What's Arabic for 'feminism'?

Published March 6th, 2016 - 06:36 GMT
Whether or not it's part of a larger movement toward gender and sexuality rights in Lebanon, the "Gender Dictionary" is a groundbreaking booklet aiming to explain topics like gender norms and feminism in side-by-side Arabic and English.  (AFP/Uriel Sinai)
Whether or not it's part of a larger movement toward gender and sexuality rights in Lebanon, the "Gender Dictionary" is a groundbreaking booklet aiming to explain topics like gender norms and feminism in side-by-side Arabic and English. (AFP/Uriel Sinai)

"Aesthetic standards." "Patriarchy." "Sexuality."  

These are three of the entries in the "Gender Dictionary," a booklet released late last month by Lebanese NGO group Lebanon Support.  According to the group, which describes itself as a space for "reflection, collaboration, and debate," the goal of the dictionary is to consolidate the knowledge of gender experts and activists across Lebanon.  

In side-by-side columns of Arabic and English, 25 entries explain the histories, main ideas, and "localized usages" behind gender hot-topics like LGBTIQ, Orgasm, and Sex Work, just to name a few - ideas that, while necessary to understand, are often hushed in Lebanon's more conservative circles.  

But the groundbreaking new dictionary, which functions more as crash course on women's and gender studies (with some fabulously feminist artwork interspersed amid entries on gender norms and sexuality), might represent more than just a consolidation of feminist knowledge - its release comes just weeks after a landmark court decision in Lebanon that granted a transgender man the right to change his official papers to match his gender identity.  While sex reassingment surgeries were already legal in Lebanon, February's ruling marked a significant step forward by acknowledging trans people's psychological needs for the surgery, and granting the right to change one's legal gender status post-operation.

Lebanon's LGBTQ activists also rejoiced in 2014 when a court ruling reversed a law that had criminilized gay sex - a decision that set Lebanon apart from much of the Arab World.

Still, even if the "Gender Dictionary" is part of a larger movement toward gender and sexuality rights in Lebanon, there remain deep issues.  For instance, many are outraged that Lebanese women still cannot pass down their nationality to their children - a restriction that also exists in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and a number of other Arab countries, according to the Pew Research Center.  

Read the "Gender Dictionary" here.  


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