So it seems every time I resolve to make my stay here work something happens and this time it was racism and sexism at its best. I was out for dinner with one of my friends after a long day of painting and going through the process of making my house a home when I got a call from my landlord. And the conversation goes something like this…
“Your neighbors have been complaining about your home and lifestyle. [Blah, blah, blah, blah…] They have threatened that they know people in the army. [Blah, blah, blah, blah…] I will be taking this into consideration when renewing your contract. [Blah, blah, blah, blah…]”
The lifestyle they are complaining about it is the wonderful friends who come and share my home for aa week or two at a time while traveling here. And so all they see is a stream of women who stay over for short periods of time and leave. I do nothing out of the ordinary otherwise and in fact usually keep to myself and maintain a quiet domicile.
When my friend who was raised in my neighborhood, and lives in it today as well heard the story, his analysis was that this is happening because I am Jordanian and I am not Christian and the complaint was probably from an old Christian woman in the building. I further add to this analysis that as a single woman, living on her own, without the “protective” and “legitimizing” presence of a male relative I am therefore a loose, immoral woman who is bringing ill-repute to my building.
I think it is amazing that this type of discrimination, racism, sexism… and all the other isms that apply are being practiced in this situation in the most “liberal” of Arab countries. A place that is lauded for its wonderful liberalism and open-mindedness and freedoms in the region. A place where young and old come to breathe and enjoy away from their socially and politically restrictive societies.
Alas, that freedom and liberalism is only awarded to the tourists who come and go so quickly with their tourist dollars and fleeting experiences. Living here is a whole other story. The power dynamics at play as a non-Lebanenese, Arab, single woman living here are very different. The vulnerabilities as a migrant are ever present in varying degrees depending on color, class, profession, language…etc. but they are vulnerabilities nonetheless.
I told my landlord and in subtle yet explicit terms that this is none of their business, I have done nothing illegal and in fact, should this harassment continue it is within my power and right to file suit against these said neighbors.
I am angry, I am sad, I am tired. Till when will strangers police my door, my home, my body? I like my house, I like its proximity to my office, I like that I have painted and decorated and invested in it, does all this have to be disrupted by a woman who thinks she can because I break the homogony of the neighborhood by bringing in unLebanese, unChristian blood to her building?