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Beirut Forum on Palestinian Unity and Justice: A Feminist Angle?

6 Aug

A Very Short Addendum re Beirut Forum on Palestinian Unity and Justice


For Stefan


A friend reacted to my post on the Beirut Forum of a few days ago positively with respect to the political analysis. He did have a caveat. I referred to the wife of Nabil Hallak, the principal convener, as ‘beautiful,’ which he warned me would be viewed as sexist by female readers in the current atmosphere of cultural politics.


Although it was my spontaneous reaction to my brief meeting with Nabil’s wife at the end of Forum I saw his point, and maybe that was the point. I realized that if the convener had been a woman, and introduced me to her ‘handsome’ husband I would never have used such an adjective of that sort to describe my favorable response. I might have said‘charming’ or ‘intelligent.’  So I dutifully edited the post, substituting the word ‘gracious’ for ‘beautiful.’


I cannot fully resolve the issue in my own mind. From one standpoint the celebration of the beauty of women seems intrinsic to the magical properties of the feminine, part of the joy of life, and many, if not most, women partake, devoting their energy and resources to make themselves beautiful and appealing, not necessarily, and certainly not only, for the pleasure of men, but also for each other, and for themselves.


From another standpoint, women through the ages and in most cultural spaces have been objectified through demeaning comments about their body, replete with sexual and sexist overtones, which have so often served as the prelude to predatory and macho behavior abusive of women. Especially in the Western sensibility of the early twenty-first century, I want to be respectful of any past pain, present fear, and whatever sentiments, memories, and resentments are attached. At the same time I am deeply reluctant to forfeit the enchantments of mutual attraction that include forms of appreciation, and recognition of gender differences and variations.


Although I write as a conventionally heterosexual male, conditioned to some extent by age, having lived through several earlier generations, and having been brought up by a father who loved women (too much, especially beautiful ones) while harboring conventional sexist stereotypes of his generation, I also wanted to make clear that other sexual identities can have their own distinctive sense of enchantment and beauty that warrant the same thoughtful mixture of reflection, celebration, and sensitivity.


I am grateful to my friend for sensitizing me somewhat to this range of unresolvable feelings and contradictory lessons from the human condition as it continues to unfold struggling to preserve its mysteries in this time of promethean claims on behalf of AI and digital algorhythm. I welcome further commentary.