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.

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You Are Not My Comrade

The world social forum is a ginormous gathering of people thinking creatively together and sharing ideas to create a more just, equal world.

Or so they’ll have you believe. Participating in the opening march, I found myself severely thorn. The march was aimed, as all marches, at reclaiming the streets but also , on a more specific level, at demonstrating to governments preaching austerity measures, oppression, discrimination and neo-liberal policies than another world is possible, that standing in solidarity with all people of the world was possible, and that us, the people, were to become one and fight the capital back.

Oh sure, you had more Comrades than your eyes could handle, you had your usual Che Guevara wanna-bes (I almost wrote lookalikes here, but then thought better of it) and you had your various flags and banners, all calling for more solidarity, more self-determination,more peace).
Among which, flags and banners of Pro-Bashar Syria, with pictures of Bashar to match, with ‘we’re all with you’ slogans to boot.
Now Oxfam marching away as if they owned the place (which they probably do, given than they’re one of the main donors of the world social forum, along with the French Institute and Bread for the World (imperialism? Neo-colonialism? What? Where?)) I could probably stomach, regardless of the fact that the irony of the presence of an organization feeding a 100% into the neoliberal paradigm of NGOs slowly taking on the economic and social duties of the state at such a march was apparently lost on them. I could even stomach, albeit with some difficulty, the countless people wearing Hugo Chavez T-shirts and his pictures, calling him Commandante as if he fought alongside Lenin in the Russian Revolution, even if these people seemed totally oblivious that the world social forum was taking place in a region that has direly and is still direly suffering from the catastrophic effects of dictatorships and that aforementioned Commandante was one of the closest and fiercest supporter and friend of Gaddafi and Al Assad. I can understand Venezuelans value Chavez for the improvement of their socio-economic conditions he brought to his country. I do. What I don’t understand is the very basic anti-imperialism rampant in the left that makes every little middle finger extended to the USA and Israel a supreme act of anti-imperialism that deserves reverence by all.
It is this minimal and quite limited understanding of anti-imperialism that leads some leftists to remain staunch supporters of perpetrators of monstrosities such as Gaddafi and Al Assad. I won’t even bother to go into the details of how much considering Al Assad an anti-imperialist is wrong. News update my comrades, imperialism and neo-colonialism can also be performed by other states than the US, and in the case of Syria, I don’t recall Al Assad opposing the imperialist tendencies of Iran and Russia. As for neo-liberal policies, I will only refer you to this article, explaining at great length how much Al Assad’s policies created a greater class divide, how much whatever economic ‘improvement’ and integration within the globalized economy only benefited a small clique of big cities bourgeoisie. Surely that’s not how Comrade Marx intended socialism and communism, am I right?
As of those still living in the delusion that Assad is opposing Zionism and will free Jerusalem, kindly inform me what he has done to free his own territory, the Golan, before he takes on freeing Palestine. Apparently there are plenty of ammunition to kill and slaughter his people but there are none available to free the Golan.

It is for all these reasons that I do not get the enormous pictures of Al Assad within the world social forum March. It is because war crimes are happening, it is because mass slaughters are happening, it is because peaceful resistance and opposition were met with ferocious repression, torture and unlawful use of force that I do not get, my sweet Comrade, how you can smoke your oh so not subversive weed, look me in the eyes, and tell me that we’re all with Assad, the great anti-imperialist.

Surely, my Comrade, this is not how Comrade Marx intended it?

On the dangers of standing on a street in Lebanon

So there I was, innocently standing on a street after work, waiting for a pick up, when a car stopped in front of me.
– A question please Miss, he said.
So I walked to his car, obliging, thinking he needed directions ( that’ll teach my civic sense to shut the fuck up and now give the finger to every living soul I don’t know that talks to me).
– what do you do? He said, I always see you here.
I looked at him, puzzled and bewildered. Why was he asking? Dif he need to find my organization for something or the other? I decided on vagueness.
– I work in the neighborhood, why?
– I always see you I told you, so where do you work? Tell me! What do you do? What type of job you have?
There and then, I knew he was not looking for information, but perhaps, for a suitable bride with good money that comes with, or a quick fuck, of God knows what. So I just told him, Ma khassak. This is none of your business.
-So if someone talks to you what do you do, you hit him? Byekol 2taleh? He yelled, bristling with aggression.
– I’m married and all…
As soon as I said that, he said: oh, that’s different then, and just left in a hurry. He was right to leave, not because my husband is 1m88 and could easily kick his ass, but because I was 1m66 of pure, pure unadultered sheer rage and would have made him EAT his stupid car.

But I hate myself a little for having had the knee jerk, automatic reaction of telling him straight away I was married. I shouldn’t have, and will never ever say it again should a similar situation arise, for what is this society that barely respects a woman only if she’s a mother and a wife? Aren’t single girls worthy of respect? So let me get this straight: he has the utter sense of entitlement to stop and invade my privacy and ask all kinds of questions, and when I refuse to answer and tell him it isn’t any of his business (not to mention it’s for my own safety, the last thing I need being a stalker), he’s all offended and aggressive, demanding to know, making me pass for a hysterical woman who beats the crap out of every person talking to her (how i wish it were true).
However, I tell him I’m married and all of a sudden he feels shameful and drives off. In one event, I was able to witness the condensed patriarchy of Lebanese society. Single women suffer from a paradox: their honor lies in their virginity and they are to be sheltered and watched, but at the same time it’s like, in the eyes of society, they don’t belong to anyone yet, so they’re sort of up for grabs, making it ok to harass them. Married women and mothers are sacralised, their union having been blessed by a religious, patriarchal, authority.

All women out there in the public sphere, trying to play a role in their communities, run the risk of being harassed on the streets just because they are women.

This is precisely why we should be even more visible, why I will never ever say my marital status again because it is no one’s business, because I deserve respect, not because I am married to a man, but because I am a woman, a human being.

On Anger, Sugar Coating and Fakes

I’m hearing a lot of fake feminism and fake anti-imperialism these days.

It angers me.

It angers me that movements who ultimately struggle for more equality and respect for humanity are used and co-opted by cynical conservative, power-hungry politicians and “researchers”.

Everyone is a philosopher these days, drafting theories right, left and center, holding their half cooked so called opinions forth on TV while they’re just repeating what they were told to by the highest bidders. I don’t seem to see any new Jean-Paul Sartre, I only seem to run into people whose pompous speeches come straight from Wikipedia. When I hear Bernard Henri Levy, the much celebrated French “intellectual” I wish for God to open the earth and swallow me (or alternatively, to hand me a rusty axe and a good lawyer).Yes, that’s the guy who often dubs Israel’s repeated gross violations of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law as “errors”. To which I really want to say that he’s the error, but let us not get carried away.

Thing is, no one seems to be immune to this plague: from the French feminists who berate veiled women to the Lebanese Religious Leader who thinks that a law that protects women from violence is an evil importation from the West that will shake the Great Lebanese Institutions (er, which ones?) to the Core, all sides seem to participate in the demise of the fight for a fairer world.

However, it’s not their beliefs that anger me the most, after all I do have to live with people who think differently as me, it’s definitely the sugar-coating that goes with their justifications. The French feminists will kindly try and explain that in name of Feminism, women should not wear the veil as it is an instrument of submission, neverminding the fact that a veiled woman who’s left in peace wearing whatever she decides will be ten times more empowered than one who’s forced to live in an environement that considers her a threat, an aberration, a pity case that needs saving, a savage that needs to be taught. Neverminding the fact that true feminism is about comforting, supporting, backing up and understanding where women are coming from. Neverminding the fact that feminism should never be used as an imperialist tool to impose certain interpretations to other women. Instead of including and nurturing, we cast out and stigmatise, in the name of feminism.

The Lebanese politician/religious leader is very attached to the Lebanese Family (over which he has full control so really, he’s very attached to his power) and would not like to see it go to waste (who would pay the Hummer, I ask you?). He’ll therefore fight tooth and nail to keep the Statu quo going: Baba, Mama, and children, Baba wou Mama being married, from the same confessions, the children not mixing with fellow Lebanese from other religions. If Baba hits Mama, it’s her fault, ya3ni who told her to be hal 2ad jehleneh? However, when faced with the growing discontent over these issues, Religious Leader will therefore need a nice ideological back up. Let’s see, RL (Religious Leader) won’t be able to use Human Rights as he’s so obviously violating them, so he’ll resort to the old Cold War days and play the anti-imperialist card. The alterations of the Lebanese Civil Status and the incursions into one’s home (aka try to protect women from domestic violence) are pure imperialist evil traps! We don’t want these imports from the West! Nevermind the fact that Human Rights are universal and that discriminating women based on their gender is, well, is universal as well. Religious Leader doesn’t even have this monopole. How fickle power is really. Lebanon has however signed on to various Human Rights Treaties with no imperialist power breathing on its neck to force it to sign, that it’s bound by law to implement and respect.

However, there’s just a teeny, tiny minor detail these people are forgetting: there are true feminists and true anti-imperialists out there, waiting for you to libel us, which we do not really agree with, leading to some embarrassing (for you) debates.

Believe in what you want: just be straight with me, don’t be a perv, don’t try and sell me your ideas using ideologies that precisely counter what you’re saying.

In the Eye of the Pomegranate

In 2 days they’d like me to commemorate the fact that 36 years ago my country became the synonym of anarchy, the blazon of stupidity, the cradle of cruelty and the epitomisation of interference. Commemorate: to honor the memory of. Do I want to honor the memory of those drunk on power militia thugs who tortured, killed,raped and destroyed everything they found on their path? I don’t think so. Do I want to honor the memory of the 100000 civilians who lost their lives during this blood bath? Of course, but I don’t need a certain date to do that, I just need to roam the streets of Lebanon and talk to people who lost a leg or an arm or both,  to people who lost a mother sister wife cousin brother father fiance husband uncle comrade or neighbor and I should remember them well enough. Do I want to partake in the “celebrations” the same thugs are holding to remind themselves how much power they used to have in those halcyon days, to watch their pictures with their same idiotic faces, only their whiter mustaches and balding heads letting on how much time has passed? Do I want to listen to the same rethoric, the same they’ve been serving us for the last thirty fucking six years (oooh it’s all the Palestinians’ fault, ooohh it’s all the Lebanese Forces fault, ooohh it’s all the Mourabitoun’s faults)? I don’t think so. On the 13th of April this year, I want to bury my head in the sand in shame, in shame for a country that doesn’t want to learn from its mistakes, in shame for a certain glorification of a past that is beyond despicable. When are we going to learn that warlords and community leaders are using us to make their business more fruitful, their power more asserted and their bank accounts filled with zeros? When are we going to learn they’re enabled in their ways by a system which thrives on their very existence?And mostly, when are we going to scream enough! at the top of our lungs, and refuse, just refuse, point blank, to carry on playing their divisive game?

I DON’T want to commemorate the 13th of April because there is nothing to commemorate. How odd that people usually commemorate the end of a war and yet that we are remembering the beginning of one? That’s because, along with everything else, we couldn’t agree on the date the war ended. And if you ask me, it hasn’t even ended. It hasn’t ended when all the aformentionned thugs gave each other a pat on the back and quite happily gave themselves amnesty. It hasn’t ended when there was no Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, no Super Special Tribunal (my, my, but where were you, O Mighty Security Council? Hasn’t the UN Charter been invented back in the 90’s?) put in place to at least, at least pretend to honour the victims of the conflict, to at least have the decency to let them see eye to eye with their executionneers, to at least acknowledge the unspeakable ordeal of blood and torture civilians have gone through. It hasn’t ended when warlords came back to Beirut singing “War is Over, thanks for lending us half of your families, they’re somewhere down in that mass grave, go home now, show’s over”. It hasn’t ended when Israel thinks it’s an entertainment to bomb Lebanon for 33 days in a row, with the complicity of many Lebanese leaders (Oh but the SHAME).

So don’t come to me now, 36 years later, and pretend you’re commemorating “to remember”, not to “forget”, to “be reminded of the victims”. You don’t remember what there is to remember, your forgot, and you don’t give a fuck about the victims.