Feminism: What does plastic have to do with it?

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Inshape6A few weeks ago, billboards advertising a fair dubbed In-Shape, an event covering health, beauty and fitness products and services, sprang up in Beirut.

Intrigued by the concept, I decided to check it out.

But the moment I stepped into the exhibition center, a sudden sense of unease gripped me.

As I quickly discovered, the ad was selling the illusion of well-being, when in fact plastic was the piece de resistance.

As a woman, I felt trapped. As a feminist, I was angry, roaming the aisles in shock and disbelief. Just like in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, “Seriously?” was all I could ask myself.

Everywhere I looked, brands of beauty products and services shined, with fixed-up, touched-up, and sometimes freakishly made-up hostesses and saleswomen reeling visitors in at every turn.

There were beauty and hairdressing salons, one of which was labeling itself as the model of “menhood”, using a half-naked, buffed up, six-pack-boasting man carrying a rifle and a badly bandaged injury on his arm! There were institutes and centers, beauty and slimming clinics, diet centers, cosmetics, anti-aging and entire body care booths. The handful of stands related to fitness and health were a disappointment.

It seemed to me that the organizers were one stand away from offering plastic surgery and natural was the notion that was checked in at the door.

There was only one image, one look on display there: Slim and Fixed Up. It was the same one I saw on TV and in all kinds of advertisements every passing minute of every day.

It suffocated me. I felt like I was having a bad dream, which I hoped would end when I left the premises.

But I was wrong. Just last week, an article ran in the daily Al-Akhbar where the writer refused to be called a feminist and criticized feminism, even though she admitted knowing nothing about it. She said that her stomach turned when she debated the topic with another woman who claimed to be a feminist and thought that it was her right to do as many plastic surgeries as she liked!


Yes, sadly enough. That’s what and who we’re up against.

Well, I am proud to say I’m a feminist. My feminism does involve a woman reclaiming ownership of her body, but plastic surgery and confining herself to set norms of beauty and body image are not going to achieve that. The feminism I believe in is about social justice. It’s about breaking the stereotypes that we’re constantly bombarded with. My feminism fights for a world free from sexism and all other forms of exploitations and discriminations that collaborate with it: classism, heterosexism, racism, capitalism, consumerism, etc.

And it’s a daily fight.

Sometime in the first decade of the 21st century, Joelle found queer and feminist activism, which only added to her always being lost – in thought, that is. Joelle likes to wander (or is it ponder?) the world, read books, listen to her – yes, her – music, and mull over her existence, the human condition, and the thoughts zooming through her mind when she’s running or biking in the city and beyond. Queer existentialism anyone?

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