Living your politics at night in Hamrason

 

Let’s say you were raised in Lebanon in a pretty traditional family – even though your father worked in the Gulf for a while and you have a cousin who studies in Paris and comes home wearing unusual, artistic, clothing – but your mom has pretty much done what’s expected and what’s needed of her to keep the family going and you were never really rewarded for rocking the boat.

But you volunteered with a progressive NGO during the July war and started to realize that you were sick of being defined by all of these structural factors you have no control over. So you’re smart, you’re curious, you’ve already read Simone de Beauvoir and Virginia Wolf, and now you’ve left your family two hours away to come study sociology in Beirut. And you don’t really give a shit about your virginity – although you know your family and holy fuck all of the village does – but you’d quite like to fall in love.

And then you probably meet at a bar in Hamra, or at a progressive lecture, or at this really interesting art festival and he’s standing with a friend of your friend and you notice him and he notices you and the fates all come together you end up talking and talking. And he’s charming, and funny, and politically aware, and supportive of minorities and the marginalized and can even quote Mahmoud Darwish ad naseum. And you meet the next night, and the night after, and then by the time the last bar in Hamra has closed and all of his friends – who have been so, so nice to you – have finally left, you not only want to spend the night, you’re determined to.

And you sleep together. And maybe it’s your first time, maybe not, but you know – much as you wanted the sex and know that it’s your right to have and to enjoy sex and have been doing your best to lay this boy since you first met him – you know that your mother would never forgive you if she found out, and that your uncle would – well – better to not think about that.

And let’s say, after the morning coffee, he says he’ll call. And you wait, and of course he doesn’t. And after a few days, during which you’ve gone from excitement to despair to indignation, attempted a facebook investigation and even sent a non-threatening text message (not responded to), your friend of his friend invites you out for a drink. And you, of course, get all dressed up and act like you don’t care and you almost pull it all off really well until you actually run into him. Except that you don’t really run into him because he sees you across the bar, and you say a three-kiss hello, and then he ignores you. And his friends ignore you, too, in solidarity. And the rest of the night you sit with your friend of his friend while he chats up some other girl and try really, really hard not to care.

Eventually, you realize that he’s actually rather pathetic and painfully insecure and just generally beneath your notice and you no longer despise yourself for thinking he was actually a meaningful person you could connect to if only you tried a little harder. And, you explain to your friend of his friend, the sex wasn’t even that good – at all! – and besides, you don’t really have time for some guy who doesn’t understand that, given that we’re the ones fighting the patriarchy, it’s incumbent – fuck it’s flat-out required – that he show you the minimum of respect for being strong enough to break one of society’s dominant rules, and calls you the next day. And it’s hard, but after all, assholes are found world-wide, and it’s just unfortunate that this particular one had all the trappings of someone more progressive, and yet, in the end acted like your typical patriarchal male. So, once the vast Sahara of a difference between the politics he espouses and the way he lives his personal life becomes painfully clear, you pick yourself up and go on.

Of course you do.

 

You’re a strong, smart woman and you learn, and hopefully next time you pick a little more wisely. But it’s hard. You’ve got this choir in your head representing the entire village and its collective “honor codes” that won’t shut up, espousing a barrage of antiquated expectations all related to a part of your body that really only you should control and that, actually, has nothing at all do with whether or not you’re a “good girl.” This part of you – the choir in your brain that you normally don’t listen to because it says things like, “life would be easier if you just married your cousin in Kuwait even though he’s stupid” – lectures you non-stop about how this is what happens whenever you break one of society’s rules. This is the punishment you get for trying to be free, this is the result of trying to liberate yourself, this is what happens when you live your politics.

 

And you know that this isn’t true. You know that virgin or not, relationship or no, hell, fucking or not fucking, that he’s still just an asshole and that you’ve got your whole life to go out and do great wonderful things because you’re a brave smart woman.

And, of course, you do.

But, seriously, does it have to be this hard? Why do all these self-declared progressive, worldly, politically aware, non-discriminatory, revolutionary – hell the would-be vanguard of the intelligentsia – men think that this is acceptable behavior? Why have they not yet learned that just because we want to fuck them but not marry them doesn’t mean that we’ve given them a license to be assholes? Why is it impossible for them to be respectful the next day – even when they don’t want a relationship? Why are they not kept up at night wondering about the difference between their liberation politics and their personal reinforcement of the patriarchy?

 

But, much more importantly, where is the sisterhood that should go out and socially castrate these assholes? Where is the feminist movement that reinforces that yes it is ok to have sex, where and when and how and how often you want, but: You deserve to be treated with respect during and after. Where is the sisterhood to support you before, to occasionally warn you during, and to unconditionally support you after? Why don’t our sisters ever confront these assholes and tell them “do not ever treat me and mine this way again!” Why do we – no matter where we’re from – still sometimes accept that because we broke one of the patriarchy’s rules, then we can be treated with anything less than the utmost of respect?

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Sawt al' Niswa

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