“Masculinity-under-threat: the de- and re-politicization of women’s and sexual rights organizations in Lebanon in the wake of the War on Terror”

December 11, 2014

On the 11th of December, Lebanon Support organized a roundtable discussion surrounding a study on masculinity being threatened by political reaction to the demands of feminist and sexual rights organizations in Lebanon. This event was the 4th of a series of roundtable discussions designed to disseminate papers and research published on our online platform the CSKC (Civil Society Knowledge Centre) and to stimulate debate within civil society spheres in Lebanon.

The study was presented by its authors Rizk and Ghassan Makarem and their discussant Rodolph Gebrael. Anthony Rizk has been involved in sexuality and gender activism since 2009 and served on the Board of Directors of Helem in 2010-2011. He works as a research assistant in medical anthropology and social epidemiology at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the American University of Beirut.Ghassan Makarem is a civil society and political activist, who had been engaged in LGBT activism in Lebanon and within the region since 2001. He is a co-signatory of Helem's establishment and worked as the organization’s Executive Director from 2010 to 2011. Rodolph Gebrael, holds an MA in International Solidarity and Humanitarian Work, as well as a MA in International Law and International Relations. He has worked with several international organizations mainly in planning, monitoring and evaluation, and currently is the office manager for Diakonia, a Swedish NGO working within Lebanon. He is also a university instructor at La Sagesse faculty of political sciences, NGO management Unit and a voting member of the Biomedical Institutional Review Board (IRB). 

The roundtable discussed the concept of ‘masculinity-under-threat’ as a central crisis of the present nation-state, tackling a shift in masculinity which stems from the influence of global politics, especially in regards to the War on Terror, the Arab revolutions and the reaction of formal LGBT, queer, and feminist civil society organizations to these happenings. A comparison was made between different strategies and tactics of the feminist and LGBT groups towards this phenomenon and their proposed solution to this issue. The discussants questioned the researchers on why such a comparison was made, since those two groups often have contradictory attitudes towards masculinity.

The participants explained the current masculinity threat not as an absence, but a shift in politics, followed by its separation from social movement and happening. An additional relevant topic discussed was the case of the arrested transgender individuals in the neighborhood of Dekweneh which lead to the police raiding Agha Hammam in 2014. The attendees talked about the real causes behind this operation and its significance in relation to masculinity.

Questions about the self-identification of gays and their visibility, or lack thereof, in society and the political scene were also raised . Regarding this issue, the debate highlighted distinctions between the positions of lesbians and gays in terms of gathering and manifestation.

The discussion concluded noting the operational discrepancies between individual activists and professional organizations and NGOs in regards to the previously discussed topics, conferring whether such discrepancies have any influence on the status of masculinity in society and politics and emphasizing the impact of funding and sponsorship on all parties concerned.