What is Being a Woman in the Lebanese Society?

Marianne BadineMore often than not, when people speak of inequality of the sexes in Lebanon, they speak of women’s inferior salaries, of women’s inability to pass on the Lebanese nationality to their children, of women’s minor representation in the parliament…They discuss big titles; eye-catching ones.

I won’t.

I haven’t experienced those situations yet and shall wait till I actually do to start writing about them. However, I have been in ones which are simpler, yet definitely not less significant…

The problem with sexual discrimination is not that it infects the big institutions. Corrupt institutions can be fixed by healthy new generations. The problem resides in the fact that those new generations, the ones on which we place our hope and faith, are infected.

It doesn’t pain me to hear an 80 year old man say that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, and that she is worth nothing if she’s not someone’s daughter, sister, wife or mother. I am aware of the fact that those are the values he was a taught and the ones on which he bases his judgment.

What pains me is to hear a guy of my own age, a classmate, someone who is supposedly receiving the same values as me, say that a woman can never be as intelligent, as powerful, as enduring, as responsible or as conscious as a man.

It pains me to hear a guy say that a girl is not supposed to work as a student, or if she does, she’s not supposed to have a savings account, she’s not supposed to envisage putting money away for an apartment, or – even more disgraceful – for a house. “That’s the guy’s job. She may feel free to spend as much money as she wants on clothes, make up, hair…but let her leave the job of securing a habitat for the guy”.

It pains me to hear guys say that a young woman living outside of her parent’s home immediately comes off to them as a girl “without honor” – to use more civilized terms then the ones they chose-, that the idea of independence is too far-fetched (for a girl), that she wouldn’t be able to handle it and that it would simply be better for everyone – note that it was difficult for them to actually define “everyone” – if she waited till she “left her parents’ home a married woman”.

It pains me to hear a guy say that sometimes a slap wouldn’t hurt a woman, and would help remind her of her LIMITS. (May it be mentioned that when that particular remark was made I reminded the guy that his logic could work both ways)

Many similar situations have made me feel pessimistic about the future of our society, but none affected me more than hearing one of my girlfriends say that she would never argue with her future husband, nor would she have any input in the decisions concerning the household or the kids because, after all, “he’s a man; he knows better, is more responsible and is more capable than her of making the right decisions”…

I was astonished by that one in particular. I was heartbroken.

The easiest thing to do is to blame the institutions, the constitution, the laws and the rules for women’s inferiority. What’s hard is to admit that the problem is not far away but around us, in our peers, in our siblings and even in us.

Let’s start by making change where change is easier to make. Let’s focus on the upcoming generations, on ourselves, the young who have just started their journey. We are the only ones who are capable of making any real change in the big titles. Let’s start teaching our sisters and brothers that they are equal. Let’s start by making girls, before guys, believe that they are not inferior, that they are just as worthy and just as capable.

Finally, let each and every one of us girls start demanding to be treated as equal by our peers until treating us as equals because the norm rather than the exception.

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