"Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall" - Ray Bradbury
We need to F.U.C.K., ladies.
All of us. In Lebanon and elsewhere in this crumbling Arab world. F.U.C.K., hell yes, as in Fight, Use, Control, Know.
Fight our fears. Use our brains. Control our destinies. Know our strengths.
F.U.C.K. as in, Face, Unchain, Challenge, Knock.
Face our oppressors. Unchain our voices and ambitions. Challenge the prejudices unleashed against us. Knock down those who are trying to keep us at bay and take us back to the dark ages.
You see, we Arab women are walking on a road, a road that is supposed to lead us to a brighter, more modern and dignified future. Yet between that future and ourselves lies a huge, terrifying, constantly growing wall, a wall built by our predecessors and reinforced by our contemporaries (and ourselves) day after day, “achievement” after achievement.
Come on, let’s together examine this wall through the world of architecture and its techniques:
The basis of each wall is the foundation, as we all know. The foundation of our Arab wall is strong, sturdy, immovable. I’d be tempted to say it’s quake-proof. It is invisible and intangible, but despite this, it is not open to doubt or criticism. Why? Because it is not made out of cement, earth and steel, but out of superstition, beliefs, prophecy, and so-called “sacred” verses and holy writ.
Why keep going around the root of the problem? I will name it our "bugaboo.” The foundation of our Arab wall is religion, with all the ailments that, in its many forms and types, trail it: blind faith that is impossible to question because of the danger of apostasy or the fear of a fabricated hell, the lack of critical sense, ignorance, backwardness, inability to evolve, the wiping out of individualism in the midst of group thinking and herd syndrome, intolerance, hatred, deadly schisms, bias against women, sexual repression, misogyny, conspiring with political authorities against the people, yoking the people to the cause of political totalitarianism, brainwashing, anesthetizing the masses with fear, crushing personal freedoms in the name of a higher wisdom, etc.
Shall I go on?
There is, in every wall, a first row of bricks: The first row in our Arab wall is no other than our patriarchal systems that jealously guard our manners and customs, and determine our understandings of virtue and morals based on the concepts of chastity, modesty and purity. These systems are founded on oppressing women and canceling their beings, controlling them, accessorizing them, silencing their voices, paralyzing their abilities, and commodifying them on the male stock market.
As for the second row, it is the duplicity of our societies, plagued with hypocrisy and deceit, and the different forms of discrimination against women and minorities – the explicit and implicit – limiting their social, civil, sexual, cultural and political beings.
The third row consists of the random, criminal violence that is carried out systematically against women: harassment, beating, terrorization, excision, rape, virginity tests and child marriages, not to mention the crimes performed in the name of Arab honor and the authorities’ turning a blind eye to these crimes, or their lax handling of them.
The fourth row is the Arab woman’s resort – without generalizing – to playing the “victim” role (complaining is easier than confronting), and her lack of outrage about the horrible insults to her and her dignity, and her lack of awareness of the fact that she can change her reality – even with baby steps, the most important of which is raising new generations on different values and standards that respect both genders and believe in equality.
The fifth row is the cult of machismo that leads to violence – sexual and otherwise, and the role that women play in the continuation of the macho race by negotiating over their basic rights, convincing themselves that men are the superior sex and timidly asking for what is theirs instead of reaching out and taking it, or even snatching it with their nails.
The sixth row is our political systems, some of which claim to be democracies, whereas they all are, without exception, competing with each other to spread corruption, oppression, terror, ignobility, injustice and extremism. These political systems are based for the most part on sectarianism, feudalism, nepotism, deals and bargains made under the table. They are systems made almost exclusively by men and for men.
As for the seventh row, it is the scandalous discrepancy in salaries between men and women, and the lack of will of most women to achieve financial independence. You see, machismo was, initially, the product of the “male hunter” ideal: I feed you = I own you. So it is most necessary for women to overturn this ideal by invading the workforce and providing for themselves. Although many are indeed doing that, the percentage of self-sufficient women is still very low in the Arab world. Few Arab women are taught the importance of financial independence. Even those who aspire to emancipation and/or hold a college degree rely frequently on men to fulfill their economic needs.
Do you want some more? Write it down: The brick of indifference, the brick of obscurantism, the brick of our contentment at laying blame on others instead of owning up to our responsibilities, the brick of chaos, the brick of illiteracy, the brick of homophobia, the brick of chauvinism, the brick of racism, the brick of treachery, the brick of canceling the Other, the brick of betrayal, the brick of selling consciences, the brick of cowardice, the brick of back-stabbing, the brick of envy, the brick of dishonesty, the brick of censorship, the brick of requisition, the brick of “the end justifies the means,” the brick of lies, the brick of manipulation, the brick of unemployment, etc.
One brick over another, the wall rises and rises, and there’s no skylight.
Yes, ladies, we definitely need to F.U.C.K. more, F.U.C.K. better, F.U.C.K. that wall down before it collapses on our heads and crushes us completely.
PS - You thought I meant the actual word, didn't you?
Well, that too.
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Joumana Haddad is author of many books, among which “I killed Scheherazade.” Her latest book, “Superman is an Arab – On God, marriage, macho men and other disastrous inventions” (Westbourne Press, London, 2012) is now available in Lebanese bookshops and on Amazon.