The Magnitude Of The Problem

Me too.

Me too.

Me too.

This is what my timeline looks like. This hashtag, used by millions of women (by women, I mean all individuals who identify as such, girls, trans and cis women, femmes and queers) around the world, is meant to make people (men) understand the ‘magnitude of the problem’ of sexual harassment.

Yet it shouldn’t be on us to make men understand that women are people who should not be seen as sexual props designed to please the male gaze. It shouldn’t be on us to think of all the instances our bodies have been violated, our intimacy and privacy invaded, our bodies questioned and discussed as if our consent or absence of it didn’t matter, just to make you understand ‘the magnitude of the problem’.

But then again, the anger I’m feeling at reading all of these ‘me too’ is threatening to froth and boil, fizzle and explode, the raw anger I feel at seeing all of these women, my gorgeous, beautiful, strong army of friends and sisters sharing publicly that they, too, have been assaulted in one way or another.

As many wrote, I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t.

As many wrote, we don’t owe you our stories. You know our stories, you’ve been writing them for centuries, years of years of male domination over women and girls, exploitation of women’s bodies and minds (yes, EVEN YOU MY COMRADE so don’t fucking hide behind  Rosa Luxembourg, we fucking see you and each time you brush aside feminist concerns in your grandiloquent speeches you are part of the problem).

You want the magnitude of the problem? I’ll give you the magnitude of the problem.

It is thinking twice about the outfit you wear because if something happens to you, you don’t want to be accused of ‘having asked for it’. It’s being accused of having asked for it even if you were wearing a hair shirt and several layers of clothes and a poster that screamed ‘please don’t harass or rape me I’m only trying to get to work’. It’s carefully monitoring your behavior not to seem to flirty, it’s being perceived as a temptress whom men can’t resist, it’s not their fault it’s yours, all the fucking time. It’s being categorized as a ‘sexual beast’, or as ‘submissive’, depending on your race. It’s being called a whore, a slut, a frigid monster every time you turn down the unwanted attentions of a man. It’s being sexualized as a young girl, it’s being denied the sex education you need while people tell you to remain a virgin, it’s being told be beautiful, a certain idea of what beautiful is, you HAVE TO MAKE YOURSELF BEAUTIFUL so men will like you. It’s checking on your girlfriends to see if they have made it home safely, tell me Brian when was the last time you did this for Brad? It’s being exploited and trafficked because you are a woman and you are poor, it’s being denied a sexuality or being raped because you live with a disability. It’s not being able to do your job properly as men in power hold you back unless you sleep with them. It’s your body being a battlefield in itself in war time, enduring unspeakable torture.

It’s never being listened to.

It’s being always blamed for what happened to you.

It’s never getting justice. Real justice, not traumatic post-rape investigations that leave you wishing you had never pressed charges.

It’s never being granted any type of humanity unless men have sisters and mothers and daughters they can relate to.

It’s men’s uncomfortable silence over their own role in perpetuating rape culture.

It’s being so tired, so so tired of this shit all of the fucking time.

It’s this rant not being the quarter of the magnitude of the problem.

It’s the fact that our voices can grow hoarse trying to make you see and hear us, nothing will change unless patriarchy is overthrown, and you don’t want to lose all of these privileges now do you Brian?

But we will continue to fight. Even if we are super tired of this shit. We will go on strikes, we will yell at you, we will kick and scream our ways through our lives because we are not willing to accept defeat and if this sounds like a war cry then take it as such because it is one.

And we will be inclusive or we will be bullshit. Sorry Susan, but struggles against racism, classism, against transphobia and homophobia and islamophobia will be at the center of our actions and demands because all of these systems enable sexism and because none can be liberated when three quarter of us are downtrodden.

To all the survivors out there: your courage and grace are infinite, you matter, and most most most importantly: it is not your fault. Never has been, never will be.

Advertisements

Eleven Years and A Drop Of Blood

You don’t say it but I know it’s there. The tremendous, exquisite pain you carry around with you wherever you go.

It’s in your silences, the way you breathe a little more freely when you are not at home, the way your shoulders come down from way up your ears when you allow yourself to relax.

It’s in your half sentences, your little skips of attention, the way you seem to trip over your thoughts, oblivious of the world around you, lost in a well of internal hurt I can’t seem to grasp.

It’s in your over-achieving attitude, the standards you set so high up for yourself, to prove to yourself you’re better that whatever happened to you, that you deserve better, that it didn’t break you.

It’s in that constant trail of electricity that follows each and every one of your steps, the tension of being alive that seems to keep you as tense as a bowstring, ready to strike whoever would come too close to soon.

It’s in the quietness with which you handle things, each tender gesture as soft as the next, your anger never too loud, your laughter never to keen, your tears, dry, your cursing, tame. It’s as if somebody put you on mute a long, long time ago, and that you lost the ability to exist in vivid colors in your own eyes again. But to me you do, and it kills me to see this numb version of what you could be.

No, you don’t say it, you don’t really say anything to me, what I know i have observed, but I don’t say anything either, and there we remain, trapped in that lead cover of silence that is suffocating me like a coffin, yet I stay there, too respectful of your screaming eyes to scratch the graze, that slit of a wound that doesn’t ever seem to want to heal.

We stay in that coffin, while he’s out there, enjoying his life and all the ones he took, all because there was no one, and nothing, to prevent this from happening.

On Why We Are Demonstrating

This article was written for Sawt Al Niswa, the AMAZING online feminist space

I read an infuriating article today, a blog post that was so patronizing it made me feel sick to the stomach. The writer referred to our action as “delusional” and while he deemed our struggle as “righteous”, he did not see it going anywhere for the moment. But Behold! For his was kind enough to provide us with an alternative solution, with other priorities and other actions.

The author’s intention was probably not to minimize our struggle, or be patronizing or anything: he probably did not notice that his sickly sweet rhetoric merely felt like a paternalistic pat on the head, like someone telling you you’re cute but naïve. Like someone not really believing you had serious reasons to be angry and to demonstrate.

Which got me to think: what are we fighting for? Why are we demonstrating?

First and foremost, there’s of course the issue of rights. We are demonstrating because the state has duties towards us, obligations it has signed on in an International Convention (CEDAW), voluntarily binding itself to respect, protect and fulfill them, rights that we can see are not being respected, protected and fulfilled. Hence, by making ourselves heard we are simply putting into action our democratic rights. We are neither demonstrating because we are spoilt brats, nor because we don’t have anything else to do or because we are delusional naïve nymphs living in Lala land. Rather, our carefully thought-out collective action is our weapon to put our government in front of its obligations. Its obligations is our rights, and it is our responsibility to demand them, to claim them, for the shameful rape laws are not going to be cancelled by themselves; and neither is the Violence Against Women Bill ever going to materialize and be adopted out of thin air. We demonstrate because the numbers 478, 488 and 489 (criminal code provisions imposing higher sanctions on women found guilty of adultery than on men) 503, 504 and 522 (laws pertaining to rape) cannot be read without a shudder. We demonstrate because of the large Violence Against Women Bill-shaped gaping hole within the Lebanese legislative apparel. We demonstrate because religious authorities are playing deaf and blind to that very simple fact: there are women in Lebanon, and we are not walking wombs. Rather, we are human beings who saw evil, heard evil and witnessed you speak your evil.

So we’re taking to the streets, armed with an international Convention, armed with laws and principles and a whole set of values that we think are worth sharing. Several people and bloggers seem to think that we’re ahead of the game, that before obtaining a change in the laws we need to establish a civil state in Lebanon then we’ll be able to see what we can do about women’s rights. It’s the same old song: women are selfish for demanding what is theirs, they should wait until the whole system changes until we can tackle women’s rights. To which I answer 1) Women Won’t Wait 2) why not think of changes in laws with regards to women as an opening door to a wider change in the system? Advocating for women’s rights is advocating for a more egalitarian society, it doesn’t mean favouring one injustice over another. The way I see it, turning Lebanon into a civil state will take longer than adopting the Violence Against Women law: what are we supposed to do until we reach that point? Sit around and pray?

The demonstration however even goes beyond obtaining our rights. It has become a question of reclaiming our very streets, each corner of our city until we find that we can walk around without fear or of uneasiness because of stares, glares, insults, offensive comments or unwanted physical contacts that is just plain sexual abuse. We’re demonstrating now because our cup is full: we’re tired of unlit zawarib where even the less sporty of us turns into a sprint champion until we reach our cars, we’re tired of feeling as if we’d like our breasts to be invisible, we’re tired to be harassed just because we are women. By pounding the streets of Beirut we’re making a strong statement to those who would like to see us off them, tucked away in our homes that sometimes are more dangerous that battlegrounds, as if under house arrests: look at us, we’re women and human, we want our dignity and safety.

We’re demonstrating because this way we get to say our stories, with our words, our chants, our actions, with no self-appointed authority (religious or otherwise) telling us we’re asking too much, too soon, too aggressively.

Our bodies are ours, and no one but us gets to dictate what we should do with it or whom and when we decide to give it to. Our voice are ours too, and no one but us dictates when and how we should use it.

So on Saturday the 14th, I will pick up my banner and I will shout for my rights until my voice gets hoarse. But I promise that if you see us on the streets, and still have questions, then I will use it to talk to you.

And maybe then, you’ll walk with me too

For the post mentionned at the beginning please see http://beirutspring.com/blog/2012/01/03/kafa-is-delusional-the-lebanese-state-neither-has-the-will-nor-the-way-to-get-into-lebanese-bedrooms by BeirutSpring


y

Are you tired of feeling unsafe on the streets of Beirut? Of being submitted to harassment, abuse and violence? It’s time to make our voices heard! Join us on the 14th of January for a march to claim our right to live free from violence, rape and abuse! Let each of us bring 3 friends. The more we are, the bigger our impact. Share share share and tell your friends, your mother, your brothers, sisters, cousins and their mothers!