“Panties and Bras Included”

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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.

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Lynn is actively involved in Meem, a community of queer women and trans folk. She's also into pixels, among other things.

25 Responses to ““Panties and Bras Included””

  1. Beyza

    Apr 01. 2013

    Exactly what I’m living through.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Mir

    Mar 22. 2011

    I loved your article, LOVED it, each and every single word, even the punctuations.
    Every thought is intense, deep and targets a very important issue.
    But what i liked the most, is that very particular sentence:
    “You wonder what thoughts travel across her body at that very moment”
    Our memory tends sometimes to erase or hide things to protect us, but our body doesn’t. Each detail, the smallest one, and even the non physical one, have their mark in and on our bodies. Du coup, this phrase resumes lots of deep things, in a very beautiful and poetic way.
    Thank you for writing, and thank you for sharing :)

    Reply to this comment
  3. Peter

    Mar 21. 2011

    Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful…In every single word.
    I like the part about trimming and waxing, it reminds me of the role ascribed to us physically without anyone listening to what we have to say about that … and I have my own gay version for ascribed roles.
    take back the night, because you are deserving of all what you ask for in this life !

    Reply to this comment
  4. meriem

    Mar 18. 2011

    Bien écrit , courage :)

    Reply to this comment
  5. Lynn

    Mar 18. 2011

    Rob, I didn’t say you “can’t critique from without.” I wrote that solidarity and support can be very constructive to any movement or struggle. This is something that I acknowledge. However, your “critique” is basically that my culture, political climate, and family are fucked up. This an extremely essentialist and patronizing statement, it reduces my culture, political climate and family to “fucked up.” If you noticed, my critique on the other hand is based on a feminist perspective of my own lived experiences, my stories, some particular details in my memory, a few subtle moments. No sweeping statements. I hope you understand that I have a very busy weekend and will not invest more time explaining this further.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Rob

    Mar 17. 2011

    It is not only unfair, but it is totally wrong, to think and say that I can’t critique from without. This is a major error of thinking. It is akin to saying that a person can not criticise the institution of slavery, or a slave-holder, or the local government which enables or tolerates it just because the person making the critique never owned slaves, or ever lived in the community that has them. (I picked slavery, but it could be any other kind of thing which infringes universal individual rights or dignity.)

    Yes, I expressed my opinion is a fairly crass way, but please don’t reject the veracity of the statement due to the words with which I expressed it. Whether the equation is 2+2+2 or 2×3, the result is still 6.

    I don’t know you, but I respect you such that I am willing to treat you as an adult and speak clearly to make sure an important point is clearly made. To take offense at the words, or the observation, rather than the terrible circumstance they speak to is for you to be disrespectful to yourself.

    Reply to this comment
  7. lynn

    Mar 17. 2011

    It was meant as a note of support, this is clear, of course, and support is always appreciated. Nevertheless, what I tried to express, perhaps with a lot of frustration as a first reaction, is that support and solidarity come in many forms. As a person living in Europe – with all the privileges / power dynamics that are implied – re-examining how your solidarity and support are expressed to someone living in Lebanon, i.e. me, wouldn’t be such a bad idea. I am also in a position where I can critique from within. You are not.

    About tampons – I would assume that it’s about the hymen to some extent, and the implications behind breaking the hymen, and a persons’ virginity, etc.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Rob

    Mar 17. 2011

    By the way, in my ignorance (not trying to be sarcastic, but I really don’t understand), what is the way in which a tampon is equated with promiscuity? Is it viewed as some kind of sexual object because it is inserted into the vagina? Or because it can tear the hymen? Or is there some other kind of waacked-out logic (presumably promulgated by idiotic men) that I am missing?

    Reply to this comment
  9. Rob

    Mar 17. 2011

    Actually, it was absolutely not patronising, and supposed to be a note of support.

    You completely missed my point and the intended irony of my statement.

    Something is extremely wrong when an intelligent, creative, educated woman is trapped in such a situation, just as it is equally wrong when her mother due to different circumstances (different generation, economic opportunity) also has to endure a similar dignity-robbing existance.

    Any culture, family, or political arrangement which enables or tolerates such, to whatever degree, is fucked-up to that degree.

    Even more ironic is that after you write of such a terrible situation, and describe it in all its detail, I agree with you and call it for what it is, you get insulted and defend it … QED.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Lynn

    Mar 17. 2011

    It’s patronizing comments like this one that really tick me off. Did Rob just call my family, culture and “political climate” fucked up? Rob, if ever you come across a culture, family, or “political climate” in this world that do not marginalize or oppress those deemed “others” – please do let us know!

    Otherwise, thank you for the support everyone <3

    Reply to this comment
  11. Rob

    Mar 17. 2011

    Wow! Great writing.
    What a fucked-up family, political-climate and culture that the protagonista has to endure that.
    By God am I glad to know that your writing is only fiction…

    Reply to this comment
  12. J

    Mar 16. 2011

    I <3 it!

    Reply to this comment
  13. Dylan

    Mar 15. 2011

    WOW Lynn! i love the way you put it
    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.
    i love <3

    Reply to this comment
  14. jess

    Mar 15. 2011

    deep, straight to the heart & thoughts…love it

    Reply to this comment
  15. m/m

    Mar 15. 2011

    this is great! curious to see what your bedroom looks like :0

    Reply to this comment
  16. ForV

    Mar 15. 2011

    This. Is TOO good for words. :O Whoa…

    Reply to this comment
  17. rim

    Mar 15. 2011

    simply amazing!

    Reply to this comment
  18. Cindy

    Mar 15. 2011

    Very much like!

    Reply to this comment
  19. Mariam

    Mar 15. 2011

    So beautiful <3 and so proud that in Beirut, you took back the night!

    Reply to this comment
  20. shant

    Mar 14. 2011

    I love it when stories mix the personal to the political. I love how I can read a glimpse of what shaped your activism. Thank you so much for sharing. A lot of admiration.

    Reply to this comment
  21. Phoenix

    Mar 14. 2011

    how veri touching and powerful lynn.
    now more than ever im convinced eno lezim netjawaz.
    well throw our wedding in a Take Back The Night march. <3
    i love you so much my little fa3fousa.

    Reply to this comment
  22. Dyke Drives

    Mar 14. 2011

    I loved this – very powerful.

    Reply to this comment
  23. ariM

    Mar 14. 2011

    b7ibbik w b7ibb mo55ik !! <3
    great artical…leuuuvee it (y)

    Reply to this comment
  24. SuQun el leil

    Mar 14. 2011

    AMAZINGLY BRILLIANT <3

    Reply to this comment
  25. عشتار

    Mar 14. 2011

    أعرف تماما ما تتحدثين عنه في ما يتعلق بخضوع الوالدة لذكورية الوالد مع انها هي الأقوى

    لقد رأيتها كثيرا

    أحسد جرأتك يا لين، وأشعر برغبة عارمة في التوقف عن كوني شاهدة زور على كثير من الأأمور

    تكتبين دوما وتثيرين فينا كثيرا من الاحاسيس ، لكن الاهم انك تثيرين عقولنا
    بكل ما في كلامك من صدق وشفافية وقهر

    شكرا لقلمك

    Reply to this comment

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