The feminist identity and sexual taboos

I was fortunate, back in 2009, to meet two amazing Palestinian women who helped me shape so much of my feminist believes. We had many debates that opened my eyes to issues that I never discussed with other feminists before them, like how the streets are not constructed to accommodate women's needs in terms of lighting for example, and we talked as well about very personal issues such us hair removal (here is a post that I liked about this issue), 'grooming', and beauty biases at work and in social life (here is a great book that explores part of this). We also talked about sex.

I'll only talk here about heterosexual practices because this is what I, and my friends, were discussing. Setting aside the too-silly-to-respond-to comment of men haters feminists, none of us hated men, we talked about whether there were certain sexual acts can be labeled as degrading to women, or patriarchal, or humiliating. Can we say that a certain sexual act is degrading to all women? And what does that mean for women who (or want to) practice this act? Does it make them victims to patriarchal value? Are they oppressed or can't realized that they are affected by the patriarchal society and the way it is shaping our understanding of sexuality and how we practice it?

Let's move a step behind to address something that is a bit related. There is a feminist debate about pornography, whether it should be banned or not (you can read something on that debate here), and as a result some feminists don't watch porn because all the arguments that says it's an industry based on objectifying women and it's degrading, etc. Others see porn as a source to learn and exercise their sexuality. A position in the middle that a feminist friend told me about once is that she watches Hentai porn, or the newly created category of Female Friendly porn, and others just read erotic stories because it does not include human being in action.

How can we disconnect our views on sexuality from what patriarchy teaches us on daily basis about what is sexy, what is arousing, etc.? How can we believe in the agency of a woman who enjoys practicing BDSM for example? The question becomes even more difficult if a woman lives in a society that constantly practices sexual violence in the daily sexual harassment or sexual assault that women face? How can one speaks of groping, fingering, dirty talking in a consensual context when it is constantly being forced on women in the streets, leaving only one connection: certain sexual acts and behaviors belong to harassers and rapists, they come only by force.

I don't believe that certain acts are universally degrading to all women. Sometimes it feels degrading with someone, while it feels empowering with someone else, and I don't think that being a feminist confine my sexuality in a certain box - otherwise I am a bad feminist. On the contrary, for me, women who explore their sexuality in different forms defy societal norms about what is degrading for women and what is not. For me, they claim back in action what is being taken away from us - to decide and experience what and how they can enjoy their bodies and not fear a judgement based on how sexuality is being mainstreamed.

A young spirit turning old and bitter

Young movements. That's what they call us, young activists starting from the 20s till maybe mid or late 30s, when we organize around a certain ideology. We remain 'young' till we we turn 'old' and bitter. A couple of years back, when the revolution transformed our lives, each in a unique way, there were several groups organizing, including men and women who believed that feminism is their common ground. I will not speak in the name of Egyptian feminists, neither will I claim to know all the feminists in this country. I will speak of an experience, that was promising and inspiring to many, that turned bitter, also to many.

For some reason, not only government officials or politicians forget what they say when they say and do the total opposite years along the line. We too forget. We complain about NGO-ization, donor oriented funding, about those figures and organizations dominating the space and excluding younger ones, endorsing other people's initiatives only to get it under their umbrella. We start to forget when we get older, and become bitter. We become bitter when the little years we invested in becoming what we are turns out not enough. We become bitter when we no longer become the only 'new' voice, no longer the sole 'alternative', and no longer the sole 'progressive'.

Then a young movement confine itself in an NGO, use donor's language to get funds, try to suppress small and 'young' initiative, constantly trying to dominate the discourse around the issue, and discrediting others who claim to have a different or opposing opinion. We become old when we think we are the sole bearers of the truth, and of what feminism means.

We become old and bitter when we think we can count on good beginnings and 'knowing people'. And this is when we start to go against all the values, and on the top of it feminist values, that we used to speak of. Sisterhood, solidarity, agency, standing on my sister's shoulders. Sisterhood starts to kill when feminists start to trash each other, and sisterhood starts to destroy when they do not believe in the agency of your choices - as long as it does not correspond to theirs. We forget and we claim to be inclusive, progressive and encouraging. We forget and we turn old, bitter and harmful to our own sisters. Then we betray feminism.



يمكن اتكلمت في الموضوع ده مع ناس قريبين مني، لكن عمري ما كتبته. اللي مشجعني دلوقتي إني أطلع كل الأحاسيس المتبعترة دي في حتة واحدة هو إني اكتشفت إني بالرغم من إحساس التوهان اللي بيجيلي بعد كل مرة أفقد حد كان جزء أساسي في حياتي، لكن ده مش بيمنعني من إني أقرب من آخرين. بالرغم من إني ببقى لسه فاكرة الوجع والتوهان واللخبطة، فاكرة إن المرتين اللي حصل فيهم ده صحيت من النوم وماكنتش فاكرة أنا كنت مين قبل كدة ولا كنت عايزة أعمل إيه لوحدي.

أول مرة أحس إن الأرض اتشالت من تحتي وبقيت في الهوا مستنية أقع في أي لحظة كانت وقت الطلاق، وده بالرغم من توقعه لفترة مش قصيرة قبل ما حصل. اليوم اللي علاقتي انتهت بجوزي فجأة حسيت إني واقفة في الفراغ وماقدرتش افتكر...هو أنا كنت عايزة أعمل إيه قبل ما أعرفه؟ قبل ما أخطط إن حياتي مش حعيشها لوحدي، قبل ما أحس إن ليا عيلتي لوحدي. ماقدرتش افتكر. فيه أصحاب ليا سألوني "هو انتي إزاي عديتي بتجربة زي دي وانتي بتعملي الماجيستير بره لوحدك؟" الحقيقة مش عارفة. يمكن إني كنت لوحدي وبادرس ولازم أخلص وارجع هو ده اللي إداني وقت استعيد توازني. يمكن علشان دي الحاجة الوحيدة اللي كانت مؤكدة ساعتها - ومنحة استحقتها - خلالي ذرة ثقة في نفسي. إحساس الفقد ما طالش بس أنا وجوزي، كان كمان انفصال عيلتين - أو زي ما قالت أختي وقت ما خلصنا ورق الطلاق "أكنك بتقطعي في لحمك". على مدار أكتر من سنتين كنت بابني حياتي مع شخص، وبالرغم من إدراكي إن الانفصال هو دايما شئ ممكن يحصل، إلا إني عمري ما فكرت وقتها لما نسيب بعض إيه اللي حيحصل. أنا لسه شايفة إن القرار ده كان قرار صح، بس لسه فاكرة وجعه. وجع الفقد خلاني أخد على الأقل ٣ سنين على بال ما قدرت أسمح لنفسي إني أفكر أبني حياة مع حد تاني.

العلاقة التانية جه قبلها حاجات مدتها قصيرة - لا تتجاوز ٦ شهور - كانت بتنتهي بإني باخاف أقرب اكتر من كدة، أو لما الشخص التاني يعرض حاجة فيها تغيير مصيري أهرب. "أنا بافكر أجي مصر أدور على شغل ونجرب نبقى مع بعض بجد"، قلتله انت اتجننت؟ لأ طبعا. حد تاني "تعالي عيشي هنا، مرتبي يكفينا إحنا الاتنين، عقبال ما ألاقي شغل، مش عايز نبعد عن بعض"، قلتله إني ماقدرش اعتمد على حد ماديا وإني لازم أرجع علشان الثورة. وبعدين قابلت الشخص اللي حسيت من بعده بنفس إحساس الفقد مرة تانية...الشخص الوحيد اللي قدر يحتوي تقلباتي المزاجية بهدوء ويتعامل معاها أوقات بضحك، وأوقات بنظرات عتاب، وأوقات بتجاهلي تماما لغاية ما أفهم إني ببالغ. أعتقد ماكنش ينفع أبقى مع أي حد تاني أول سنتين في الثورة، كنا في ظهر بعض ودايما كان عندي إحساس بالأمان طالما هو موجود. فضلت فترة باتعامل إنها علاقة حتنتهي زي غيرها، لكن إصراره واحتوائه لقلقي من تكرار تجربة زي الطلاق كان سبب إني أصدق فينا. طبعا مش غلطته إننا ما قدرناش نكمل، وساعتها، بالرغم من إني ماكنتش لوحدي، اتخضيت أكتر وغضبت أكتر...يمكن علشان حسيت إن عمري ما حلاقي حد اتسند عليه زيه، أو يمكن فكرة إن الشخص اللي تقريبا بنعمل كل حاجة مع بعض تاني يوم مش حقدر أشوفه واحكيله عن يومي، نروح السينما ونهزر، ناكل، أو مجرد إني اتنرفز فهو يضحك ويقولي هو الميعاد قرب؟ مش تقولي؟

إحساس الخوف من الفقد ده بدأ يمتد لكل حد وقف جنبي، خايفة حد فيهم يسافر أو يتعب أو الظروف تبعدنا. أوقات كتير ببقى عارفة إن فيه ناس علاقتي معاهم مش حتستمر، وببقي معاهم وفي دماغي بحاول أسجل كل حاجة، علشان لما يمشوا أقعد افتكر إزاي كان فيه حاجة إنسانية جدا ما بيننا، بالرغم من إن ده بيزعلني، إني أعرف ناس روحها حلوة وتمشي، بس ما بقدرش أمنع نفسي من إني أقرب من الناس. العلاقات السطحية - سواء الصداقة أو العلاقات العاطفية - بتصيبني بالملل. لما ما بشوفش ضعف معين ليه علاقة بقوة مشاعر الشخص تجاه حد (صديق أو حبيب) باحس إني باضيع وقت.

طبعا كل مرة باقول أنا مش حقرب من حد كدة تاني! مش حبني حياتي على حياة حد، مش حتعلق بحد، مش حقبل أعذار حد...ومش بيحصل. أعتقد اللي بيخوفني أكتر، مش وجع الفقد اللي ممكن يحصل تاني، لكن فقدان الأمل من القرب اللي ممكن يكمل، وقفل نفسي وقلبي عن حد ممكن وجوده يخفف الوجع اللي قبله.


The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming
from the book The Invitation


Of love and all this madness

Love makes no sense at all. Nothing of it brings your mind at ease; not the uncontrollable passion, not the anger and hurt, not the attachment or the longing...nothing is rational or sustainable, at least not as you may predict.

The person you may sleep holding him calmly, in your childish feeling of safety, can simply go. The irrational chemistry felt in a moment would turn into a destructive energy ruining what one day felt like heaven. And that dream you had, of discovering life while discovering how limitless your heart can feel when you are both alone, can be taken away by carelessness.

Everything I knew, or thought I knew, about love turned out to be only a discovery of myself and how strong - yet fragile - my heart is. I came to hate hope, or the cruelty that comes with it. With the unlimited range of love stories and relationships, sometimes I wonder if I will ever find my own peace within any of them. I wonder if there will be a day when I don't feel that being sensitive and emotional will always break my heart to pieces. Nevertheless, I find myself letting go, again.

"I was still hesitant to let myself let go, because I still believed in the fragility of happiness." - Ishmael Beah (A long way gone: memoirs of a boy soldier)


Note to self: here is to another year

This note was inspired by a swim in the ocean, at night, with an amazing soul:

1. Magic happens. Many times.
2. My body is a mirror to my soul. My heart aches, my body aches.
3. Mother Earth heals me. More importantly, seas and oceans.
4. I get what I deserve, the joy as well as the pain.
5. No need to hold grudges, Karam exists.
6. Embrace endings. Grief but never forget the joy that happened before it ended.
7. People's path crosses with yours for a reason.
8. Family is a number one priority.
9. Don't waste your time with people you don't care about.
10. Don't waste your time doing something you don't feel.
11. The closeness that takes away anxiety. Be with those who give you that.
12. Be nice to yourself, don't be so harsh.
13. درب السعادة


إزاي تعرفي إنك نسوية "أبوية"؟

لما الدنيا تكون بتدور حواليكي انتي بس 

أي حاجة غيرك تبقى عنصرية، طبقية، تميزية، سطحية، ضد المثليين أو أي طعن آخر في نزاهة الشخص

طاقة تدمير عظيمة لأي مختلف أو مختلفة عنك

بتستخدمي كل أساليب وأدوات النظام الأبوي وبتتحامي في المبادىء النسوية اللي بتتكلمي عنها وإنك ست

رأيك لازم يمشي على كل اللي تحتك، بالرغم من كلامك حوالين عدم الهرمية

بتقولي تقبلوا الاختلاف وانتي بتصنفي الناس - وبسطحية - بنفس الطريقة السائدة في المجتمع

البني آدمين بالنسبة لك تابعين لمدرسة حد تاني، أو مع معسكر ما، مالهومش إرادة منفردة لاختيار طريقة حياتهم (لأن انتي الوحيدة اللي اكتشفتي السر ده)

على طول بتتكلمي عن مآسي الحياة اللي عيشتيها

* التدوينة قابلة للزيادة مع الوقت