Aimee Karam, Ph.D, Clinical Psychologist, Psychotherapist, St.George Hospital, University Medical Center, Faculty of Medicine, Balamand University, Lebanon.
Collectively we must all #BreakTheBias, this is the International Women Day 2022 campaign theme.
I have asked myself how being a woman has affected my life negatively, whether at work, in my family or socially? Thinking thoroughly, I couldn’t find any significant situation that would illustrate such a situation. My family has always encouraged the pursuit of higher education, independence, equal chances among the four of us: two girls and two boys. My work environment, a psychiatry and clinical psychology department, part of a university medical centre, never made a gender-based choice or decision, my social environment has been open, progressive, non-gender based biased.
I have lived in a country where 18 different communities used to live together for many years with a remarkable “Living together”. Unfortunately, however, for many years, I have also been living in a war zone, with terrible conflicts and oppositional agendas, that have jeopardized my sense of safety and recently the very basic sense of human rights. So yes, I can say that as a citizen in my country, I have been affected in the core of my citizenship rather than in my gender.
I have turned my initial question to women I know from different background and different age groups and these were some of their answers:
V.S (20 y.o):
Yes we get lots of restrictions for being a woman
Parents:“You can’t go out at night because you are a woman so you have a curfew, before 11pm. They even ask more (where, who, when, why), or to ake your sister with you. A man can go anywhere, anytime even without asking for permission.
They also comment on our outfits (too short, too open, change, it’s not good. What will people say when they see you wearing an open shirt…Do not post that pictures…)
We have more restrictions than men: “Don’t do that, do that; if a teen like me wants to go to her men friend’s home, they are outraged: what will his parents say about you, it’s a taboo , what will the neighbours think.”
Men can post anything on their social media but not women since we will be judged
We don’t have the same rights as men: We can’t access all kinds of jobs, since the priority is given to men, even if we have better diploma and experience. We can’t register our children under our family name. A mother can’t sign for her children, it’s all done by the father. We are a manly society, final decisions are always for men. We are underrated since they think that we are lower, weaker or we don’t have enough muscles. If a woman wants to work in cars, they say, she is working like a man, she is not feminine.
I Don’t believe in all this rules that the society has put; I am with the feminist community and some day, with time, everything will change and we will become more civilized!
I have taken all my rights and not felt anything wrong.
Maybe the surrounding I work with and the people I live with, are not macho”.
In my nucleur family, when we were at home, I never felt any difference, discrimination, or different behaviour, due to my status as a girl or as a woman. Quite the contrary, my parents, and especially my father, always encouraged and pushed us towards academic and professional achievement. There was and still is an equality between my sister, my brother and myself, in all areas. On the other hand, I felt and saw in my mother, when we were younger, an important place granted to the role of motherhood and wife which competes with the professional development. So a woman must choose, prioritize and make concessions in favour of her family life.
Over time and over the years, it seems to me that these themes are approached by her with more flexibility; with less anxiety perhaps?
I myself was caught in the trap of these constraints but then, I freed myself from them. Today I tell my daughter to do whatever she likes and not to repeat this same pattern.
On the professional level, I was the victim at a certain moment of a kind of harassment at work; a gender based abuse of power, using verbal authority, asking for unrealistic tasks to be completed and exerting a constant pressure. I fought, in my own way, it was hard but I won.
I wonder, if I was a man, would this man have behaved the same way? I’m not sure. The bias in my opinion, still partially exist, and we still have to fight!
I feel the discrimination in my family in their expectations and what they value. When I express my ambitions to pursue a higher degree of education, they also remind me that the most important thing is to build a family and have children.
There is this constant pressure. This same attitude doesn’t apply to my brother; he is rather encouraged to always push further.
Violence against women in politics is a current concern; participation of women in politics is a major challenge on which determined and fearless non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) from civil society are addressing and tackling.
All the above are examples of the inevitable need to reach “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”, to validate and recognize the contribution of women and girls around the world, the ones who are leading the battle for justice, equity and human rights.