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Change?

Tomorrow, Lebanon votes. Big deal. There is nothing about this year’s elections that excites me – not even remotely. I don’t care if the handful of women who are running win. I am sure we will have less women in parliament than we had yesterday. I keep reading about this elections being the most expensive in the world per capita. What a waste of money. What a waste of paper. What a waste of our past 3 months. What a waste of discourse. I wonder what they are thinking, the millions of people who are excited about voting tomorrow.

And so I tried to think: what is it exactly, this change that we seek? How does it translate into achievements, into practicality, into words? What would make me happy? Is it a new law that passes? Those poor lobbyists for the nationality campaign. It’s been over 6 years of them screaming and shouting, and once again they ride the coaster of empty promises. The domestic violence bill? We got excited about it for exactly 2 hours when we heard it was listed on the agenda of the Ministers’ meeting. And then it got bumped, just like that. Countless days of hard work gets thrown into the recycle bin by a mere few words from some guy.

I can’t remember, tonight, what change looks like. We are seeking no change tonight. The most hopeful of us can only wish that nobody dies of violence tomorrow.

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Because, in a nut-shell, we’re in the trickiest line of work there is, and what we need by our sides are friends – not colleagues.

I never liked the term “professional” – even less so when I moved to social justice work. What does it mean when an activist is “professional”? Does it mean she answers her emails on time? Standardizes her communication? Sends “official” responses to people? Is diplomatic with those who tick her off? Conforms to ways of social engagement?

What does it mean when we come, as activists from different organizations to work together? And why in the world have we failed so miserably to do so in Lebanon? I hate the word “network” almost as must as I hate the word “NGO.” They are both loaded with nasty power dynamics. Sometimes I catch myself thinking: this organization will have to respond to our request because of so-and-so a factor. Leverage, waste, favors, funding, all those crappy things we don’t want to deal with as feminists. But the past two weeks I learned something very important. What tips the scale is not how many organizations you know or work with. It’s the quality of activist friends you have.

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Within hours of my posting a blog on Top 12 Reasons Why the Billboard Campaign, “Sois Belle et Vote,” Is Offensive to Women, I had already received more comments, phone calls, and messages than any time I’d ever done anything feminist before. This is undoubtedly because it was the first time I made feminist remarks against Lebanon’s politics in a targeted manner besides “all Lebanese politics sucks.”

The post spread more widely than I initially thought it would and attracted both the supportive and the angry. If you browse through the comments on the post, you will see some very pointless, angry, ad hominem arguments, which I really don’t know how to (or if I should) respond to. It got me thinking.

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