I do believe that change is possible. I do have hope for a better future in this country. But sometimes, reality strikes me. Sometimes, when I listen more deeply to my surroundings, I tend to lose hope.
We get to choose our friends and our entourage, fortunately for us. This choice is generally based on common ideas and politics. However, this selective process is not always a good thing. Being surrounded by people with the same ideas and fighting, generally, for the same causes, might create a bigger gap between us and the others, people around us who do not share our ideas and do not agree on our view of the world. By fighting for our common causes, we are fighting against these others. By standing against the patriarchal system, we are standing against patriarchal people. By asking for secularism, we are fighting against sectarian people. Nevertheless, sometimes I feel like there is too much disparity between both sides that our hope for a better world is exaggerated. Sometimes, when you try to cross this road and meet the others to ask them to join you so you can both build a better road for all of us to walk upon, you feel like you are both talking in different languages. Sometimes you feel like you just want to stay in your bubble where people are familiar with your language, where you can share your ideas, discuss them and fight for them.
On the 14th of January 2012, a march against rape was organized to raise the voices of women against this patriarchal abusive system. As an AUB student, I worked on trying to mobilize people from my university to join us to take back our rights. I heard many positive feedbacks; a lot of people were excited and interested. Then again, some responses were so remarkably shocking that my optimism was dropping slowly. As I was distributing flyers, I came across a guy I know from a class we had together. I gave him the flyer and explained what this march was about. He looked very supportive and told me he will join “inshallah”. Then, I gave another flyer to the girl who was walking with him. She looked at me with this respectful fake smile and said: “No, thank you. I am against them.” I immediately checked the flyer to see if there were any name of an NGO she might be against or anything of that sort. “Against who?” I asked. She started walking away: “Women. I am against women. They are the source of all our problems” said this woman from AUB.
I also encountered one very optimistic guy while I was on campus. He told me he was certainly against rape but that we were wasting our time on such a cause since we live (and I quote him) “ in a very civilized country. There is no rape in Lebanon!! People are educated enough to know that rape is BAD.” This guy was obviously informed enough not to know of any rape case in Lebanon and to believe that a rapist is an uneducated and uncivilized person. Another funny encounter I had was with a guy who was patient enough to read the flyer, walk towards his class and then come back to give me the flyer saying: “ Why did you give this to me? Didn’t you see I am a man?” And to reclaim his manhood, he gave me back the flyer, in a very “man-ly” way. He also gave me what I suppose was meant to be the “man-ly”, intimidating but seductive look, and he walked away. I was petrified and ashamed for not noticing he was a MAN. For the sake of avoiding despair, I will stop here with my buoyant encounters.
Nevertheless, I was not the only one who had started to lose hope. While I was distributing flyers on the main gate of AUB, a policeman came to me and took one. After he finished reading it, he gave it back to me and nodded with his head: “It is a very important thing to do. I am sick of all the sexual harassment my sister has to endure every day”. Then, he added, desperately: “But do you think you can change anything in this country? We don’t have a state; we only have corrupted people controlling poor and helpless people. Do you think they would want a better country? Do you think they care about rape? Their daughters are protected, so as their money and resources. They wouldn’t want to protect anything else.”