A conversation with my Lebanese mum about being a woman...

A conversation with my Lebanese mum about being a woman...

I am from Lebanon. I came to Sydney to study business and entrepreneurship. I took this job at Phenxx because I am passionate about women's issues, women's rights and women's equality. If you knew about life as a woman in Lebanon, you wouldn't ask me why I was passionate about that. Phenxx gave me a lens through which I could see a new way to funnel my protest into action. I could reduce my anger and focus instead on lifting women up and not on tearing men down. Phenxx taught me that men have a powerful role to play in women's empowerment, rights and equality. Phenxx taught me that by voicing the stories of the so called everyday life, what we call the XX Life, we can share the stories of what it is like to just be here at this time, on this planet, doing these XX life things that otherwise go unnoticed, unsaid and unmentioned. We women take on so much on our shoulders as part of life. We spend hours every month caring for our hygiene and XX concerns. We have secrets, but we also have wisdom. Both need to be heard in order to make a change. That is the biggest thing I learned from this company and the thing that will change my life and my perspective forever. 

So I took this new perspective and I told my mum about it. She lives in Lebanon and has mostly only known that culture and that way of life. Talking about your personal issues like periods, menopause and those subjects are not opened in our society and my mum doesn't voice much about it either. Instead of trying to convince her or beg her or yell at her into doing it, maybe something I would have been guilty of doing to get my way in the past, I used the Phenxx philosophy. I simply started talking about the company philosophy, the power of women's stories to change the world and what I had been learning and opening to as a result of the experience. I talked to her about the power contained in our so called mundane and normal existances. I told her how I learned that so much power is contained in our stories. And then I left it alone.

And guess what? She came to me, she said she heard what I said and felt the same way. She offered her story to women around the world who would be able to read it and know it, because she agreed it would add to a waterfall of change that Phenxx could affect by publishing them and telling them. She said she had never considered herself or her story as important before. Hearing that a company across the other side of the world who wanted to change things for women made her really think about change and how it happens. She told me a story about making changes in the household and influencing my uncle. She never comes out and tells him what to do, she influences him through story and through his own intrinsic want to do it. She is the neck that turns his head. With that context, she thought, maybe she could act as the neck that turns the head on women's rights, women's equality and empowerment. Maybe she could influence something for the daughters of Lebanon to have a better tomorrow. 

This experience has taught me that a powerful way to make change is not to force it, but to inspire it. To tell stories that ask people to think deeply, to consider a new way of thinking and being and to then step back and allow them the space to make those decisions themselves. We cannot control others. We cannot even control ourselves most of the time. So much in this world is out of our control, but what is in our control is our choice to show up with an open mind and heart to see, hear and accept new people and new perspectives. May this lesson I have learned through Phenxx and its powerful purposeful philosophy also inspire and excite you into asking questions, listening to stories and allowing others the space to choose a higher path of greater benefit to all.

Please enjoy the conversation with my beautiful mother, I know it was life changing for me and greatly transformative to our relationship. I am N and my mum is J. It is with great pride I share it below:

N: How did you find out about periods? Who taught you about it?

J: My mum told me about my period and that I will get it soon. She put me in the loop about what’s going to happen. 

N: كيف عرفتي عن الدورة الشهرية؟ ومن قام بتعليمك عنها؟

J: أخبرتني أمي عن دورتي وأنني سأحصل عليها قريبًا. قدمت لي شرحًا حول ما سيحدث

N: What did she teach about periods? what method did she used?

J: She talked to me. She told me that at this age, the girl is ready to get married and have children and become more mature.

N: ماذا علمتك والدتك عن الدورة الشهرية؟ وما هي الطريقة التي استخدمتها؟

J: تحدثت معي. أخبرتني أنه في هذا العمر، تكون الفتاة جاهزة للزواج والإنجاب وتصبح أكثر نضوجًا.

N: how old were you when you first got your period? How did you feel? Were you happy? Sad? How did your parents feel?

J: I was happy that I became a young woman and I was happy with the idea of growing up and my parents were also happy.

N: كم كنتِ في سنك الأولى عندما حصلتِ على دورتكِ الشهرية؟ كيف شعرتِ؟ كنتِ سعيدة؟ حزينة؟ وكيف شعر والديك؟

J: كنت سعيدة لأنني أصبحت امرأة صغيرة، وكنت سعيدة بفكرة النمو، وكان والديني سعيدين أيضًا

N: Did you ever feel ashamed of being on your period? Did you ever feel ashamed of yourself at school? 

J: Yes, Of course it happens but I was always careful and I was always ready for it.

N: هل شعرتِ يومًا بالخجل من وجود دورتكِ؟ هل شعرتِ يومًا بالخجل من نفسكِ في المدرسة؟

J: نعم، بالطبع يحدث ذلك، ولكنني كنت دائمًا حذرة وكنت دائمًا مستعدة له

N: Was there a method or a way you used to do when you had your period that changes now?

J: Nothing changed.  It was normal. I got my period this month and that's it. It's over. I still think the same now but the only difference is that I don’t have my period anymore.

N: هل كان هناك طريقة تستخدمينها عندما كنتِ تمرين بفترة الدورة الشهرية تغيرت الآن؟

J: لم يتغير شيء. كان ذلك طبيعيًا. حصلت على دورتي هذا الشهر وهكذا. انتهت. أفكر بنفس الشكل الآن ولكن الفرق الوحيد هو أنني لا أمتلك دورتي الشهرية بعد الآن

N: As a mature woman. What is your opinion on periods? What does it represent to you? Does it symbolize a woman’s strength? 

J: No to me, it doesn't represent the strength of a woman. This is God’s natural creation of a woman. He gave it to her. God gave it to women so that through it, women can get pregnant. There is a menstrual cycle, then there is an ovulation, and then there is a pregnancy. This distinguishes women from other creatures.

N: كامرأة ناضجة، ما هو رأيك حول الدورة الشهرية؟ ماذا تمثل لك؟ هل ترمز إلى قوة المرأة؟

J: لا، بالنسبة لي، لا تمثل قوة المرأة. هذا هو إبداع الله الطبيعي للمرأة. منحها الله لها. أعطى الله للنساء ذلك لكي يمكنهن من خلاله الحمل. هناك دورة شهرية، ثم تباعها التبويض، ثم الحمل. هذا يميز المرأة عن الكائنات الأخرى.

N: This is from the scientific perspective. 

J: Yes, and periods have an important role. And periods also clean the woman's body of all toxins and things that are harmful. It is very important. 

N: هذا من الناحية العلمية.

J: نعم، وللدورة الشهرية دور هام. وتقوم الدورة الشهرية أيضًا بتنقية جسم المرأة من جميع السموم والأشياء الضارة. إنها مهمة جدًا.

N: is there something you know now about periods that you wish you’ve learnt before?

J: no there isn’t anything I know now that I wished I already learnt. 

N: هل هناك شيء تعرفينه الآن عن الدورة الشهرية تتمنين أنك قد تعلمته من قبل؟

J: لا، ليس هناك شيء أعرفه الآن وأتمنى أنني قد تعلمته بالفعل.

N: If the subject of periods wasn't a taboo for the Arab society, and for the male society? What would you have done differently? Would you be more vocal about your period? Or would you still feel embarrassed? 

J: You can't say that periods are a taboo, because it's God's nature. The Arab society and the male society know it. We shouldn't be ashamed of it, on the contrary, we should be proud of it, because it gives you the power to get pregnant.

N: إذا لم يكن موضوع الدورة الشهرية موضوعًا محظورًا في المجتمع العربي وفي المجتمع الذكوري، هل كنتِ ستفعلين شيئًا مختلفًا؟ هل ستكونين أكثر صراحة حول دورتكِ؟ أم ستشعرين بالخجل ما زال؟

J: لا يمكن القول إن الدورة الشهرية هي موضوع محظور، لأنها جزء من طبيعة الله. المجتمع العربي والمجتمع الذكوري يعرفان ذلك. لا يجب علينا أن نخجل منها، بل على العكس، يجب أن نفخر بها، لأنها تمنحك القوة للحمل.

N:  Right, but because we live in an Arab society, they consider that this is a subject that shouldn't be talked about it loudly and confidently. What would be your response if you are able to be vocal and speak freely about your period? 

J: Personally, I never liked the idea of saying “I’m on my period” publicly. This is something private and intimate for you to have and to know. No one will care whether I have my period or not. It's not necessary for everyone to know that I'm on my period. Whether they admit it or not, or whether they like it or not, it’s a human thing, it’s a private matter and It’s up to each person. 

N: صحيح، ولكن لأننا نعيش في مجتمع عربي، يعتبرون أن هذا موضوعًا لا ينبغي الحديث عنه بصوت عالٍ وبثقة. ماذا سيكون ردك إذا كنتِ قادرة على الحديث بصراحة عن دورتكِ؟

J: شخصياً، لم أكن أحب فكرة قول "أنا في دورتي" علنيًا. هذا أمر خاص وحميم بالنسبة لك لديك وتعرف عليه. لا أحد سيهتم ما إذا كنتِ في دورتكِ أم لا. إنه ليس ضروريًا للجميع معرفة أنني في دورتي. سواء اعترفوا بها أم لا، أو سواء أحبوا ذلك أم لا، إنها شيء إنساني، وهي مسألة خاصة وتعتمد على كل شخص.

N: Tell us a little bit about the menopause, since you're going through it now. What are you feeling? What are the symptoms you're feeling? Are you more comfortable now?

J: I didn't know menopause would be such a pain. I didn't know how periods were so valuable until after I started menopause. Menopause is a very bad phase for women. It's a period of hot flashes, of anger, of anxiety, and of lack of sleep. Women also face a bit of bloating in their stomachs. It’s a very challenging phase that every woman goes through both mentally and physically.

N: قد تحدثين لنا قليلاً عن سن اليأس، حيث أنك تمرين بها الآن. ما الذي تشعرين به؟ ما هي الأعراض التي تشعرين بها؟ هل أنتِ أكثر راحة الآن؟

J: لم أكن أعلم أن سن اليأس سيكون بهذا الألم. لم أعرف مدى قيمة الدورة الشهرية حتى بعد بدء سن اليأس. سن اليأس هو مرحلة سيئة جدًا بالنسبة للنساء. إنها مرحلة من الهبات الساخنة والغضب والقلق ونقص النوم. المرأة تواجه أيضًا قليلاً من الانتفاخ في معدتها. إنها مرحلة صعبة للغاية تمر بها كل امرأة على الصعيدين النفسي والجسدي.

N: And how are you coping with this situation? 

J: I’m coping with it as much as I can. It's a given to me. I'm supposed to have it. There's no way I can't have it. Every woman needs to have it. I'm trying to help myself as much as I can. I'm taking herbal medicine to reduce the hot flashes. But every woman has to go through menopause and adapt herself to it. 

N: وكيف تتعاملين مع هذا الوضع؟

J: أتعامل معه بقدر ما استطيع. إنه أمر واجب بالنسبة لي. يفترض أن يحدث لي. لا يوجد طريقة لعدم تجربته. يجب على كل امرأة أن تمر به وأن تتكيف معه.


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