The Closer You Look

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Into a city tainted with a collective form of Dissociative Identity Disorder (if such a diagnosis can ever exist), a society embodying the epitome of double standards, encouraging a young girl to adopt a boy’s stereotypical gender role, into Beirut, I was born. In an environment where positive, active, progressive and liberal values are often associated with the masculine, while passivity, docility, and acquiescence are attributed to the feminine, it becomes socially acceptable for a teenage girl to embrace masculine values in an attempt to transcend gender and climb up the social ladder. There comes a time in a woman’s life, however, when such an endeavor becomes frowned upon and even condemned. There comes a time when conformity to the patriarchal heteronormative culture becomes an expectation – a responsibility. There comes a time when a woman is expected to compromise her comfort, image, and intellect, in short, her freedom, in order to sustain the patriarchal status quo. When I was younger, it was okay for me to play with action figures like Batman and Action Man; it was okay for me to play soccer with the boys at school. But now, “ma3leish iza kenti shway benet! 1 * smirk*”… “Ma tsher3e ktir… baddik tkouni diplomesiyye; inti benet! 2”… “Ma te23adi hek; 3aib! 3

As soon as the idea of marriage becomes salient, gender roles get primed and “femininity” is highlighted. So what is femininity? If it’s an element of personal identity then why is it defined by society and projected on the female? Personally, I have come to terms with my sex, but I still haven’t come to terms with gender. Society has it already figured out for me, but I feel it’s too rigid. MY gender is much more fluid; much more volatile; it can even be momentary! MY gender is flexible, moody, ephemeral and eclectic! I am a woman, and I am genderqueer!

Beirut may indeed be relatively more tolerant than other places in Lebanon, but the families there are not as accommodating as the city in which they were raised and currently reside.  The apparent open-mindedness is only a façade, part of the mask city dwellers are inclined to wear to create that cosmopolitan allure of diversity and tolerance Beirut tends to carry. But at a more nuclear level, traditional values are still upheld in conservative families such as mine, and the expectations to conform are still as rigid. The double standard has become part of the integrated system of values: it’s okay for “others” to be different, but this cannot happen to “us”… “ne7na mish heik4


1- It won’t hurt you to be more of a girl!

2- Don’t argue a lot… you need to be diplomatic, you’re a girl!

3- Don’t sit like that, it’s shameful!

4- We are not “like that”

- Contributed by Emcee

Emcee has always been on a journey of self-exploration, self-discovery, and wonder. Continuously keen on seeing the same landscapes with new eyes, she has repeatedly lost herself in arguments and counterarguments before finally finding contentment in relativity. Emcee has always been a not-so-little miss goodie-two-shoes, but has finally gone astray, joined Meem, and made a pact with Bekhsoos. The floodgates are now open…

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