I will not focus here on answering the question of ‘why’ doing feminism in a closed circle with tiny windows, but I will definitely talk about the ‘how’ – in fact, the ‘how’ is related to the ‘why’ -: while seeing and defining ‘change’ from different yet complementary perspectives – as a professor and academic researcher, but also as an activist, artist, blogger, author, mother, citizen, … Change for a better society, for equality, for social justice, for conviviality and for peace, requires both tactical and intellectual skills, living in a war zone, telling one’s story, and defining schematics to be debated.
I do feminism in a ‘lieu’ where divergent renderings intersect, and beyond… A space of translation where I see, think/rethink and try to enact change. When a feminist action is defined as a space, it could evolve as more than an intellectual endeavor or a practice. In this space, I can discuss and shape, define and do, on my own and-or with others. This space embodies positive outcomes and failures, possibilities and impossibilities. It requires that I perform feminism as a personal and public commitment, because different situations require alternative feminist actions. It requires that I do and redo, think and rethink, define and re-define, shape, move, as different dynamics happen. An open space to unaware action, unconscious patterns, grey zones, and intersections with a diversity of identities: ethnic, social, economic, political, philosophical, sexual preference, etc. Every feminist action is informed by this diversity and the knowledge(s) it produces.
How I do feminism is a constant fight on many levels (private and public, offline and online, urban and rural…) with one common point: deconstructing the illegitimacy of feminist discourses and praxis. In fact, women’s actions, bodies and voices are not legitimate in Lebanon and throughout the Middle Eastern region. If they were, I am certain there would have been more than 3% of women in the Parliament. All levels are violently policed to exclude its Others – women, religious/sectarian minorities, ethnic minorities, LGBT, … with few exceptions. Nancy Fraser called for “subaltern counterpublics” or “parallel discursive arenas” where members of subordinated social groups invent and circulate counter-discourses, which in turn permit them to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests and needs. Red Lips High Heels’ blog and Facebook Page – and many other online platforms – are examples of those subaltern counterpublics. Still, my feminism is not only articulated in parallel arenas but within the ‘traditional’ arenas too, between diverse arenas, and beyond!
One could argue that doing feminism within the Lebanese academic system is a kind of subaltern counterpublic in itself. Still, when it has to deal with the ‘norms’ of the system and survive in this environment, it opens a door to dialogue without becoming institutionalized. Doing feminism does not have to be ONLY in a counterspace, with a counterpublic. Contrary to what other Lebanese feminists think, I believe that doing feminism ONLY in parallel spaces can contribute to its disappearance. As long as I am able to teach both openly and ‘under the radar’ (when necessary), and shift pedagogical practices, I will pursue my ‘doing feminism’ in my classrooms and with my colleagues, while trying to recognize other people’s subjectivity and to involve my audience, no matter how hostile it may be.
Work Cited: Fraser, Nancy. “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy.” In Craig Calhoun, ed. Habermas and the Public Sphere. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992. 109-142.