Tag Archives: Lebanese women

Another day, another article about women

8 Mar

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have published another story on the tug-of-war over Lebanon’s draft family violence law. You can read it here, on IRIN.


Ministerial Statement fails to address nationality law

21 Nov

By Dalila Mahdawi
Daily Star staff
Saturday, November 21, 2009

BEIRUT: The head of a leading Lebanese social justice organization on Friday lamented the absence from the Ministerial Statement any efforts toward reforming the country’s sexist nationality law. Lina Abou-Habib, executive director of the Collective for Research, Training and Development-Action, said Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud relayed to the organization his disappointment that out of 30 ministers, which includes two female ministers, only he and Information Minister Tareq Mitri had urged the Ministerial Statement include a clause acknowledging the need to reform the country’s 1925 nationality law.

The law allows Lebanese men to pass on their nationality to their non-Lebanese wives and children, but forbids Lebanese women from doing the same.

Abou-Habib said the decision was a “serious setback” for gender equality activists.

“It is extremely disappointing. We were expecting something better from this government given all the work that had been done and all the promises made” on allowing Lebanese women to pass on their nationality, Abou-Habib said.

“It shows consistency with the previous government in terms of the total disregard for women rights and citizenship rights,” she added, noting the Justice Ministry’s recent decision to appeal the granting of citizenship to four children born to a Lebanese mother and an Egyptian father. No ministers were immediately available for comment.

CRTD.A has called for a meeting Wednesday Midday at the Engineers Syndicate in Mosaitbeh to step up action.

Lebanese women have an alternative to plastic surgery

20 Aug
Dalila Mahdawi
Daily Star Staff
August 20, 2009
BEIRUT: How many Lebanese women have you seen today with plastic surgery or who look like they’ve spent several hours preening? With Lebanon having acquired something of a reputation abroad for its predilection for surgery, the answer is likely to be several. Tired of being subjected to pressures of physical appearance, one Lebanese woman has launched a campaign in order to celebrate authentic, diverse beauty – the kind she argues is rapidly being lost to “look alike” surgeries that are often styled on the features of a select few celebrities and models. 

ANADiva (Arabic for “I’m a diva”) is the brainchild of 26-year-old Gwen Bou Jaoude. As part of the campaign, she has launched a social networking site where members can discuss representations of beauty, and a competition to create the campaign’s character. The website is one of the first Lebanese initiatives to demonstrate that other means of self-expression exist for women, Bou Jaoude said. “This online community proves that there are still members of the public who are against this metamorphosing of our society.” 

The campaign will conclude with an alternative fashion show that celebrates real women’s bodies in all their shapes and sizes. Lebanese cartoonist Stavro Jabra and Nienke Klunder, a Dutch-American photographer who works with the themes of body image and self-expression, have already signed up to collaborate on the campaign, as has web developing company Star Point Star, who offered to design the website. 

 “Everyone has a different opinion of beauty,” Bou Jaoude said, adding she hoped the ANADiva campaign will improve Lebanese women’s perceptions of themselves, celebrate individuality, and encourage critical thinking about mainstream standards of beauty. “The public should be given an alternative” to the one currently toted by the mainstream media and advertisers, she added. “They brainwash you [about how you should look] without you even realizing.” 

 Bou Jaoude’s efforts come at a time of growing debate within the fashion and cosmetics sectors about beauty. Dove, a leading beauty products company, has launched its own “Real Beauty” campaign and fashion magazines like Vogue and Elle are now actively trying to use more black and Asian models in an effort to show the beauty industry does not only view white women as attractive. 

One of the reasons Bou Jaoude decided to launch the campaign was she felt the Lebanese, through surgery, were losing their cultural identity and becoming carbon copies of their European and North American counterparts. Lebanese women should embrace their looks, Jaoude said. “Variety is healthy within a society.” 

Cosmetic surgery and the cosmetic industry are lucrative trades – according to the International Herald Tribune, in 2007 alone, the two were estimated to be worth around $14 billion in sales globally. More and more women, though also men, are opting for surgery, swelling the industry’s coffer’s by an additional $1 billion each year. 

In a questionnaire conducted by ANADiva of 65 Lebanese women between the age of 21 and 38, 46 said they would go under the knife in order to “look sexy.” With billboards, television adverts and pop stars offering a narrow, airbrushed image of beauty, “women are striving to look like an ideal that doesn’t exist, an ideal that has been digitally created,” Bou Jaoude said. She cited statistics showing that the average individual comes across 600-625 images of women that have been digitally enhanced. Bombarded with images of perfection from a young age, Bou Jaoude said it wasn’t surprising so many Lebanese women contemplated plastic surgery. 

As the ANAdiva campaign states, “The average person currently faces the pressure of upholding certain “body commandments”: women are expected to be thin, tall, toned and glamorous. In particular, Lebanese women are feeling compelled to meet such “commandments” at any cost, creating ‘look alike’ females.” 

Out of the seven women questioned by The Daily Star, only one said they would describe themselves as “beautiful,” and three said they had already had or were seriously considering plastic surgery. Five of the women said they knew people who were on diets or had eating disorders. 

Yasmine, who underwent cosmetic surgery earlier this year, said social pressure to look good was a contributing factor in her decision. “You see all these pictures of gorgeous women and even if you know you’ll never look like that, you often end up trying to live up to those images,” she said, adding she spent around $150 each month on beauty products, facials and hairdressing. “You have to match the standard if you want to attract a man.” 
“People are getting a certain image of how women should look,” Bou Jaoude said. “It’s about time someone does something about” countering it. The competition’s deadline is August 25, 2009. To enter, vist: http://www.anadiva.com

Where Women are the Hunters

14 Dec

by Hamida Ghafour, The National

BEIRUT // At the Music Hall bar and nightclub there is no sign of anything as gauche as chipped nail varnish or a frizzy perm. A band of impossibly slender and beautiful girls in tight dresses saunter up and down the bar, tossing long slinky manes or casting a smoky eye at the men wearing expressions of studied indifference.

It is 2am and the middle of the week, but young Beirut shows no sign of slowing down. The holiday season has just started and thousands of Lebanese men who work abroad in the Gulf states or Europe are home visiting families for Eid al Adha and Christmas.

In a country where single women outnumber men five to one, their arrival offers a unique opportunity for husband hunting.

Maya, who did not want her last name published, came early to the bar with her sister and friends to grab a table in a prime spot for people watching.

“I am looking for someone very well-educated, good looking,” she said, slipping off her coat to reveal a short leopard print dress. “I am 21 and still have time, so it is not so important to find someone right now. But he has to accept me as I am. That means coming to these bars, spending money, buying clothes. I don’t like to wear the same outfit twice.”

The scene is what the Lebanese call the “culture of the catch”, the highly competitive game between singletons to land a prize husband.

Over the next couple of weeks Beirut’s bars, cafes and nightclubs will be jam-packed with young Lebanese sizing each other up and trying to impress the opposite sex.

“This is the concern of my young students and I can’t get them to talk about anything else,” said Dr Samir Khalaf, a sociology professor at the American University of Beirut.

“What you see there in nightclubs is really a highly eroticised, permissive society with young people dancing on table tops showing off their bellies. There is a skewed demographic and men are a scarce commodity, so to speak, so they are a pursued commodity.”

There may be a hint of desperation in some of the bars, but the fears of many women are real because of Lebanon’s dismal demographics.

Between 1975 and 2001 approximately one million Lebanese fled the country because of the civil war and fragile security. The exodus was accelerated in 2006 following a brief war with Israel when another 200,000 – the majority of them young, highly educated men – left to pursue better lives abroad.

“I stress this is only an estimate because there are no reliable statistics, but every community knows its people are leaving,” said Guita Hourani, the director of the Lebanese Emigration Research Center at Notre Dame University-Louaize.

“The Lebanese who finish a degree here, they know they cannot find a job and it’s because of the situation. They are going as far as China or Africa for work.”

Turning to her computer, she opens her e-mail inbox.

“I get e-mails all the time from recruiters, Qatar is a major one. Some are not ashamed to ask the government here to help them recruit. I got this one a minute ago. He wants a graphic designer, another one is looking for two or three consultants with master’s degrees in Saudi Arabia. There is another job in Paris.”

These well-paid professionals returning home are highly sought after by families looking to provide security for their daughters in a volatile country – and no effort is spared in trying to ensnare one.

Ms Hourani paints a bleak picture for the girls left behind.

“If you are 35, forget it. The options are to hook up with a younger man in his 20s, or you migrate or you marry a man over the age of 65 who is divorced or a widower.”

At the Fadia el Mendelek salon, a favourite of Beirut’s beau monde, the telephone rings constantly as women book haircuts, colouring sessions or nail appointments.

“A lot of girls complain about lack of men, ‘all the good guys are gone’, I hear that a lot,” said the owner, Fadia el Mendelek, during a break. “Now they are back, it is holidays and the women fix themselves more for sure.”

She adds that business is double what it usually is.

“They [the men] should provide what our parents provided and more,” said Sarah Hajjar, 20, a doe-eyed beauty waiting for her nails to dry as her two sisters preen in front of the mirror. “If he can treat you like a princess, make you feel special, that’s good.”

Many of her friends spent up to four hours getting ready.

“Some do their hair every night before they go out, but not me. Yesterday I went out without my hair done. When they get ready to go out, some of my friends pick an outfit the week before. One girlfriend chose her New Year’s outfit three months ago.”

The pressure goes beyond wearing the right outfit or choosing a trendy hair style.

Dr Mohamed Kodeih, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the American University Hospital, says in the last two months 70 clients have asked for liposuction and nose jobs, while another 50 have booked in Botox sessions to iron out facial wrinkles.

“Lebanese men have got used to plastic surgery. Today the good girl who stays at home, is baby-faced and innocent, she won’t find a husband.”

Sometimes parents encourage their daughters and nearly all get their parents to pay for the treatment.

“They are looking for a husband, their daughter is getting older and older and the mother encourages her” [to have an operation], he said. “You see the mother and she has had three or four surgeries herself. Girls, on the other hand, want to marry someone rich and someone who can afford to give them a good life. The best salary is US$1,000 (Dh3,673) a month if he graduates from university. He can’t get a car and a house on this so he has to go travel [abroad for work].”

A fashion stylist, 30, who did not want to be named, said Lebanese girls are raised to be competitive.

“These girls are educated, they have lived abroad, but this is their mentality. Their mothers teach them to be like this. I married a working man, he manages a hair salon. My parents wouldn’t accept him because he didn’t have a house, two cars, a piece of land. I tried to convince them for two years. It was basically on our wedding day they finally said, ‘OK we have to accept you because now you are our son.’”

At the Music Hall, Wassim, a Lebanese businessman who lives in Abu Dhabi, says he is careful to look for a girl who is not after his money.

“I know it’s competitive out there for the girls, but I’m not looking for a wife right now. I tell them that,” he said, as the Jordanian woman next to him appeared slightly crestfallen.

Even after marriage it is hard work to keep a husband happy.

“Competition exists between all women,” said Nadine, 23, who married a year ago. “You have to hang on to your man. Always be the woman he wants to see, stylish and respectable, perfect in all things.”