In this perspective, I founded the Red Lips High Heels’ online movement in October 2012, gathering a group of individuals from various ethnic, religious, cultural, economic and political backgrounds, established in the region and especially in Lebanon, but also in diaspora. Academicians, lawyers, psychologists, artists, educators, employees of the private and public sectors, business women and housewives, students… Women and men, of different sexual identities, all engaged for the same cause, that of improving the situations/roles/rights of human beings in Lebanon and the Middle Eastern region, and especially women.
Red Lips High Heels’ blog and Facebook page are ‘spaces’ where individuals engage in writing, reading and commenting on content from their various feminist and human rights perspectives and with a diversity of feminist and human rights commitments. The movement’s objectives are:
– Awareness and Empowerment.
– Deconstructing taboos, prejudices and stereotypes.
– Fighting against fear.
– Building and disseminating an applied knowledge – based on experiences, practices, personal stories, and on scientific and academic studies –; and a culture of equal partnership between diverse identities which emanates from the context and responds to it.
– Creating a platform of intercultural, inter-ethnic, inter-gender, transnational and glocal (global and local) dialogue, sharing and debate.
Red Lips is a symbol of vibrancy, self-acceptance, transformation, courage, self-possession, self-assurance, prowess and assertion. Even the act of applying red lipstick is empowering. It draws people’s attention to the mouth, and subsequently, the voice that comes out of it, a long-oppressed voice which rings loud and clear as it questions ideology and culture, patriarchal beliefs and practices, and demands the social and political rights women lack in Middle Eastern countries.
As for high heels, true they embody leisure, sophistication and sexuality. However, in this case, they represent the power that lies in femininity, in humanity; the power based on an authoritatively autonomous walk, a straighter standing stance against fear and taboos, a refusal of being subjugated to others, a search for balance between the looks and the brain, the public and the private, and a better management of one’s life in grey zones.
Individuals part of the ‘Red Lips High Heels’ movement, authors of many articles, do not necessarily physically wear red lipstick and high heels. Diversity of feminisms and human rights’ approaches is our motto. However, the unusual significance of ‘red lips’ and ‘high heels’ used here is a common point within this diversity. A kind of ‘unthinkable’ versus the ‘thinkable’, which invites all to ‘unlearn’ traditional knowledge about women and human relations in Lebanon and the Middle East and their relations to their environment and build alternative knowledge. (p.s. what stands within the enclosure is usually seen as “thinkable”; what falls outside is the “unthinkable”).
I cannot deny the progress achieved since the beginning of the 20th century with the local initiatives of the first feminist movements, neither the contribution of present-day individuals and organizations. Still, Lebanon is considered to be at the bottom of many worldwide rankings in human rights, and women’s rights in particular (refer to Human Rights Watch and Global Gender Gap reports). Sexism, discrimination and oppression are found in private and public spheres. Feminists must counter beliefs that women are incapable (physically, intellectually and emotionally) of certain kinds of work, of leadership, and are not worthy of equal political and social rights. Patriarchal societies, such as the Lebanese, enshrine the assumptions that heads of state must be male and male voices rightfully dominate society. Even when the governing idea is that women and men occupy complementary but equal positions, patriarchal assumptions construct the female position as necessary but subordinate. A sexual division of labor and consequent social division into public and private spheres acquire justification from patriarchal beliefs that it is right and proper for men to command and women to obey.
True we need new laws, but we also need: family education and national education on Human Rights; women economic and political empowerment in cities and rural areas; passage from a culture of violence to a culture of peace; re-interpretation of many religious laws concerning Lebanese personal status; reform of our social-political system (sectarianism); struggle against corruption and the practice of zaba’iniya (wasta system)…
We definitely need a change of mentalities… In other words, we do not need to just give and receive a fish or to learn and teach how to fish, but to revolutionize the entire fishing industry.
Thank you, authors, readers, activists, for your continuous support. On this Red Lips High Heels’ first anniversary, I can only wish us all to keep on taking the bull by the horns, and on developing the necessary confidence to pursue our goals.