Thursday, January 28, 2010

Boys & Girls


I'm not what you would call a naive, innocent little girl.

I grew up in France, saw more in my neighborhood public high school than a Lebanese retired narc officer (OK, that may be an exaggeration, but you get my meaning) and I was the only girl in my sixth grade class that had yet to make out with a guy (what? I'm no prude but I'm a romantic-to-the-bone dreamer who spent her high school years fantasizing about her forever love; high school boys don't really fit the profile).

I am a firm believer in cohabitation; I think it's so very important to know the person you plan to spend the rest of your life with. And by "know" I mean really, truly understand their strengths, their joys, their loves, their pains, their weaknesses and most of all, their annoying little things. And understand that when two people get married, they commit to the person and all of the above as one single package; unconditionally.

Because as much as I believe in cohabitation, I believe even more in human nature. And I know from personal (modest) experience that people cannot change drastically. So if you think you can get hitched and say, well, I'll make him/her change "that thing" after we're married, think again.

You can immediately know what you're willing to compromise and live with and what you won't ever be able to stand. So why put yourself (and your partner) through hell by naively thinking you can achieve what so many others have failed at before?

Grow up. Man up. And do what you have to do before tying the knot!

I also know I'm a very difficult person. My values are very much black and white (to my loved ones' despair) and I do not ever stand, accept or even understand lack of ethics (personal or professional), decency or respect; which has been a hassle to manage at work and elsewhere.

Tolerance is a very important value, and I do appreciate it when it supports ethical positions. Tolerating racism, fanaticism, meanness, cruelty, disrespect, bigotry, and all that crap is not tolerance. It's bullshit.

But all in all, I'm a fairly open-minded gal.
I don't judge.
And I genuinely believe that people are free to make their own choices (freedom which entails the responsibility of living with the consequences of these choices afterwards).

But some choices I have a hard time understanding (not judging though). And it shocks me to find myself feeling, well, naive (to say the least).

After all the progress we've made and all the work that still remains to be done for Lebanese women to finally enjoy basic equal rights with men within our so very patriarchal society, I can't help but be deeply disappointed when I hear some stories.
As I was walking by a very well-known café in Hamra I saw a friend of mine, X. sitting there with another guy I know and a girl. She looked like any other regular 20-something girl and I assumed she could have been X.'s new girlfriend because of their proximity at the table and the fact that she answered his phone. I found out later that she was just a friend; well an extremely trusting friend apparently. She had bluntly asked X. to get her... Clients. As a good friend, she trusts him to be her pimp!

If that's not friendship, then I don't know what is!

And apparently she's not the only one. Another friend of his told him that she easily makes 400 US Dollars a night and her clients include well-known politicians (old enough to be her dad). This one on the other hand didn't need any help acquiring new "projects"; she was just sharing how she manages her expenses.

X. had previously helped a third friend who just graduated as a journalist, land a job at a prominent Arab media group. She later decided to drop the whole thing and pursue other... Options. Options which are getting her a brand new car, and even her parents seem to be benefiting from her newly found career (don't they wonder where the high income's coming from at her age?) career which I am sure is unknown to them. I guess that when you're in need and cash starts pouring in, you don't really bother asking too many questions (or do you?) and believe any explanation blindly; even as concerned parents...

All these girls say that sleeping with men they don't love is not such a big deal. They really don't think about it that much. It's not about love after all.

And I remember me, at their age, still fantasizing about my forever one! God!

What saddens me deeply is that these are young, bright girls with an education and life ahead of them. Fresh graduates who seemed to be so focused and excited about pursuing a successful career in the media industry. Making a name for themselves. Being one of the few women to achieve so much in a field ruled mostly by men in the Arab world.

I guess shopping, cruising town in cool cars and being able to afford going out every night of the week was too good a deal to pass.

Girls are not the only ones pimping themselves.

And sometimes, in a perverted way, the pimping is not even for financial gain. Some aim at marrying. Others aim at marrying rich. Most (maybe?) aim at marrying beautiful. Young people aiming so high, everywhere around us.

The song below is so funny and yet so sad when you think it is so damn real. It is in Lebanese dialect. By a Lebanese university student. About Lebanese university students. Enjoy it. I wish I could include the credits but I got it by email without any detail.

f anyone knows who made that track, please let me know.


I'm very happy to update this post with some links from the talented Michelle Keserwany who left a comment here. Many of those who left messages on Twitter will be glad to discover the pages below:

JAGUAL el USEK group on Facebook
Michelle Keserwany on Facebook


michellekeserwany said...

hey Rouba
nice blog
my name is Michelle Keserwany and my friends told me bout the blog
im the songwriter nd singer of gagal l usek
im in 4th year advertising and graphic design student at usek
glad u liked the song
add me on facebook if u like

L'épice said...

You know, in all big cities in France, especially in Paris, they are trying to deal with university student prostitution. Big big problem because these bright, young and beautiful girls NEED to do what they do in order to earn enough money to pay university...
and as weird as it seems, they don't consider themselves as prostitutes! no, it's just a fast way of earning lots of money.

So sad...

armigatus said...

Michelle has a bright future in front of her.
I would like to hear more songs from her

~♪ bl✮g ♫~ said...

@michellekeserwany: Hi Michelle! I'm so glad I can finally credit the song! Amazing job you've done here! so creative... AND TRUE. Adding you to facebook asap ;) Keep sharing your work!

@L'épice: Yes, except that in "my" girls' cases, it's not to study or even pay off university debts. It's just their way to make a living (easier and faster than "regular" pay jobs).

@armigatus: totally agree! :)

michellekeserwany said...

hey!if u want u can check my fb group"gagual l usek"my friends uploaded some new songs there.low res nd bad voice but u can hear them if u want!thanks

armigatus said...

Michelle is already famous, I knew it!

zeina shaaban said...

I don't think I accept this.
You pave the way on how you're "open minded" and then continue the rest of your blog entry judging (maybe another word choice?) the women who choose to sleep with men they don't love for money. And yes, working without a pimp is not called prostitution, it's called freelancing. And those who get a pimp are almost never able to get out of "the game". Trying to get out results in a group of pimps gathering and "teaching her a lesson" (usually includes gang rape, beatings, urinating on and defecating on the victim)

It's a really harsh industry, and we, as feminists, need to try our best to *help* them, not defame them indirectly on blogs. Even if one or two people you might know can suddenly afford a mercedes.

rouba said...

Thanks for your comment Zeina and you are entitled to your difference in opinion but I do think there is a misunderstanding in the definition of terms here.

First of all, yes, I am open-minded. You talk about judgement, well you just placed one on me based on your own personal assessment of what I wrote, and one could argue this is what I also did in my blog, so that's alright, I won't get into this. What I will get into is this difference in defining terms which not everyone has to agree about. So of course, fee free to disagree with my definitions here :) For instance what is "open-mindedness"?

Since this blog speaks what I believe and my personal opinions (I am not a journalist or an investigator), I would like to say TO ME, personally, being open-minded does not imply adopting anything and everything. Each one of us has a set of values and principles that we will use in each situation to define what, to us, is "right" and "wrong" and act/speak accordingly. These truths are not The Truth with a capital T and that is why these values and principles vary from one culture to the next, and from one individual to the next. Of course, I personally believe there are and should be constants throughout history, and mankind may have a common understanding some basic humane values. Such as Pedophilia (again here, depending on the time in history, and the culture, the age varies whether we like it or not).

I am an adamant activist for human rights, including women's rights, and maybe some would not label me as a "feminist" which is OK. I am not really as fan of labels anyway :) Again it is all a matter of defining what we mean with each term. In any case, whether I am a feminist or not is not the topic of this post or even your comment but I just mentioned it because you are basing your criticism on that statement "we as feminists need to help them". Personally, I would have phrased it, "we as decent human beings have aduty to help any other human being in distress or suffering under injustice".


rouba said...


Now that this is clarified, allow me to get into the core of your criticism.

In this blog post I am obliviously not talking about the women you mention. I am not talking about organized prostitution. I am not talking about women subdued to pimps. I am not even talking about women "freelancing" as you call it, because they preferred to enter this particular "industry" on their own terms instead of under the "management" of others.

I personally believe the women sinking in that industry do not have the luxury of opportunities. Or choices. The reasons they had to choose this line of work were I am sure, certainly tragic.

These women, I am not judging, and I never will. I am definitely not "defaming" them as per your accusations.

Actually, I am not even mentioning them once in this blog post.

I may be wrong here, but I think these women you selectively talk about, working within the conditions they work in, will probably never afford a mercedes, ever. Or even the most basic necessities. It is not them this blog post is about.

I am talking (and I believe I clearly stated that in the original post) about specific young women who have jobs, who are making a decent living and who with a little time and hard work can achieve great successes. They have university degrees (which can lead to various professional opportunities, regardless of the financial packages these opportunities will offer), they come from families that accept them and love them. They have a support system (at home and socially) which is ready to welcome them should they need assistance.

So to me, for them to choose to "freelance" as you call it, to make more money the easy way, is what I find surprising. And highly offensive to those who do not have the same chances and choices and would give anything to get out of prostitution.


rouba said...


Now with regards to prostitution as an industry and the whole pimp system. I am well aware of what can and does happen. And of course it is a harsh industry.

But as feminists or human rights activists, I would think our job would be to get rid of this industry and its abusive system. Our responsibly is to help raise awareness and hopefully some sort of state-support for these women to get an education which would hopefully lead to better opportunities. This is the kind of help they require. They do not need to sink in a system that perpetrates they physical, emotional and intellectual abuse. I am sure any of them would be grateful to get out of this vicious circle. But they feel/know they can't simply because they don't have other choices, unlike these young women my blog post was about.

I hope I clarified my point because I think that at the core, we do not disagree but you misunderstood the subject of my post and I take responsibility for that because I probably could have stated all of the above and distinctly expressed the differences between organized prostitution as an industry and the women I speak of.

Finally, I would like to conclude with one thing: even these young womenI talk about, I am not judging or "defaming", whether directly or "indirectly" as you said.

I am simply writing about a phenomenon I noticed and which made me sad (I know some of these girls) and which I believe does more harm to women as a marginalized and oppressed group of our society (it is as if these young women are saying "yes, any woman, no matter what her living conditions are, whether she has a job or not, whether she is independent or not, whether she can support herself financially or not, are sexual objects you can use whichever way you want, and any woman's body can be yours, provided you pay the right fee -- which to some men can be understood as some sort of pretext to perpetrate sexual harassment).

Still, I nowhere say it is right or wrong (but like with any written piece, the personal opinions of the author can be inferred, because we are not machines and of course, we write based on our backgrounds, education, beliefs and experiences).

I simply say, in my opinion, their choices are sad and harmful. To them. To women. And to society as a whole.

Thanks again for your comment and sorry for this long reply. I just wanted to make sure everything was clear :)

zeina shaaban said...

Thanks for your clarification, Rouba.
I do agree with you on the labels issue. But in this lebanese and disgustingly patriarchal society, it almost becomes a political statement in and of itself to use the term feminist.

I believe I projected much of a longer conversation I've had with someone else earlier on the subject onto your blogpost, and consequently you. I apologize for that. Your blogpost reminded me of it, which is probably why I lunged forward (the whole "oh women who are prostitutes choose to do this, many of them if not most" and "people can choose to work in anything what a coincidence they chose prostitution!" and statements of this kind down this line).

"And highly offensive to those who do not have the same chances and choices and would give anything to get out of prostitution. "
"I would think our job would be to get rid of this industry and its abusive system. "

And thanks for taking the time to clarify :)

rouba said...

I completely agree with you on all that Zeina, thanks for taking the time to come back and reply :)

And thank you for getting the conversation started :) It is such a sensitive issue and we should always keep it out in the open.