It’s a boy – or Beirut’s youngest feminist


So my brother and his wife had a baby. A baby boy. And everybody is so happy that he got a boy. This boy, as they say, is going to be the pride of the family.

Of course, had they had a girl, there wouldn’t be such a fuss. Now, the family would still be pleased he had a baby – but a baby boy is different. He will carry the name of the family, unlike her. He might turn out to be a great man and achieve great things, whereas she will end up a wife or a mother. I’m not saying that they won’t believe in her or that they will prevent her from dreaming, it is just that they will not expect her to become someone important. They would not mind if she does, in fact, they’d be proud. However, it will come as an exception, something unexpected. The boy, on the other hand, is undoubtedly expected to pull off a great career.

Moreover, when I say a great career, I don’t mean an impressive artist, a famous nutritionist, a talented nurse. These are not the sort of careers that his parents will be pleased to discuss with their friends and family. Who wants to brag about one’s ambitious son who wants to become a fashion designer? Now, an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer or a businessman – these qualify as bragging material. “Ibni mhandess 5arij el jem3a el 2amerkieh,” they’ll proudly say.

But the daughter, now she can aim to become a nutritionist, a nurse or a designer – since women are apparently more emotional and thus more artistic. And besides – everyone will think but not say out-loud – she won’t really use her degree, since she’ll end up being a fulfilled housewife. I wonder why it is that here, most of the well-known chefs are men, most of the hairdressers are men, and most of the famous designers are also men – but still the food and fashion fields are always associated with women. But I digress.

When a baby boy is brought in this world, he is instantaneously directed towards what he SHOULD like. His toys, his clothes and the books they read to him construct his gender and what is expected from him.

For example, one of the gifts my brother received for his new son is a bracelet with the word “BOY” tagged on it. This is in case you can’t directly tell the gender of the baby. It informs you it’s a boy, so you know how to deal with him, what to expect or not to expect from him. This bracelet will be of great help to you in case the baby is not wearing blue or any other “masculine” indication. Why don’t they also create a bracelet indicating his marital status, predicted height and weight, or his ID number??!!

I mean a baby is born, he has a beautiful name, he’s incredibly cute and cuddly, but somehow they managed to get him a bracelet with only the word “Boy” on it.  Society doesn’t give us a break. From the moment the doctor says: “It’s a boy” (or worse “It’s a girl”) you can forget about having a baby free from gender roles and societal expectations. No matter how much you protect him, the society in which we (freely?) live, whereby we are all constantly allocated into organized boxes, will not leave your baby alone.

But don’t give up hope: Start with yourself and your entourage and things will, hopefully, get better. I’m thinking of buying my nephew a bracelet with “Beirut’s youngest feminist” written on it. Mind you, I’m not sure his parents will let him wear it.


Sawt al' Niswa




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