Saturday, December 16, 2017

Abaad and Kafa - on the dangers of over-exposure

Before elaborating on this post - I have to say I am as feminist as they come. Not just that, any race, gender or minority being attacked immediately enrages me as an act. And yes, I am aware that women's issues happen in all families no matter the socioeconomic background - when, a few years back, several women were killed by their partners, my own second degree cousin was one of them. No one is immune.
So how does one write such a post without opening the floodgates of incomprehension? Whereas I applaud organizations such as Kafa and Abaad and the work they do on the ground, I am a little bit skeptical as to their media strategy.
Morrissey once said about the hit song "Do They Know It's Chrstimas Time?" - "One can have great concern for the people of Ethiopia, but it's another thing to inflict daily torture on the people of Great Britain". Unfortunately, Abaad and Kafa are bordering on that territory.
Yes, violence against women, harassment, incest-rape know no season or no festivities. But having two campaigns about such acts only a week away from Christmas is a bit too much. Lebanon is currently undergoing economical, political, religious, and sectarian pressures at a time the whole atmosphere of the country is glum. Christmas is already being celebrated in a major issue of have and have-nots, with many people ranking in the latter category. Many shops are already holding pre-holiday sales to entice shoppers to part with their money. The weather, still very clement at this stage, is a mixed blessing. On the one hand we need the rain, on the other flooding would be catastrophic for the many homeless (be they Lebanese or Syrians) who are on the streets.
If I am describing this setting, it is necessarily because - and again how do I say that without appearing a bigot? - I think Kafa and Abaad are doing a disservice to themselves with the media strategy they chose. Since last July, there were dozens of campaigns signed by either of the two organizations. Yes, they scored legal victories, unfortunately, they are now at the over-exposure stage. This sadly where the #metoo movement has headed - what started as a wave of women accusing powerful men of sexual acts against them now is more like "oh it's another one of those stories, what else is on the news?".
And this unfortunately where Kafa and Abaad have reached - another image of a distressed woman with a black background, another hashtag presumably to fuel interest and social media sharing, another set of logos from international partners. And several campaigns one on top of the other.
Even as someone heavily interested in media, I lost track of what either Kafa or Abaad are claiming today, I had to look at the ads several times in order not to confuse them with the now kaput 522 law.
I am not sure this is the way to go for any of the two organizations, I understand how difficult it is to have so many issues to fight, but "but it's another thing to inflict daily torture on the people of Lebanon" to misquote Morrissey - especially at a time when the social issues are already too glum and pushing people down.
My advice? Let go for a few months, give it a break, this will generate more interest when campaigns start later. At least they will be visible, as it is - they are not to be honest.

Beirutiyat has a lot to celebrate!

Yesterday, Beirutiyat celebrated their first youth annual dinner, held at the Coral Beach on the occasion of the International Volunteers Day. Beiutiyat, which dubs itself as a Makhoumi initiative and which considers Makhzoumi Foundation as a strategic partner, frankly, had a lot to celebrate! Beirutiyat is a proactive NGO that empowers groups in different geographical areas of the city to help them build their capacity and to assist them in uniting around priorities and in taking actions to improve their neighborhood
Their vision centers around a Beirut where citizenship rights and duties, tolerance, the rule of the law, the fight against corruption, and genuine social responsibility, form the basic pillars of societal cohesion, freedom and development.
All of this could have been empty words, but when Beirutiyat is axed around several initiatives, namely: Sahem (which means "contribute" in Arabic and is the volunteering academy), Kader (or "capable" in Arabic and is destined for career orientation & recruitment), Jiran (or "neighbor" in Arabic and represents their neighborhood communities), Sawa (or "together" in Arabic which is a social solidarity program),and Al Manara (in reference to the "lighthouse" and dubs itself: culture for a cause).
All these branches are active with local partners such as universities, or other entities which are already active in the Beirut fabric. Truth be told, it is difficult to dissociate Beirutiyat from the personality of its founder and honorary chairman Dr. Fouad Makhzoumi. Even the Beirutiyat president, Mrs Hoda Kaskas is a member of the Beirut municipality stemming from his political party, further entangling the web of affiliation to the city. And trust me, it is not all that bad at all, as these individuals - from Dr. Makhzoumi and his wife May, or Mrs. Kaskas are truly working painstakingly rallied around the slogan "a better city starts today".
I have had many encounters with very influential politicians, what sets Dr. Makhzoumi apart is that - honestly - the man does not "play a role", meaning he does not wear masks and takes them off once the interview or talk is over. When we have discussions about the city, one can see his eyes gleaming and his enthusiasm bursting. This is not some means to an end for him. The volunteers and their cheering yesterday proved it. The many (many!) speeches, each emphasizing the projects done in detail with videos and visual aids show the enormity of the task undertaken.
Beirutiyat, has truly a lot to celebrate for and good for them - they do understand that real change happens with and because of all of us, and not through some truncated and media-hyped initiative. The road is long but with Beirutiyat trying their best, there is a glimmer of hope for all of us. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Masquerading as champagne might be legal #flashback

Originally published: 18/9/15
Oh I love the campaign above the French bureau of champagne issued following their loss of the trademark of the word champagne in the US as opposed to bubbly wine.
Indeed, "masquerading as champagne might be legal, but it isn't fair".
Women in Lebanon, in a law dating back to 1941 (44l/r loi-reglement) are forbidden to wear two piece Bikinis or short shorts.
That is legal, go tell any female shopper that it is fair and suffer the consequences.
It is a good day indeed, for let us not forget, "champagne only comes from France".
That is indeed fair.

TWA 847 - questioning history (45)

Artworks by Tarek Chemaly
With time, the act itself gets taken out of its circumstances, prerogatives, causes or even effects, it becomes somewhere between glamorized or fetishized, a victim of its own success or failure. Acts which could or could not be duplicated, re-enacted, copied. Acts called "terror" but if history is any indication terror is just an arbitrary word.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Yeezy 350 V2 blue tint in Lebanon - without a raffle!

The highly-coveted Yeezy 350 V2 in blue tint will be available at Adidas Originals City Center and Downtown Beirut on December 16th starting 10 A.M. with NO raffle! Whereas merchandisers worldwide are organizing raffles, we in Lebanon, for all of our problems can get our Yeezys without that game of luck - all one has to do is just be in line early (H&M collab professionals know the drill!). And it is a Saturday so no I-have-work-so-will-send-the-househelp-instead-stand-in-line excuses. Yeezy, get set, go!

Sexism in proverbs, a fresh one from Lebanon!

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
After the first one, how about this? "The mind of a woman is worth that of two crazy chicken". Sexism? Inequality? Offending speech? Check, check, check. If we started by using the right words, maybe the right actions will follow.

The Rahbani plays - questioning history (44)

Artworks by Tarek Chemaly
The proportion of Lebanese people who got to see Fairouz on stage is abysmally small - yet she remains a staple and (during the war) a myth of hope for seeing her back perform. She cut off all her concerts in Lebanon during the troubles and only came back in a concert in downtown Beirut in 1994.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project #buildsomethingbetter

For this festive season, an ad with no Santa Claus, no reindeer and certainly nothing red in sight. Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project comes with an ad which questions a word we have been hearing so often in the last two years, "the wall". Just watch the movie, and see children coming up with alternatives of how to use the resources which end up making the wall. "Help build futures not walls".
I know you will not believe it, but watching the ad above made me think of the Lego one below:
Why? Somehow children can make sense of things adults cannot.

Comtesse de Segur - questioning history (43)

Artworks by Tarek Chemaly
Comtesse de Segur (nee Rostopchine), the grandmother writing stories for her grandchildren, remembering her own ordeals (Les Malheurs de Sophie), enticing youth smile (Jean Qui Grogne et Jean Qui Rit), stories to be read on backdrop of bombs falling.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sexism in proverbs, another one from Lebanon!

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
"A boy and his joy even if stillborn" this is the metaphoric translation and literally this means "a boy and his announcement even he does not survive his first hour (as opposed to the glum news of having a daughter)". Now if you want a rhyming transposition, "Having a boy is worth the pain, even for an hour even if in vain" (thank you Patrick).
So, how about this for sexism from Lebanon and its proverbs?
Look, I know in certain circles this stigma is going slightly, but let us face it - Lebanon is a society "a deux vitesses" (a two speeds - actually scratch that, a ten different speeds). Proverbs indicate how a nation thinks and behaves, this one is just a shameful one!

Martine - questioning history (42)

Artworks by Tarek Chemaly
Martine, the ubiquitous girl-does-it-all, provider of dreams, of ambition, of fun times, of havens of safety on idle Sunday afternoons after being back from the beach.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Farandole - questioning history (41)

Artwrorks by Tarek Chemaly
Farandole or what to read in the idle times before going to the shelter in a country at war. Building dreams of nations not ours.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Jerusalem, Palestine, up in smoke

I no longer follow the news, the news follows me... The house is ours, and Jersualem is ours.
Palestine, up in smoke....
What shameful slacktivism this is - #likingisnthelping as Crisis Relief Singapore reminded us.

Antinea - questioning history (40)

Artworks by Tarek Chemaly
The advertising that unites us. The jingle that binds us.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Persil goes Christmas with Tamanna

"Making the dreams of our kids come true is the best feast for us", that's what washing detergent Persil is advertising with the Tamanna (make a wish) foundation here in Lebanon. #lets_grant_a_wish says the # at the bottom of the tree filled with names of children (presumably making a wish or having their wish fulfilled I know not!). Still I guess every bit helps these days with the worsening economy and the festivities not too far off in the future.

Re-O-Vac - questioning history (39)

Artworks by Tarek Chemaly
The advertising that unites us. The jingle that binds us.

Friday, December 8, 2017

WWE divas cover up for Abu Dhabi

Sasha Banks did battle Alexa Bliss in the WWE Abou Dhabi showdown. Banks said: "I want to empower women and let them know that their dreams are endless and they can achieve anything." OK, Banks and Bliss both had to have costume changes to fit the bill of the UAE attire rules. Meaning no bikinis were allowed - and a more demure version of their costumes was on show.
A small "camel clutch" for (wo)man a giant step for (wo)mankind.

National Commission for Lebanese Women - 7aki neswen (NOT).

And then totally out from left field, comes this incredibly punchy campaign from the National Commission for Lebanese Women. First let me tell you why I wrote this sexist headline which says "just women's talk" - as my brother was flying from Beirut to London several years back he found himself within earshot of the Lebanese Minister of Culture (a man who currently sits on the board of several museums and associations) saying "hayda 7aki neswen" (this is just women's talk).
What NCLW did was simply to exchange the word "woman" with "man" in some common insulting sentences used in Lebanon. "the woman is an incomplete letter", "the woman can go to Mars but her fate goes back to the kitchen", "would you even reply to a woman!" and so on.
Actually the Lebanese lexicon is very rich in these idioms, take for example the classic "the head of the woman is worth that of two crazy chicken" (3a2l el mara bi 3a2l djejtein khout). The # accompanying the campaign say it all #would_you_accept_it_if_it_were_about_you?
Interestingly, many Arab men seem to think the world of their mother. But berate women in general forgetting their mother is included.
Beautiful campaign, keep it coming!

Python - questioning history (38)

Artworks by Tarek Chemaly
The advertising that unites us. The jingle that bind us.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Otto - simple, beautiful Christmas ad

Otto and Christmas. More of those please.
Five strangers have to share Christmas eve stuck on a bus - and no this is not a Hollywood scenario for Die Hard part 53. It is the new Otto ad, when tensions run high as a landslide blocks the road and they have to wait for help stuck there. Yes, there is an evil character, and for once it is not the indigenous guy. But hey, with nothing time on their hands and a Jose Feliciano Feliz Navidad tune, order is restored and - heck - for one night, peace on earth.
Beautiful and simple.