Our story begins with the television: a small black box that grew slimmer day by day. We place it on meticulously arranged tables, and we open it at the end of the day to take a virtual respite from our reality that's filled with concerns, crises, and worries. This same electronic box has been residing in my room for four years now. Today, the world is at our fingertips through social media, so why do I need it anymore? What TV programs will I even watch if I want it to stay?
Although this voluntary disconnect turned involuntary after electricity vanished from our lives, my question remained: what do I need it for, and what TV programs will I watch if it's available?
Humor and laughter
Sometimes, I'm seized by the desire to define terms we use casually, like humor and laughter. I browse Google in search of their meanings, and laughter, amusement, entertainment, and play come pouring out. These are the activities that people engage in to alleviate their mood disturbances, perhaps venting their anger and aggressive energies. I understand that jokes and humor are popular creations, and folk narratives are full of anecdotes and laughter, including erotic jokes exchanged by women and men to elude moral scrutiny.
I stop at this point because I'm not here to lecture about the art of laughter. I only extended this point for one purpose: to show how the spontaneity of humor can turn into a political tool that affects the gender of women. I often find myself on the other side, frowning and angry because what amuses everyone pains me. It pains many other women too. This is pain that we don't express, but instead, we internalize it, wearing a fake smile on our faces because nothing is worth laughing about. It's just our lives.
The primary producer of humor in this case is not the people, but the governments, especially their security and intelligence agencies. They are the ones who establish "media" outlets that engage in creative jokes to absorb people's frustration and gauge their acceptance of certain directions and ideas.
Often, the discourse produced about women in the media is degrading, and it includes clear and explicit attacks that force them into seclusion and retreat.
"Sexually frigid", "they abstain but they want it", "seductresses".. These are a mere sample of the discourse Lebanese media uses for women, offering trivial, and often nauseating, entertainment, to recreate stereotypes that exclude women from the public sphere
We try to escape.. but there's no escape from being stigmatized
I escape from the television in my room and boycott it, or at the very least, I stop listening when its sound resonates in the house. But how do I escape from what stations offer, with their massive media platforms and extended reach on social media? Do I live in self-denial about world news because there are those who allow themselves to violate our bodies and sexuality and ridicule them in digital spaces, under the guise of comedy or political action?
They lay claim to all spaces, attempting to prove that these spaces belong only to men. Therefore, women/bodies present in this space are considered their property, subject to their low and vulgar jokes.
I wonder, what's funny when we talk about sexual harassment and rape? What's funny when you discuss the reproductive rights of refugee women and present them as material for ridicule? What's funny about being a woman in your fifties, sixties, or seventies and still feeling the glow of youth, desire, and love? Why aren't men described as "restrainted" when they desire to have children later in life?
What is the outcome of this laughter? Marginalized groups become further marginalized, bodies face more violations, and sexual and reproductive rights are taken away lightly because the thief knows well what they want.
We are not just objects for ridicule
So, what external factors affect our sexuality and our right to sexual and reproductive health, which are not taken seriously?
There's no doubt that, under the broad umbrella of patriarchy, sexuality is exclusive to men, not women. So, let's not forget this fact. A man's desires come first, and often they come alone. But what about women?
Lebanon's political history is full of derogatory comments about the personal lives of many female journalists, using sexual insinuations to respond to political debates. They turn women's bodies into a battleground for their political conflicts and power struggles
"Sexually frigid", "they abstain even though they want it", "seductresses", what else? These are just a few examples of the discourse used by Lebanese media when referring to women, offering trivial entertainment and, often, nauseating content, to reproduce stereotypical templates that exclude women from the public sphere.
Lebanon's political history is also full of derogatory comments about the personal lives and sexual lives of many female journalists and reporters, full of sexual insinuations, in order to respond to any political and legal debate. They turn women's bodies into a battleground for their political conflicts and power struggles and make women's reproductive organs a weapon to degrade them, reflecting misogyny in their approach.
Comedy shows abound with mocking women's feelings, their menstrual cycles, their need for sexual health care products, their reproductive organs, hormonal fluctuations, and sexual activity. The ridicule in this case is just an entry point for belittling women.
All of this happens while even the slightest expressions of sexuality in women are rejected, even when it's for educational purposes. Many forms of policing and control are imposed on them and on any behavior they engage in, leaving negative effects on their self-perception, mental, sexual, and reproductive health, and their social and political status in public spaces.
* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Raseef22
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