“Feminisms in Lebanon: A dynamic positioning in relation to patriarchy and a renewal within the ‘Arab Spring’”

December 4, 2014

On the 4th of December, Lebanon Support organized a roundtable discussion surrounding research on the development of feminist movements within Lebanon. This event was the 3rd 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 discussion was held between Bernadette Daou, a feminist researcher at Lebanon Support, and Vincent Geisser, a researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, currently based at the French Institute for the Near East, Beirut (IFPO). Vincent also leads a research program on "Women and Power in Lebanon." Since 2005, he has been the chair of the Center for Information and Study on International Migration (CIEMI) and editor of the journal Migrations Société.

The attendees of the discussion met to discuss research lead by Mrs. Daou that explores the different waves of the feminist movement in Lebanon since the 1950s. She divided the history of feminist movement into 4 waves. The first wave starts with the formation of the nation state. The second wave is defined by the rise of the "new left" in the 1970s. The third wave includes the schisms of the post-civil-war left with the globalization of the feminist cause in the 1990s. Finally. the last wave is marked by the emergence of "new causes" related to bodily rights, which developed within the anti-imperialist and alter-globalization movements in the early 2000s and continues to develop in the context of the revolutions witnessed in the region. At the end of her study, the researcher poses a question whether we can consider the feminist movement in Lebanon a failure.

The lively discussion was induced by Bernadette’s introduction of the study. She presented her personal experience of being a feminist in Lebanese patriarchal society that she based her research on. According to her, the movement is influenced by various factors such as the political system, political happenings, and the societal approaches and socio-economical backgrounds of the concerned.

The participants discussed the role and platforms  of the state and various political parties within Lebanon, especially leftists, in regards to feminism, sexual harassment and sexism. Attendees with experience in the field of feminism also discussed the reality of the movement and contemporary organizations acting in different areas of feminist work, stressing the impact of the “4th wave” and the Arab Spring on feminism.

During the discussion, several important questions were raised about the environments the waves of feminism emerged in and also about the internal structure of society at the times of these waves. The reaction of society towards feminist groups was also discussed. Accordingly, Bernadette Daou spoke about various types of feminism that are based on one's political orientation and his or her reaction to the regime. The participants also outlined the phenomenon of Islamic feminism and the appearance of feminism throughout the Arab world and questioned the researcher on her understanding of terms like civil society, femininity and feminism.

The outcome of the research suggests the possibility of answering the question of whether the feminist movement has failed through studying the transformations within the feminist movement in order to understand the movements  capacity to fight the prevalent patriarchal system.