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Lebanon: Boys do cry

Publication Date: 
June 21, 2012

“Feeling stressed, agitated, over the edge?” These are the slogans you read on billboards across the country. These expressions aren’t new to Lebanon’s urban dictionary – however it may be the first time they are being used constructively. The banners depict men mostly from the working class in aggravating circumstances. One billboard shows a taxi driver, raising his arm in disdain at the traffic (or so it seems), the slogan heading the picture reads: “feeling like you’ve reached the end of your line? Don’t vent out your anger on others, or your family. Call us, we are ready to listen.”

The campaign aims at providing men with a free and confidential anger management service. Men are welcome to call the number displayed on the banner, where specialized professionals are ready to answer and listen to their problems, as per the association. ABAAD is the organization responsible for this campaign. It is a non-profit, non-political, non-religious civil association that aims to achieve gender equality as an essential condition to sustainable social and economic development in the MENA region. It also seeks to promote women’s equality and participation through policy development, legal reform, gender mainstreaming, engaging men, eliminating discrimination, and advancing and empowering women to participate effectively and fully in their communities.

The campaign came to be when the association decided to address the root cause of the problem rather than band-aiding the result. Gheeda Anany, the center’s director said, that they decided it was time to create a hotline, when battered women repeatedly echoed the same words: “Don’t tell me! Tell him!” while referring to their partners abuse. Gheeda went on to say that since the launch of this campaign, the center was surprised with the number of calls – pushing aside all fears that Lebanese men were not ready to discuss their problems. Men do cry, and can reach a level of excessive frustration said Ghassan Assaf, resident therapist at the program. “Men can feel enormous economic pressure and social fear, and when these feelings are left unaddressed they may turn into resentment and manifest into violence. That is why it is so important that these men have someone to talk to,” Assaf added.

So what say you Lebanon? Are our country’s men ready to talk? Vent out freely to a total stranger? Are we ready for this sense of transparency, albeit via confidentiality?

The answer remains unclear. Yet we can always hope that such progressive steps taken by civil society associations work their way through a paternal dominant society, long burdened by the image of the stern male who does not weaken, or talk out his problems like women do, or what common culture deems as “neswen el forn.”

Let’s help spread the word, or in this case the number on the banner. It might save a child, woman, or man from uncontrolled fists of fury. And since its fathers day today; let’s keep the happy, in father’s day.

To view the campaigns video click here:  “Mest’edeen Nesma’ Haki”- Launch of IMC & ABAAD Men Center