“Panties and Bras Included”
Inspired by the march to “Take Back the Night” for International Women’s Day in Beirut, Lebanon. Dedicated to my good friend Zee who’s always pushing me to write myself into words.
March 9th 2011.
Take back the night because the morning after, at 25, you still have to argue with your mother who’s pleading that your father is unable to accept the fact that you’re coming home so late.
Take back the night because after marching for hours under heavy rain, chanting and screaming your feminist slogans, soaked in your clothes, you would rather stick to your friends instead of coming home to find all your clothes thrown on your bed and the floor. panties and bras included.
Take back the night because when you wake up at 8 AM the next day, your working mom, who should have been at work by 7:30 AM, is still home cleaning and cooking, while your unemployed father is out -not- finding a job again.
Take back the night because when your brother is out every night till 4 AM, it’s never really an issue, but when you are, you get text messages, phone calls, guilt trips, and your clothes thrown on your bed and the floor. panties and bras included.
Take back the night because your body has its own memories and stories to be told, because your body is confined to a norm, reduced to a role, shaved, plucked, trimmed, waxed, whitened, straightened and starved because women are women, because your body should be limited in its expressions, because your body’s desires are pathologized, and yet your body is still socially-eroticized for “the right kinds of men” over and over and over again, because your body has been bullied in changing rooms, restricted to a shared bedroom, a kitchen, and a bathroom, sexually assaulted in your very own neighborhood, verbally abused in broad daylight.
Take back the night because so many little girls grow up learning that all of this is normal.
Take back the night because tampons in your backpack automatically mean you’re promiscuous, slutty, and (hetero)sexually-active.
Take back the night because even though your brother, since the age of 16, has been collecting dozens of empty packs of condoms next to his bed, your discrete tampons are the ones that will make headline news at home when you’re 23, and your sexuality will continue to be an issue for years to follow.
Take back the night because even though your mother is this small home’s sole breadwinner, your father gets to keep her ATM card in his wallet.
Take back the night because you try to convince yourself that this is okay, that she has her own secrets as well and that it balances itself out in the end. Except that you know too well that your mother builds her secrets for self-protection. And from what?
Take back the night because that ATM card reminds you of that recurrent scene from your childhood in the old navy Honda outside of the bank. From the back of the car, you watch your mother in the passenger seat handing over her paycheck, one hundred Lebanese Lira stacked over another, to your father. It feels fucked up. You wonder what thoughts travel across her body at that very moment.
Take back the night because even though you graduated from that university and have the coolest job in the world, you still can’t afford to move out of your parents’ home and build a decent life for yourself.
Take back the night because even if you could afford moving out, your parents will still try to disown you and threaten you and tell you they would rather see you spend 5 years abroad getting a phD, 1 500 000 L.L. plane ticket away, instead of being a 2 000 LL service-ride away.
Take back the night because your very own drive, your feminism, or whatever you call it, explodes from within.
Take back the night because no matter who you are, your body, your mind, and your heart experience unspeakable forms of violence every single day.
Take back the night because the night is yours too.