"Femininity and Feminism...and Culture Industry in
There is an urgent need to study a phenomenon described by Theodore’ Adorno as “Culture Industry” in Lebanon and the Arab world in the age of Rotana (a popular Arabic satellite channel) and Al-Nahar newspaper’s institutional monopoly in the age of the rising Gulf (does anyone notice, by the way, the tremendous control a single Saudi prince commands over musical and artistic taste?) Many in the Arab world, especially oil sheikhs, suffer from the complex of Lebanese excellence, which is a lie Lebanese chauvinists created and some Lebanese and Arabs believe. This is why we find Lebanese (male and female) media personalities in oil media, while anchors from
What I term “Cultural Mafia” is apparent in
Without discussion, Al-Nahar decided in the sixties that it was able and qualified to decide the essence and definitions of the civilized and the sophisticated in art, culture and politics, contrary to other media outlets in
Al-Nahar newspaper promotes and demotes whomever it wishes according to its own random, arbitrary, personal and political standards. For instance Joumana Haddad, in her interview cited below, talks about “objective” standards in deciding poets and writers to decide to who “deserves” to be written about in the cultural section of Al-Nahar newspaper. Unfortunately, Al-Nahar newspaper’s standards spread in several publications in
Joumana Haddad and Challenging Sexism
Studying literature through a gender prism is not rejected in the post-modern school of literature, but it tends to formulize and restrict female literary scholarship. Viewing a woman, regardless of profession and rank, as a physical body is an expression of sexism, such as Abbas Baydoun’s focus on Benazir Bhutto’s beauty, posture, elegance and sexual appearance; he seemed happy that she wasn’t flabby before her death. In addition, the element of sexual repression influences marketing writings which are based on a popular desire for sexual excitement. Otherwise, what does it mean to find Nawal Al-Sa’dawi’s Woman and Sex book on the streets of several capitols surrounded by vulgar sexually provocative magazines? This factor adversely affects male writers as well: Nizar Qabbani’s Nahd’s Childhood was released and known several years before his post-1967 political writings. But Joumana Haddad didn’t want to explore sexist issues, probably because her host started the conversation with an expression of disgust with feminists because they’re “masculine” per his description, or “ugly” per her description.
Discussions with Joumana Haddad take the same format as conversations in cultural cafes in
The Lebanese is a genius by nature, due to the high content of parsley in local foods. What does it mean to be “fluent” in seven languages? Anyone who has studied four or five languages ore more knows that identical fluency in several languages is impossible. Doctoral programs at universities here and in
In response to sexist questions, Joumana Haddad spoke about her “beauty” very comfortably and confidently, exacerbated by insulting observations focusing on her outside appearance from male and female guests on the program – and who said sexism was behavior limited to men? One may consult Simone De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex or Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, which has not yet been translated to Arabic, without considering beauty a relative issue. She went a step beyond and protested the burden of her “beauty” because there were those who assume that beautiful women are superficial and “ugly” women, to quote her verbatim, are intelligent. In the name of what she deems beautiful, she invites you to evaluate her inner and outer beauty equally. It is not necessary to elaborate here; the judgment is yours to make. But she added discourse about femininity and feminism that does not reflect depth of reading in such a philosophically and intellectually rich area, or any awareness thereof outside demeaning journalism. She says she objects to feminism because it demands equality instead of seizing it. The host did not seem at all familiar with feminism to be able to discuss. He can only listen mesmerized, with his mouth open. This is the summary of theories and movements in
Haddad criticized generalizations, but spoke about feminism in generalizing terms. Which feminisms did Haddad talk about in terms of clichés which lack knowledge, let alone accuracy? Did she mean liberal feminism, existential feminism, post-modern feminism, Marxist feminism, psychological feminism, separatist feminism, socialist or grassroots? Feminism’s theoretical production is vast and abundant, and the only part that Haddad extracted was to caution us from “ugly” women. Save us, Joumana, and set the discourse and dialogue straight. What is this feminism that you caricaturized? How are intellectual and philosophical currents reduced to simplistic notions? Also, feminist movements (such as liberal feminism in the United States, grassroots in Australia, existentialist in France, socialist in Iraq or in Yemen when it was prosperous) never demanded equality, but they seized it and forced changes in the law. Law professor and feminist scholar Catherine Mackinnon did not plead to be rescued. Rather, she brought about changes in the law in the seventies to outlaw all forms of sexual harassment.
Haddad added that she preferred femininity over feminism. Feminism is a stigma in
Of course, it is unfair to focus exclusively on Joumana Haddad, but she spoke against the consensus and logic of 99.99 percent. Isn’t the culture of Al-Nahar newspaper just an expression of 99.99 of culture and predominant consensus? In the sixties Al-Nahar used to timidly express limited liberal criticisms of state and society, but today it is a militant Hariri beacon. Discourse about rebellion on the pages of Al-Nahar newspaper is akin to talking about revolution from within a shopping mall in Dubai or talking about beauty among frogs or defending an innovative form of “leftism” (by Elias Zahra) in Al-Mustaqbal newspaper. If Haddad considers her “discussion” of God rebellion, where does she stand on Mihiar Al-Dimashqi’s songs about Adonis, or Amal Danqal’s writings about Sparticus’s Last Words (Danqal is neglected in