Amid political tensions, socio-economic woes, and a general state of unrest, sexism and misogyny are alive and well in Lebanon and the Arab region in general. The most recent proof is the public's response to the newly-appointed female ministers in the Lebanese government.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who had accepted his role following the resignation of Saad Hariri, now leads a 20-member cabinet consisting of six female ministers, some in high-profile positions.
Female representation in the Lebanese government is as follows: Zeina Akar Adra as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, Manal Abdel Samad as Minister of Information, Ghada Shreim as Minister of the Displaced, Lamia Yammine Doueihy as Minister of Labor, Mary-Claude Najem as Minister of Justice, and Varti Ohanian as Minister of Youth and Sports.
There is plenty to be said on the matter, yet one rhetoric prevailed. The female ministers were met with an outpouring amount of comments, memes, and jokes sexualizing and objectifying them.
Many social media users disregarded the ministers' backgrounds and résumés, and instead almost exclusively highlighted the latter's appearances. People from fellow Arab countries complimented (more like, cyber harassed) the female ministers and expressed their envy of their Lebanese counterparts.
Female representation in the newly-formed government comes as a nod to the leading role women played in the ongoing uprising. It comes at a time when women in Lebanon continue to fight societal and legal hurdles tooth and nail. Lebanese women are yet to achieve full equality with men, yet they are well on their way there. The reactions to the appointment of female ministers go to show that there's a long way ahead. Women are still viewed as second-class, their entire existence and achievements are diminished to their looks, and they are often exploited as mere tokens to score PR points.
Thankfully, the offensive remarks were met with educated comebacks condemning the objectification of the newly-appointed ministers. Here's a glimpse:
Why didn't we leave sexist jokes in 2019?
And what about some constructive criticism instead?
"Criticize politically and objectively"
"A revolution against the patriarchy and your void minds"
Internalized misogyny at its finest
Tweet: "In the future, the minister will decide whether or not to counterattack Israel based on her hormones."
Quote retweet: "By the way, I thought this disgusting rhetoric was gone when I didn't see it used against (former minister) Raya Al-Hassan. People hated her so much that they didn't crack the hormone jokes. Then, this sister came along and shocked me."
The women's rights movement is just as crucial as ever
"The offensive jokes and comments we're reading about the appointed female ministers portray society's views on women. As long as we treat women this way, this society will never progress. Women are not half the society, they are the creators of the society."
It all boils down to this
"The worst form of bullying against a woman and the ugliest display of patriarchy is to turn her into a mere accessory in the government. It's a way to portray modernity without any valid content. The coming days will prove this. What does it mean to form a cabinet with six ministers if the appointment was not accompanied with legislation that grants women their rights? For example, what good does having six female ministers do if none of the latter can pass on her Lebanese nationality to her children?"