed upon women. This is fair and just. It’s not women who have to adapt to a flawed, unjust and discriminatory society: it’s society that has to change.

Lebanon: This is How We Do Modern Day Slavery

Her name I won’t disclose. Let us just call her G. She told me her story because I asked her, it’s as simple as that. I told her she seemed down, she who is naturally so upbeat, and she launched into it, as if on cue, waiting to tell someone. So I gave her this space, and thought that her story deserved to be shared, if only to put a human face on all the statistics regarding migrant workers and the way they’re treated in Lebanon, if only to reveal the inhumanity with which so many people living in Lebanon are treated. Just to give you a bit of context, G. works in a beauty salon. So G., you’re on.

‘ I am so unhappy in my current job. I came to Lebanon under a woman’s sponsorship (Kefala), and when she stopped working they transferred me to my current employer. Last week end, my friend called me to invite me to a birthday party. I was pleased and wanted to look nice. Now, my previous employer worked in the same industry I’m in now, and used to let me borrow nail polish whenever I wanted for my personal use, especially if I had an occasion, provided I gave them back, which I always did. I just assumed my current boss would grant me the same permission, especially as it was the first time I did it while working for him, and was going to put the two nail polishes back first thing on Monday. I just wanted to to my own nails for once, so I packed the two little bottles in my bag. As I was exiting the salon, my boss started yelling at me, asking me to take everything out from my purse. It turned out the other girl working with me had gone and told our boss that I took two nail varnishes in my bag. My boss went ballistic, calling me names (thief, charmouta) and told me I had no right to take some products out. I told him my previous boss, whom he knows and has worked with, used to let me do it, and that I merely borrowed them in good faith. I started crying, but he took away my phone and was very angry with me. I was extremely sad as my cell phone was the easiest way for me to contact my daughter back home. I went to the phone center and called my daughter to tell her I wouldn’t be able to call her as much now that I didn’t have my phone anymore. I thought the whole thing was behind me when several days later my employer took me to the Maktab, the office that deals with migrant workers papers and affairs. There, the person in charge started yelling at me, telling me I was no good and had to obey my employer and ended his whole screaming match by slapping me twice. My boss was calmer with me afterwards, much nicer, he said soothingly the whole thing was over. It is not over for me.’

I asked her if she perhaps could work some place else. She answered she was looking into it but that it was so difficult in Lebanon because she was under the responsibility of her current employer, so that she was tied to him for papers.

Imagine yourself being unable to change your job if you wish to. Imagine being dependent on another person, being tied to this person to be able to continue working. Imagine being beaten up by people in power to force you into a certain behavior. Imagine having no freedom at all, doing all the thankless work while having to endure daily racism. It’s odd, isn’t it, that we would never dream in a million years to accept these conditions for ourselves, yet that we have no qualms about imposing them on other people. Aren’t these people equal human beings? Then why are they being treated so dramatically differently?

In her latest report to the 21st session of the Human Rights Council following her visit to Lebanon in October, the UN special rapporteur on modern forms of slavery stated what anyone who has lived in Lebanon has witnessed, that ‘many migrant domestic workers are not seen as equals to the Lebanese with the same rights, but as commodities, thereby further entrenching the idea that Lebanese employers own and have full control over their workers. Over the years, there have been reports of domestic servitude in Lebanon, whereby migrant domestic workers are economically, sexually and/or physically exploited, left totally dependent on others and unable to end the employer-employee relationship of their own volition. The victims continue to work under the threat of violence, or even experiencing violence, and may have restrictions placed on their freedom of movement and communication.’
The report also points out the dire injustice and oppression of the Sponsorship system: ‘under the Kafala system, a migrant domestic worker who leaves her employment without permission from both her employer and the Government, for whatever reason, is immediately classified as an irregular migrant and is subject to arrest, detention and deportation. The migrant domestic worker cannot end her contract and is legally tied to her employer.’

G.’s example is one among many others. We could all share many more stories we hear, like my neighbour in Lebanon who beats up the domestic worker working for him and locks her up down in the cellar, where the Syrian natour brings her food (otherwise she’d starve on top of being locked up). What is happening in Lebanon and in many other countries is modern day slavery, and the even more shocking thing is that it is happening with the blessing of the Lebanese government who still implements the Kefala system, refuses to see domestic workers who decide to leave their employer as victims but rather as criminals, takes virtually no steps to eradicate discrimination against migrant workers and allows its Labour Code to specifically exclude migrant workers from its provisions.

Join the anti-racism movement if you feel you can’t bear to live in a country where slavery is commonplace: http://www.antiracismmovement.com

The complete report of the UN special rapporteur on modern forms of slavery can be downloaded here http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G12/149/40/PDF/G1214940.pdf?OpenElement

Plastic Capitalist

Today, I was attending a Meeting on women’s leadership: men in suit moderators, outdated data, lack of content. The meeting was supposedly women’s leadership, yet the was not discussed and rather, the whole thing looked more like a company’s team building retreat, with moderators apparently on a mission to complete their template.
When my colleagues and I raised the issues, we were told to, in that order: take things with a pinch of salt, be more positive, that the best people were moderating the sessions, that we were aggressive and that finally we were welcomed to send all our suggestions and evaluation in the little form provided in the little folder.
It was strange to see that apparently there was no woman qualified enough to be part of the moderators, but beyond those specific issues, it was appalling to witness how much the issue of women’s rights has become commodified, treated via companies specialized in “leadership strategies”, within the framework of a conference so formatted the environment for leadership development was far from being provided. The worst part of it all might very well have been that organizers and moderators presented themselves as “feminists”. The same ones who told me to “take things with a pinch of salt”, presenting themselves as feminists.
This situation clearly reminded me how much feminism has been overused, recuperated and distorted, the way you see right wing neocons parading as feminists. Feminism is by definition a revolutionary current aiming at questioning power relations, whether they are economic power relations, gender power relations or political relations. As feminists, we must remain aware of what language is being used, what methods are being used, what images, what attitudes, everything. Remaining vigilant and speaking out against situations that strike us as insensitive gender wise, or oppressive to any social group, not just women , are part of our job, and if that makes us aggressive, then so be it. When we spoke out at that conference, many people blamed us from holding the agenda back, from being too offensive: I however can’t help but notice that our stir caused two women trainers to moderate one session, which was not previously factored in the programme, just like the acts of feminists demonstrators in the 70’s were perceived as aggressive, yet you wouldn’t have seen drastic changes in European laws pertaining to women and gender without them. Feminism, contrary to women’s rights currents, not only asks for gender equality within laws and practice: it aims at shifting societies upside down to challenge traditional conservative concepts of what it means to be a woman or a man, it aims at questioning and changing heteronormative and sexist beliefs and practices.
One of the aspects of the intrusion and recuperation of progressive ideologies by capitalism and neoliberal policies is how the emphasis has shifted from public duties to individual duties. While talking about women’s rights and empowerment, so many people kept pointing fingers at women, stating it was up to them to seize opportunities and not to wait on the state to give them anything. The success of capitalism is that it has managed to make people believe that asking anything from the government is acting as an assisted person. It’s the Nike philosophy, just do it, you can do it, etc, you you you and people who try to do it and fail are stigmatized. Reminder: governments ratify human rights law treaties, therefore, governments should be held accountable for respecting, protecting and implementing them. The State has a duty, in fact many of them, and part of the empowerment process is to remind the state of its obligations and put it back in front of them, and stating that in doing so, a citizen is being nothing short of a big whiny baby is. A. Lie.

Sisters in Humanity

Participating to women’s gatherings never fail to remind me how diverse women are. Working in women’s rights, you sometimes tend to forget this basic fact, what with all the talk about sisterhood and harmony amongst women, the “common ennemy” being patriarchy.

I’m just back from such a gathering in Europe, and have to admit I was not expecting some things. Indeed, compared to my stays in Africa and the Middle East, I found a huge difference between Africa and the Middle East on the one hand and Europe on the other: while african and middle eastern women tend to question their own environement and beliefs, trying to point out what’s wrong in THEIR societies, European women (from what I’ve seen) tend to gloss over their issues in their own societies, and have a tendency to point out to other communities . HIV? A problem that only minorities from Africa have to face. “We don’t really need any HIV programmes, we’ve already done them 20 years ago” one of them said to me. The answer shot back from my mouth before I could soften them with diplomatic flowers “Oh really? Do you really think Europe does not need anti stigma and discrimination programmes for people living with HIV?”A wary stare was the only answer I got. Besides, the spectrum of discrimination, and yes, racism, is never far behind. All the calamities that happen to women only seem to happen to migrant women. The “standard” european woman’s only battle seem to be domestic violence, and even this issue is more of a migrant women thing. Now I’m not saying that middle eastern women for example are not discriminatory towards migrant women (the example of domestic worker is striking enough in the region) but women i’ve spoken to do not automatically turn to them as if the world was a bed of roses for them. They speak about both (this is particularly true about young women), emphasizing their own situation and putting into question their own prejudices and mentalities.

In any case, I also found similarities between the different regions. Indeed, as I was describing my job, which implies a fair bit of traveling, I was met with a question that I’ve now started to consider as universal: But, but, how are you going to do when you’ll be married with children? Well, I say, my husband will just have to manage now, won’t he? If I have to travel, I have to travel. More wary stares. People thinking I’ll probably be an unnatural mother. (Note: no one never ever seem to consider the possibility that I might not actually want children)

The issue of language is another thing that shocked me, what with all the talk about “helping” people and “saving” women. I know these women have all the best intentions in the world, but I’ve never been big on the “assistance” kind of vocabulary. 

However, I’ve met wonderful women as well, ready to share their experiences and views with an open mind. Like this Finnish nurse who volunteered in 1976 with the Lebanese Red Cross. Like this Italian doctor who went to Gaza to treat the wounded and train the on-site medical aid volunteers on emergency care situations. Like this Swedish young woman who stayed in Palestine for several months, partaking in journeys for justice. Like this Dutch young woman who puts on her pink bathrobes and towels to demonstrate against Ahava. Like these two young women who were pregnant teenagers and who now support women and girls in the same situation.

Not only do these women and many more act for change abroad, but also lobby within their own countries to force media to change the body image they’re promoting towards young women, advocate for equality in political participation, and fight to end stigma and discrimination towards positive people.

We shouldn’t however put women who may noth think along the same lines as us on the side. On the contrary, we should open up the conversations to any kind of comments if we’re truly committed to be agents of change.

It’s just that sometimes, when you’re a daughter of migrant people, the stigma does not go down too well.