We kicked off our tour in Lebanon with a screening for the students, faculty and friends of Lebanon American University.
Dr. Dima Dabbous-Sensenig, the Director of the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World, curated a program focused on the issues most relevant, and often most taboo, to the LAU community: women’s inclusion in politics, polygamy and multiple partners, homosexuality within the framework of Islam, and freedom of expression. Within the short 80-minute screening, we were able to show 11 films, thus offering a diverse and varied look at women’s issues in the context of the Arab world.
Following the screening was a panel made up of Ghida Anani, the Director of the ABAAD Resource Center for Gender Equality, Dr. Dabbous-Sensenig, and WVN directors Catinca Tabacaru and Suzie Abdou. The conversation took a strong turn towards masculinity and the role men play in the Arab women’s struggle for the expansion of their rights. Important to the group was the idea that men are included in, and educated about, the issues faced by women in their community. Without the participation of the men, there will be no end to gender discrimination in the work force, domestic violence and the male habit of justifying one’s actions by the trite phrase, “because I’m a man.” The general consensus was that women cannot make advancements without the participation of the other gender.
Another important issue discussed was the need of for and ebbing of the view of women as “victims” through an increase of information inspiring the vision of the woman as the “warrior.” Women always have to demonstrate that they are complete and worthy, or else they are always put into question. Women around the world always have to defend themselves. Women sacrifice more, yet are blamed more. A woman’s worth is centered on how to keep her husband happy.
As always, the conversation raised the issue of religion. “Do you think religion divides people?” one woman asked. Panelist Ghida Anani responded that the execution of religion divides people when it was originally intended to unite people. She used the example of the French law banning the niqab. Not all of the French agreed on the new law. Although the discussion of the issue forced people to think about the choices that they make and the interpretation of the laws that govern them. Ghida referenced our films “The Unveiled” and “Francais Langue Etrangere” which are about the veil. Both films depict the difference in opinions among Islamic scholars and women alike as to the interpretation of Quranic references to the veil/women’s modesty.