I am a man fighting for women’s rights in the Middle East: any questions?
Anthony Keedi is a psychologist who works for Abaad (Arabic for “dimensions”), a gender equality NGO in Lebanon. He runs the engaging men and boys programme. He has also worked in conflict resolution, and with Iraqi and Syrian refugees to raising awareness of gender-based violence.
“The overbearing dominant abusive stereotype as the archetype of the alpha male is something that many cultures have been trying to break away from,” he says. “But men in our culture are still struggling with it.”
Keedi will join the Guardian Global Development Professionals Networkfor a live Q&A from 5-6pm BST on Wednesday 11 June, to answer your questions about the challenges of fighting for gender equality in the Middle East. What would you like to ask? Post your questions in the comments below.
What inspired you to get into this kind of work?
I was walking through a bookstore and I came across a book called I Don’t Want to Talk About It by Terrance Real. That was what I used to say every time someone would ask me if something was wrong with me, or if I was sad. The book spoke about the traditional masculine gender role, and how men are socialised towards being unemotionally expressive, normalising their own pain and taught that violence is a masculine strategy to resolve conflict or respond to stress. I started to reflect on my own life and what I thought a “man should be”. That’s when I started thinking about how much traditional and illogical gender expectations and roles were hurting me and causing me to hurt others. That is what catalysed my journey into working on gender equality.
What fuels the fire to keep you fighting?
Hope. When you are able to see a change, no matter how small. When one man questions his use of violence (in any form – physical, verbal, emotional, or economical), it is proof that people can change. If people can change, and enough of them do, then societies can change. Countries can change. The world can change. Even if that may take lifetimes, it can happen. Every little change gives that hope, and that is what helps anyone to keep progressing in the face of adversity.
What are the challenges to your job?
We are attempting to unravel a string of lies that people have been told for centuries. In general, it seems normal that the man should make more money, not cry very often, fight wars for “justice'” be the president. Likewise, it seems normal that women should cook, clean, love and take care of the children, aspire to motherhood above all else. Even when the people we work with understand how illogical these rigid roles can be, even when they realise how negatively it has affected their lives, and even when they know that changing these attitudes and beliefs will be beneficial for them and their loved ones, it still feels foreign. Generations upon generations have been told the same story, and anything different, such as truly gender equal principles, takes a very long time and perseverance from people in order to become a long lasting change.
What reactions do your friends, family and wider society have to your job?
Some of them admire me for what I do. Some don’t understand. Some criticise or make fun of what I do. I never stop working. Even when I am with friends and family, I am pointing out the faults of a system that is based on that discrimination, misconceptions and present more gender equal solutions when hearing about personal issues. It sounds tiring, but it isn’t. I know it must be just as tiring for them knowing that I am always going to take a gender perspective, so I think regardless of their reactions, the fact that we are still communicating is a good sign.