A repeated—and ironic—accusation levelled at feminist movements in Arab countries in general and Lebanon in particular is that they are vectors of Westernization. In actual fact, the region’s feminist movements were born and developed in the context of nationalist and Communist movements and as part of the struggles for national liberation. Feminism was not a foreign ideology “imposed” by colonialism, but was instead indigenous to local societies. Women have long been struggling against colonial powers for equality and social justice, as well as against sectarian personal status laws and the entire patriarchal social structure than enforces them.
Feminism(s) in Lebanon have always been under harsh scrutiny, taking a backseat to “priorities” set by other movements. While women have actively taken part in nationalist and anti-capitalist struggles, from national independence to resisting Israeli occupation, and have played integral roles in class struggles as part of workers’ and students’ movements, their male comrades have tended to appropriate their struggles, alienating and pushing against their feminist agendas under the pretext that “women’s issues” are not revolutionary priorities.
Where to, Marie? seeks to showcase why and from where these feminist movements in Lebanon emerged and how they have grown over the course of the century. Certainly, a truly complete and comprehensive history of these movements is beyond the scope of one book. This is why the authors opted to tell the story of over a century of feminist activism through four fictional personal narratives. These are all based on extensive research carried out between 2010 and 2015, which included semi-guided interviews with feminist actors of different generations. Other sources, such as archival photographs, films, books, and articles regarding feminism(s) and social movements in Lebanon also informed the art and text, as did the experiences lived and witnessed by the authors of this book.
Completed during a tumultuous period that included massive protests, an unprecedented—and continuing—economic collapse, a blast that shattered nearly half of Beirut, and a pandemic, the creation of Where to, Marie? was not without its many interruptions and challenges. Nevertheless, the writers and artists involved hope that this colourful and sometimes dark work will spark curiosity and passion about a movement that is intrinsically tied to the wider and ongoing struggles in Lebanon, the region, and the world.
Where to, Marie?
Stories of Feminisms in Lebanon
Script: Bernadette Daou & Yazan Al-Saadi
English Translation: Lina Mounzer
Razan Wehbi (The Meeting & The Flood)
Rawand Issa (Marie’s Story)
Tracy Chahwan (Nidal’s Story)
Joan Baz (Haifa’s Story)
Sirene Moukheiber (Noora’s Story)
Book Design: Rawand Issa
Web Development: Layal Khatib
Where to, Marie? was published in cooperation with the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Beirut. The content of the publication is the sole responsibility of its creators and does not reflect the position of the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung.
View the book here