Lebanese feminism cannot be understood unless contextualized within the postcolonial legacy that shapes politics in Lebanon and regulates its political discourse. This factor, which is common to other postcolonial societies, creates three waves of feminism pdf complex problems for feminists, who are continually being reminded, as they attempt to make their claims, that their discourse emanate from the mindset of the Western colonial powers.
A history of colonialism and the existence of long-term Western hegemony in the Middle East mark all political and social movements in the region, which not only look inward towards achieving change in a given community or state, but also look outwards, to the West, inasmuch as the West provides both resources and limits. While American feminism has produced a historiography that traces the movement through different waves, rarely do we hear a discussion of waves of women’s rights activism or feminism in other parts of the world, which I argue exist at least in the Lebanese contexts. Waves are linked concretely to changes in the collectivity both of activists and of the social context in which they are acting.
In fact, a discussion of feminist waves from a Lebanese perspective—summarized in the chart below—might be helpful to understanding the connections and temporal lags binding together the global struggle for women’s rights. These women’s feminism was influenced by the enlightenment movement in Europe, the struggles with colonialism in the third world and the Middle East, and the social changes brought through Western missionaries, as well as Ottoman and Egyptian attempts for emancipating women. As European missionaries accompanied the European colonists into Asia, Africa, and the Americas, they carried with them a literature that carried the cautiously subversive message of education for women and their liberal ideologies.