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Woman Weaving, Lebanon - History
Modern Lebanon is a very fashionable country, one of the most stylish in the whole Arab world. But the majority of Lebanese wear western-style clothing today, instead of their own traditional outfits. The national costumes of Lebanon are still worn in the rural areas where traditions are kept more thoroughly. But clothing traditions of this country are as diverse as the ethnic composition of Lebanon. During its history, the country was under the rule of Roman, Persian, Greek, Arab, Ottoman Empires, and also France recently. Each of them left a trace in the life and traditions of Lebanon. And it makes Lebanese traditional costume all the more interesting.
Women's traditional clothing in Lebanon
In Lebanon, the clothing traditions are rather different for the urban and rural areas. They always were. Especially it applies to women's costumes. Though, there is one feature of Lebanese traditional female clothes which is common for both &ndash city and village dwellers. They all try to cover most of the body, including the head. Urban women use long black outer cloaks when they leave their houses. They also cover their faces with a veil. Muslim women usually wear hijab, but Christian women in Lebanon also cover their bodies &ndash with cloaks, scarves, and veils. Lebanese females sometimes take their headscarves off when there are no men nearby. Though, the scarves can be quickly brought up over the head and put in place.
Modern national costume of Lebanese woman
Women in urban areas traditionally wore large belts, beautifully embellished and decorated with colorful glass, gems, agate, pearls etc. The belt buckle was big and ornate, too. The most beautiful and expensive belts were used with a wedding outfit. Also, Lebanese women like jewelry. They use a lot of it: gold and silver necklaces, rings, earrings, bracelets, head discs and so on. The number of jewelry traditionally was an indication of wealth, and love of the husband for his wife.
Women from the rural areas used simpler costumes with less decoration. The garments were embroidered just a little or embroidery could be replaced by colorful appliqué. There is one special feature of Lebanese traditional female dresses: they had (and sometimes still do) long sleeves that could be attached or detached if needed. Such sleeves were very richly embroidered and embellished. Many women wore these sleeves with their usual everyday dresses to make the attire festive and beautiful. Even today colorful embroidered sleeves are sold separately from dresses. Often females tied the sleeves at the back during dinner or another activity to keep them clean and allowed them to swing during dancing.
Lebanese bride in traditional outfit. The photo was made in 1880
Lebanese women use tie-dyeing of the fabric for their clothing. Handmade tie-dyed cloth has simple patterns of dots and circles. This technique is very old, but it is used by local women even today. Though, nowadays the process is much easier and faster.
The traditional costume of women of any class consists of a long dress (usually with long sleeves), a short jacket made from satin, silk or cotton, with minimal embroidery and appliqué, a cloak or scarf to cover the head and body, and sometimes baggy trousers.
Women's shoes were kabkabs. These are wooden shoes of a very unusual shape. They were used in Lebanon since the 14th century. Wealthy females wore ornate kabkab shoes, decorated with mother of pearl, intricate patters, and carving. The upper part of the shoes was made of leather, velvet or silk. You can read more about kabkabs and other interesting shoes here: Top-10 most offbeat traditional shoes around the world.
Tantour, traditional female headdress in Lebanon
One of the classic Lebanese headdresses is called "tantour". It is a very high cone with a long piece of cloth (usually, silk or silk brocade) attached to the top of it. The cloth reaches about midway down the back. Traditionally tantour was used by recently married women. The origin of this headgear is unknown. Though similar headdresses were used in Mongolia in the 13th century, and in some European countries in the Middle Ages.
Men's traditional clothing in Lebanon
Male national clothing of Lebanon usually consists of baggy trousers, a shirt, a vest, jacket or cloak, a belt, a headdress, and shoes. It often is multilayered. Dark colors are predominating though the colors of festive costumes are much brighter. The striped cloth is also used to make men's clothes.
Everyday clothing traditionally consists of black or blue baggy trousers, white shirt, a dark vest, a black or red wrap-around belt, shoes, and a headgear. Such costumes still can be seen in the rural areas. Male clothing in Lebanon is very comfy and created due to the local climate conditions, so Lebanese men are in no hurry to get rid of their traditional outfits.
Men in traditional clothing. Qadisha Valley, Lebanon. Photo from Pinterest.com
Festive male costumes in Lebanon are bright and have some decorations on them. Jackets and vests are embellished with embroidery, atlas ribbons, and metal decorations. The difference is also in the fabric, but not in the cut of a costume.
There are several traditional headdresses worn by men. The most popular today is keffiya, a headscarf used in many countries of the Arab world. But fez is also used, as well as the traditional short, cone-shaped, brown felt hat. The latter headgear is the oldest in Lebanon. Today it is mostly used by the oldest men while younger Lebanese wear keffiya instead.
History and Ethnic Relations
Emergence of the Nation. The first cities to emerge in Lebanon were built by a maritime people, the Phoenicians, who determined the cultural landscape
In the medieval period, Christian minorities often helped the Crusaders. This created a close relationship between Lebanese Christians, particularly the Maronites, and Europe, particularly France. These ties persisted and grew stronger, especially in the eighteenth century, and were a major factor in the creation of the modern Lebanon.
After World War II, Lebanon was placed under French mandate. Later, France gave Lebanon a parliamentary system and, for the first time in the Middle East, created a nation where Christians had a strong political presence: each government office was apportioned to a representative of the country's main sects, with the presidency reserved for the Maronite Christians. The privileging of Christians in governmental positions was one of the main reasons for the civil war, when the population percentage shifted in favor of the Muslims.
National Identity. Although the various communities in Lebanon share a similar ethnic background, the fact that they are of different religions and they define their cultural and often geographical boundaries through religious affiliation has always been a source of discord. On numerous occasions religious diversity has eclipsed the sense of belonging to a common state. When the civil war erupted in the mid-1970s, all formerly suppressed differences and incongruent loyalties emerged and came to dominate the political arena, fuel hatred, and provide an easy ground for outside powers to interfere in the country's affairs.
A tired Lebanon emerged in the early 1990s. Under the Ta'if agreement the civil war ended, the Christians lost some of their political power, and a new government of technocrats came into power with reconstruction highest on its agenda.
Today the new moderate government is seeking to secularize political offices and fight corruption.
Ethnic Relations. There is a feeling today that most Lebanese are tired of the war and are trying to put their differences behind them as they reconstruct their country, which is currently under Syrian hegemony.
Lebanese are present throughout the world. Since they have always been at the border between East and West, they often blend easily with the societies to which they migrate.
The Traditional Dress
There is something quiet poetic about the Lebanese landscape and how it is integrated in every aspect of our lives. Depending on the region, food, words, dialect, and dress changes. Different religions and areas all have slightly different undertones to their dress and way of life, yet somehow they all seem to mesh together in creating this cultural heritage that is very much what makes this country not only so diverse but so rich in culture.
I’ve been researching for a while on the beautiful heritage of Lebanese costume, and I happen to stumble just last night on this article by al mashriq that I will be posting here:
” Many articles of dress common among peasants and villagers of the Levant survive from ancient styles.
The most significant of these survivals is the sherwal, the very full trousers popularly called baggy pants. The sherwal is a prevalent and practical garment among villagers and mountain people. The richer the wearer the wider is his sherwal and the more fullness it contains to pleat in at the waist. A good sherwal of fine wool worsted may outlast its original owner. The sherwal of the Lebanese man is recognized by its fitted legs from the knees down.
The word sherwal is of Persian origin. Strictly speaking, it is an outer garment. When this style of trousers is worn as underclothing it is called the libas. Some believe the sherwal may have been brought to this country, then called Phoenicia, in the sixth century B.C. by the Persians. That the sherwal was known during the Roman period is indicated by the reliefs at Palmyra which show this garment in vogue then.
Next to the sherwal probably the most distinguishing articles of dress in the Levant are the headdresses. In many villages the headdresses have persisted while other parts of the traditional costume have given way to western styles. A headdress is the surest clue to the sect and religion of its wearer. It also gives an idea of the part of the country the person comes from or the community in which he lives.
The Christian mountaineer of North Lebanon, for instance, wears a high labbade, the conical cap of felted camel’s hair. Around his labbade he wraps a black kaffia and sometimes an agal.
The labbade is a very ancient headdress of ordinary country people. Scholars believe it may have been worn as long ago as Phoenician times. Small Phoenician statues dug up in Lebanon show this same style of conical cap. In modern Lebanon a villager might substitute a red tarboush for the labbade.
A Druze sheikh is recognized by the snowy white scarf he wraps around his tarboush while a Sunnite Moslem sheikh from southern Lebanon characteristically binds his tarboush with a gold and white patterned scarf. The pattern is worked in a stitch called gabani, a type of all over embroidery known since the 18th century.
Of all the masculine headdresses of the Levant, the most familiar to the western eye is the tarboush, elsewhere called a fez. The tarboush always has been of the same basic shape and always red, although its form was slightly modified in different periods. Arabic texts contain the word as early as the 16th century. Its origin has been traced to the parts of Asia Minor where the Ottomans came to power. Popularity of the tarboush in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan is attributed to the Ottoman invasion. After its introduction the tarboush gradually replaced the small local cap known as the taqiah.
Feminine headdress also distinguishes its wearer. The Druze woman is known by her snowy white veil, worn directly on top of her head, or held up by a low tarboush ornamented on the crown by a silver medallion. Moslem women of Lebanon, when veiled, usually wear a black veil of silk.
The most elaborate of all Lebanese headdresses was the tantour, a silver cone worn by married noblewomen. The tantour is obsolete now but one may get an excellent idea of how it was worn from the costumed models at the Beit-Eddine Museum. The tantour was noted by travelers in Lebanon from the end of the 18th century. Its history goes back much further, however. It is thought that it may be one and the same with the tartour described in the tales of a Thousand and One Nights. Also, the similarity of the tantour and the conical headdress of European women from the time of the Crusades through the 15th century has led to the hypothesis that the tantour may have been introduced in Lebanon by the Crusaders.
On the other hand, evidence from the Graeco- Roman reliefs at Kartaba, Lebanon, shows that a sort of cutoff cone headdress with veil was worn in Lebanon much earlier than the Crusader period. The tantour was most popular in the early 19th century. It was seldom seen after 1850. Its height and composition were in proportion to the wealth of its owner. The most splendid tantours were of gold and as high as 30 inches. They were encrusted with diamonds, pearls and other precious jewels. Some tantours were made of silver. To hold this unwieldy headdress in place, holes were pierced in the base of the tantour to attach ribbons for trying around the head. A silk scarf was wound around the base of the tantour and a white veil floated from its peak.
The tantour was the headdress of the married women of the mountains. Young girls wore them rarely, and then only if they were of noble birth. A husband customarily presented the tantour to his bride on their wedding day. Since it was an honored headdress, it is said that it was rarely removed, even for sleeping.
Veils are worn in Lebanon today but not the extent that they were worn a few years ago. Women are accustomed to covering their heads, but whether or not they draw the veil across their faces de pends upon their religion and their position in life. A simple type of small headscarf known as the mandeal is worn by village women. Many of these women have adopted the square of black lace common in European Mediterranean countries to shade the head. Some women of strict religious belief cover their heads and faces with a black veil. Druze women wear a white veil. A Druze may pull this veil across the face so that only the right eye is left showing. Little Bedouin girls wear small bright kerchiefs tied on top of the head and edged with fringe and blue beads for good luck.
One disappearing article of traditional dress in Lebanon is the kubran. A hundred years ago the kubran was a long sleeved bolero jacket while today it remains in the everyday costume only as a brief vest. The jacket is thought to be of Balkan origin. It was worn by the Mameluks in the early 19th century. Until 1850 it was worn mostly by townspeople. After that is was adopted also by mountaineers. The kubran always has been an ornamental garment and traditionally was made of velvet embroidered with gold or silver thread, or of brocade. The seams usually are outlined with braid. The kubrans seen today usually are in the form of a brocade vest richly braided down the front and fastened with a solid row of braid-covered buttons.
The kubran is a garment worn by both men and women. The kubran was worn more for the sake of appearance than just for warmth, while the abaya cloak is very utilitarian. The abaya is a rectangular overcoat worn by men, or it may be the outer garment of certain Moslem women. The abaya has been known in this part of the world at least as far back as the 16th century Mountain dwellers may wear a camel’s hair abaya. It gives protection against both heat and cold and it also sheds water. It can be pulled up over the head in extreme weather or hung loosely over the shoulders.
Another outer garment is the abba. The name covers several designs of coats, but in this part of the Middle East it is generally considered to mean a short sleeved, knee length coat and particularly the one worn by Druze men. A’aqel or wise man of the Druze community may wear a black and white striped abba called the khalwatiye after the Arabic word for meeting place. He may instead wear a red and white striped garment. This latter style at one time was decorated with line embroideries and that embellished abba was known as the shabablikiye or garment of youth. One of the many Druze villages where cloth is hand woven for abbas is Hasbaya.
One of the most typical and enduring styles of shoe to be worn by Levantine women is the kab-kab, a type of clog. It may be seen every where in Lebanon today although made in a simpler form than for merly when it was the fancy dress shoe of the wealthy. It was worn in Lebanon as early as the 16th century and was originally a stilted wooden sandal. Young brides wore the kab-kab six to eight inches high and elaborately inlaid with mother of pearl. The kab-kabs were purposely high to raise the girls to the height of their husbands. This stilted kab-kab was a shoe for indoors but today’s kab-kab is a sandal for both indoor and outdoor wears. It has become a simple clog, which may be gaily painted to suit the fancy.
Pull-on boots handmade of goat leather are worn by country men in Lebanon and Syria. The same designs may be seen in 19th century prints of the area. Many of these boots are dyed solid red or yellow. Black slippers, worn with the backs folded down under the heel and durable leather sandals are characteristic styles of local footwear. Western shoes are now very common.
Authentic original historical costumes are difficult to find. They are scarce for a number of reasons. Many have disappeared through the old upper-class custom of dispensing slightly worn clothing among servants as a form of payment. Garments often were discarded entirely by the rich when they showed any trace of soil. They may have been sold for the value of their jewels and ornaments. ” text from: http://almashriq.hiof.no/general/600/640/646/costumes_of_the_Levant/origin.html
The Beit-Eddine Museum contains a fine and well-arranged collection of historic costumes of this area.
Traditions followed by the Bedouins
Bedouins also take part in poetry recitation or Al-Taghrooda, which is composed and performed by men. Usually riding on camelbacks, Bedouin men chant the generally seven-lined verses of the poem, which they believe, keeps the rider entertained. While travelling, the first verse is recited by the lead singer and another group of Bedouin travellers reply by chanting the verses that follow it. Al-Taghrooda is also performed at special occasions like weddings with improvisations and also while spending time at campfires, where Bedouin qabilas gather for social bonding. Nowadays, women folk also engage in composing and singing poetry while working together in groups. With poetry recitation, the singers convey messages of love towards their kin and oftentimes it also serves as a way to highlight social issues. The UNESCO has listed Al-Taghrooda as a living human heritage, which will serve as a legacy for future generations to come.
Male members of the family having a meal together at the wedding of two Bedouins. (Zoltan Kluger / National Photo Collection)
Long before Bedouins opted for a more sedentary lifestyle that is evident today, the ancient nomads believed in ghazw or raiding. These tribesmen would often loot other passing caravans, tribes and settlements while on the move in order to extort compensation for their protection. For a brief period, some Bedouin men also served as bodyguards and worked as mercenaries to make extra income, while at other times, they transported goods and people across the desert as a means of collecting profits.
As the younger generations of Bedouins are opting out of the traditional way of living, different governments of the Middle Eastern countries are doing their bit to modernize the tribe meeting with little success. Though most of the tribals are now also engaging in falconry and horse-breeding, others are raising doves during their leisure time in the hot and arid desert lands. Swinging between urbanization and tradition, change certainly isn’t inevitable for these desert-dwellers.
STSTW Media strives to deliver accurate information through careful research. However, things can go wrong. If you find the above article inaccurate or biased, please let us know at [email protected]
The Bedouins and the Desert: Aspects of Nomadic Life in the Arab East | By Jibrail S. Jabbur (Author), Suhayl J. Jabbur (Editor), Lawrence I. Conrad (Translator)
Carpet weaving: A craft mastered by women in Lebanon but on its way to disappearing || Newspapers (Arabic)
An-Nahar newspaper published a report on the disappearing craft of carpet weaving in the Beqaa locality of Fakheh. Carpet weaving in that area was a craft mostly perfected by women for whom it constituted a source of income as well as a treasured heritage but which is now threatened by competition of cheaper products imported from China and Turkey.
The report notes that this skill dates back to some 300 years and was brought to the area by a young bride from Aidmoon village in Akkar who taught her peers in Fakheh the intricacies and complexities of this art. Carpet weaving quickly spread amongst women of all ages but has now dwindled considerably as production has become economically non-viable and the craft has not been passed on, as a result, to the younger generation. It is to be noted that a small hand-woven carpet of 4X3 m costs a prohibitive price of at least 2 thousand US Dollars.
The report also relays the stories of older women who mourn the loss of a skill that they have inherited from their mothers and the disappearance of a market that was well known beyond the region. Hajja Tamador, who is 85 years old, testifies of an era when the craft that she had learned from her mother and grandmother, was prosperous and appreciated and her sorrow to see the market taken over by lower qualities goods from abroad.
An- Nahar concludes its report by relaying the wishes of the women in seeing the set up a carpet weaving training centre in their village to bring back this skills and encourage tourism to this area so as to ensure that this craft survives.
Lighting motifs reflect mythology
Lightning was the most powerful symbol in the world of the Navajo.
Not only was lightning powerful in the real world, it also carried great strength in Navajo weavings. In Navajo mythology, lightning was used to make weaving tools but it could also help to define the power of an individual blanket or rug.
Small “zigzags” in the four corners of a weaving could lend energy to the overall design. There exists no more powerful symbol in the Eyedazzler or Germantown period of Navajo weaving than the lightning bolts that streak across the face of the weaving and grab the eyes of the beholder.
Navajo Chiefs 3rd Phase variant
with lightning motifs
c. 1925-30, 60″ x 51″
Navajo Teec Nos Pos
with lightning motifs
c. 1920, 69″ x 36″
Women Weavers: Ladies Behind the Loom
In the world of carpets, it’s the women weavers, those hard working ladies behind the loom, who should be appreciated for their unrelenting work and the extraordinary carpets they create. Although many of the names of these talented women weavers have been lost to history, their contributions to the art of Oriental rug weaving should not be overlooked.
When people think of the best rugs, they often recall famous Persian city carpets produced in workshops that were run by master rug weavers who were men. These ateliers have certainly produced some great works, but it’s hard to compare these well orchestrated compositions with the quirky village carpets and tribal rugs that were created largely by women.
Women Weavers selling their carpets in Morocco
These talented women took care of their children and tended to the household tasks needed to sustain their families. They did all of these things while taking time between chores to add knots and decorative ornaments to a carpet that would be used in the home or made to be sold at a village market.
In villages, an entire room might be dedicated to a carpet loom and the product might have been woven to be sold at market to earn extra money. For nomadic rug weavers, the process and day-to-day operations were even trickier. Although their rug weaving looms were smaller and more portable, it was still difficult to be ready to be packed up and transported at any time — but these women weavers quickly became experts.
Iranian Woman Weaving Persian Rugs
The role women play in taking care of the home and weaving carpets is similar across countries and continents. Whatever type of carpet or kilim they are creating, women always seem to add a bit of themselves to their traditional designs. In Morocco, women weave decorative flat weave rugs and luxurious vintage shag carpets. These artists tell stories by adding age old design symbols that mean little to outsiders but have personal significance to the makers and their tribes.
In Turkmen areas, the carpet weaver’s creativity shines through in the elaborate borders, which display a vast level or originality. Women also played a role in workshops, like Kashan’s Motashem atelier. It’s purported, according to Cecil Edwards, that the wife of Haj Mullah Hassan Mohtashem contributed the famous tulip and blossom borders familiar to Arak. Of course, in Scandinavia, women carpet weavers were even more prevalent and well regarded.
Women Weaving Rugs Together
While many of these women did not sign or initial their works, it’s important to remember the significant contributions women weavers have made to the world of vintage and antique rugs.
Weaving and Culture
Myth has it that Our Grandmother the Moon, the goddess Ixchel, taught the first woman how to weave at the beginning of time. Since then, Maya mothers have taught their daughters, from generation to generation uninterruptedly for three thousand years, how to wrap themselves around the loom and produce exquisite cloth.
In addition to its important religious and social aspects, historically weaving has been central to indigenous women’s economic contribution to their households. In a traditional Maya context, when a girl is born the midwife presents her with the different instruments of weaving one by one and she says,
Cultural and Social Continuity
For five centuries, Mayan women have transmitted through weaving esoteric designs that encoded the Mayan vision of the world. In this manner, the work of weavers was essential for the survival of important elements of ancient culture. Hidden between the warp and weft, these escaped the fate of indigenous books that were burnt by Spanish priests and authorities. (For more information on the continuity of weaving designs see Walter Morris, Living Maya, 1988)
There is no question that weavers also integrated elements from other cultures in their textiles. Through the centuries, Mayan people have been compelled to incorporate elements from other cultures. However, with the passage of time, these foreign elements become “mayanized,” i.e., reinterpreted within their own cultural context, and their ties to Mayan symbols and associations give life to new Mayan syntheses.
It is well know that weaving expresses the identity of the weaver and her commitment to being Mayan and to her own specific community. Women continue to weave their own and their family’s clothes. A woman shows her respect for her community by following its esthetic rules, selecting designs, colors and styles, in addition to following its more general cultural and social norms. Paula Nicho Comez, a painter from San Juan Comalapa, expresses dramatically the profound identity of a Mayan woman with her “huipil” (native blouse, specific to the village where the woman comes from). In one of her paintings, she shows a woman bearing the designs of her town’s huipil directly on her skin. The huipil is for us, she says, like a second skin (documentary Between Light and Shadow: Mayan Women in Transition).
Economic Functions of Weaving
The Aztecs, for whom we have good information, considered weaving as the women’s work par excellance. To fail in weaving was equivalent to be a failure as a woman. Gender identity wasn’t based on intrinsic physical qualities, such as genitals or secondary sexual characteristics. It was based on dress and the instruments of work. Thus, the Aztecs represented a goddess with a loincloth and cape (male dress) to express the masculine nature of her behavior. At death, Aztec women were buried with their weaving instruments. Why were spinning and weaving central in defining womanhood? The most important reason is found in the economic contribution of weaving. Weaving provided, for both Aztec women and contemporary Mayan women, their most important link to the larger economy. Tribute was paid in cloth and it was also a common market currency. The more cloth a weaver produced, the more her household prospered.
Currently Mayan women continue to weave, in addition to their own and their family’s clothes, to obtain a much needed income. Weaving keeps Mayan women connected to their ancestors, and within the sacred and cultural Mayan universe. Through fair trade, Mayan Hands supports them in their quest to bring their families out of extreme poverty, at the same time that they keep their cherished Mayan culture alive and develop their communities.
*Based on the essay “Mayan Women, Weaving and Ethnic Identity: a Historical Essay” by Brenda P. Rosenbaum, in Mayan Clothing and Weaving Through the Ages, pp 157-169. Guatemala: Museo Ixchel del Traje Indigena, 1999. The Symbolic Associations topic refers specifically to data collected from Mayan women in the Tzotzil town of San Juan Chamula, in Chiapas, Mexico.
A Constant Struggle: Women’s Rights In Lebanon
Lebanon is the most religiously diverse country in the Middle East and the two biggest religious groups are Christians and Muslims. Certain areas of Beirut are more Christian and others are more Muslim. Likewise, certain areas of Lebanon such as the Beqaa valley and Saida are more Muslim while cities like Batroun and Byblos are more Christian. As for the refugee camps, since most of their inhabitants are Muslims from Syria and Palestine, the dress code is more conservative and women wear the hijab.
During the four weeks that I lived in Beirut I would often walk down Armenia Street and I could almost forget I was in the Middle East. Those streets could have been located anywhere in San Francisco or in Austin or in Napoli. Surrounded by ancient buildings near collapse after being hit during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war and fancy modern glass buildings, I walked to bars at night and saw live music performances on the streets. I saw women dressed up in mini dresses, shorts, and tank tops crowding up the bars after work every day of the week. I went to Lebanon right after leaving the socially conservative West Bank where drinking is frowned upon and alcoholic beverages are hard to find, so this was all a bit of a cultural shock. But it was refreshing to see that way of life in the Middle East, nonetheless. More importantly, women seemed so free.
First impressions can be a bit deceiving, however. Although, Lebanese women seemed liberated, Lebanon is not a feminist paradise. There is a common presumption among Western women and among Middle Eastern women that Lebanese women enjoy equal rights. This very assumption contributes to the perpetuation of gender issues in Lebanon. Lebanese women grow up with the illusion that they are liberated and fail to recognize that there are serious gender inequality issues in that country. In fact, the situation in Lebanon is better for women only on some aspects and depending on where they live, on their social, and religious backgrounds: they can drive, go to school, work, drink and have more sexual freedom, especially if they live in or around Beirut because it is the more liberal part of the country.
The situation in Lebanon is very complex because women appear in the media, billboards and music videos wearing mini-skirts but it is not as a result of liberation but of sexual objectification and sexism. In fact, the objectification of the female body is present even in ads of foods such as fruits and vegetables.
My Lebanese friend who is active in Beirut-based feminist organizations such as FE-MALE, told me that whenever someone brings up gender inequality issues in Lebanon, people get defensive and argue that it is not as bad as it is in Iran or Saudi Arabia where women cannot even drive which makes it more challenging to improve the female condition in Lebanon, a country where women lack the basic right to transfer their nationality to their kids and husbands.
Just this week a member of the Lebanese Parliament, Mr. Elie Marouni, said that women are "sometimes to blame for rape," at a conference organized by the Lebanese Democratic Women's Gathering (LDWG) that discussed the extinction of the Lebanese Penal Code’s Article 522, that permits rapists to avoid prosecution if they marry their victims.
Lebanon is a challenging environment for feminists because even the women who want more equality do not label themselves as feminists because the word has a negative connotation. Many misinformed people believe that being a feminist means being anti-men and against the traditional family. Although many brave Lebanese women have worked hard to change that discourse in Lebanon, they still face a lot of discrimination and challenges.