Fathers and sons bond by making fun of their wives and sisters respectively. It’s as simple as a statement as “They’re women! What do you expect?”. They have a laugh and brush off anything that was said as if it’s nothing significant. This is Lebanon. This is the mentality in a big number of houses.
I found myself doing this with my father on more than one occasion. My father is a peaceful man; he doesn’t hold the background most men in the Middle East do. He doesn’t try to boss his wife around, he doesn’t abuse her or their daughter physically/verbally/psychologically, and yet there are little incidents that I find us involved in that makes me pause for a second and reconsider the upbringing in this country.
These are things that are imprinted in our brains without us even being aware of it. I used to pride myself in being fair and unbiased, for ignoring stereotypes and perhaps even breaking them. Then, I realized how some things had actually affected me.
But this is not about me. This is about women in this country, and how a woman has to pay double or triple what a man does just because it’s not safe for her to take a mini-van. This is about how an adult woman is not safe on the streets at midnight but a 15 year old boy can walk around at 3am and nobody bothers him. This is about women being beaten up for the silliest of reasons. This is about a brother telling his sister if someone bothers her he can teach them a lesson, as if she cannot speak her mind or defend herself. This is about men telling women how not to dress so men wouldn’t cross the line. This is about women being blamed in one way or another whenever there is sexual harassment. This is even about women telling their daughters and sisters to do as told and not to anger the “man of the house”.
It’s obvious by now, isn’t it? This is about power.
The first step is to be aware that we are putting women in a second class citizenship category. Whether we do it intentionally or not, the result is the same. We, men, are not always aware that we put women on the sideline and are mainly taken by our worries and our needs. But, the minute we start seeing it is the minute we begin to make a change. It’s a long journey to change a man’s mentality of “I’m the man here!” and to remove the connection of power and importance from this simple statement of being a man. And then, it comes down to personal effort and perseverance.
Change commences with one person. From now on, I will be one of those people.