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  Guns & Roses — 2  

Sex & Violence
  Vol II : issue 1

  Amrita Pritam
  Mrinal Pande
  Evelyne Accad
  Gagan Gill
  Selina Hossain
  Only in Print

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Illustrations by VISWAJYOTI GHOSH

Evelyne Accad

The aim of this presentation is to show how sexuality is linked to war, and war connected to sexuality, and to illustrate it with examples from novels about the war in Lebanon, written by both men and women in French and Arabic. My argument is that sexuality has often been left out in analysis about social, economic and political problems and that it is about time we started looking at it seriously. By sexuality, I mean the physical as well as psychological relations between men and women. And also the sexual act in itself — symbolic, like crossing the city — the customs linked to these relations — Mediterranean, Lebanese and religious customs — love, power, violence, tenderness, and the notion of territory attached to the feelings of oppression and jealousy. Many authors have started looking at these connections because they realise their importance. Miranda Davies’ compilation of articles on ‘Women’s Struggles and National Liberation,’ in Third World Women: Second Sex, is a good example. In her preface, she states: “As they begin to recognise and identify the specific nature of their double oppression, many women in the Third World realise that when needed, they may join the guerrilla movements, participate in the economy, enter politics and organise trade unions, but at the end of the day they are still seen as women, second-class citizens, inferior to men, bearers of children and domestic servants.”

Also Anne-Marie de Vilaine in Femmes: une oppression millénaire, informs us on how history is founded on a masculine logic masking the economic and sexual exploitation of women behind political, scientific or ethical arguments. And Jean-William Lapierre goes along with her analysis, noticing: “It is undeniable that half the population of the human race, namely women, have often been neglected by historical knowledge.”

I would like to show that sexuality is much more central to social and political problems than previously thought, and that unless a sexual revolution is incorporated into political revolution, there will be no real transformation of social relations. As Andrea Dworkin put it: “To transform the world, we must transform the very substance of our erotic sensibilities and we must do so as consciously and as conscientiously as we do any act which involves our whole lives.”

By sexual revolution, I mean one which starts at the personal level, with a transformation of attitudes towards one’s mate, family, sexuality, and society; specifically, a transformation of the traditional relations of domination and subordination which permeate interpersonal, particularly sexual and familial intimacy. We need to develop an exchange of love, tenderness, equal sharing and recognition among people. This would create a more secure and solid basis for change in other spheres of life — political, economic, social, religious and national, as they are often characterised by similar rapports of domination. As Elisabeth Badinter insightfully wrote: “Equality, which is taking place, gives birth to likeness which stops war. Each protagonist wanting to be the ‘whole’ of humanity can better understand the Other who has become his/her double. The feelings which unite this couple of mutants can only change in nature. Strangeness disappears, replaced by ‘familiarity’. We may lose some passion and desire, but gain tenderness and complicity, the feelings which unite members of the same family: a mother to her child, a brother to his sister... At last, all those who have dropped their weapons.”

Women were used in national liberation struggles - Algeria, Iran, Palestine, to name only a few - only to be sent back to their kitchens after 'independence'
Illustrations by VISWAJYOTI GHOSH

By political revolution, I mean one primarily motivated by nationalism, in the context of colonialism or neo-colonialism. I would argue that if all the various political parties trying to dominate a small piece of territory in Lebanon and impose their vision of what Lebanon ought to be were to unite and believe in their country as an entity not to be possessed and used, but to be loved and respected, much of the internal violence, destruction and conflicts would cease, and we could work more positively towards resolution.

Nationalism — belief in and love of one’s country — in this context, seems a necessity. “In Lebanon, solidarity and close symbiosis between the various communities is the only warranty for national unity.” This is how I use nationalism because it is a difficult notion, much written about, and which can be very conflicting. In both East and West, in old and new concepts of the term, nationalism is a complex component of revolutionary discourse. It can move in all the various facets of political power. For example, nationalism in one extreme form can be fascism. In Fascisme et mystification misogyne, Thérèse Vial-Mannessier gives us a summary of Maria-Antonietta Macciocchi’s analysis of fascist ideology in Italy from and throughout the feminine universe. The collective irrational is at work in all human groups. Conscious and unconscious forces led the masses to fascism from a transcendence of the individual ego into total allegiance to the Italian nation. First victims of this racism, women adhered to it through a masochism ready for all possible sacrifices.

p. 1 p. 2 p. 3  p. 4 p. 5 p. 6  p. 7  

Evelyne Accad is a novelist, folk song writer and Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Illinois. She divides her time between Paris and Urbana-Champaign