Posted by Guest on October 31, 2017 in Blog

by Sydney Roeder

Laila Hzaineh of Jordan has taken social media by storm with her videos that challenge misogynist attitudes dominating society. Her first ever video was in response to a post that justified the harassment of women on the streets based on the way they dress. After the video received over 300,000 likes on Facebook in just a few days, she knew people were watching and interested and so she started to post more. Topics in her videos have ranged from discussing misconceptions about hymens to talking about protecting women abused by their husbands. Not only have the videos reached thousands across the Arab world, they are also making an impact. One particular response she had to TV anchor Mohammad Rakan Qadah’s comments on women’s dress resulted in him being forced out of his position on Josat TV. Hzaineh is also empowering young women across the Arab world, which has been her main goal as a women’s activist. Consequently, one of her viewers was AAI’s own Omar Baddar who invited Hzaineh to discuss her work at our office. 

Last Friday, Laila Hzaineh made it to the AAI office for a brown bag lunch from Swarthmore College, where she is currently an undergrad student. She discussed her involvement in women’s activism and her influences, namely her mother. Hzaineh spent time answering attendees’ questions about the struggles many millennial women from the Arab world face and how she feels the problems need to be addressed. The fresh perspective and energy she brought to the conversation was contagious. The result was a very constructive talk about what the next steps look like for women’s rights in the Arab world and where the change will come from. She has proven that seemingly small actions, such as posting a Facebook video, can make a big impact. 

In recent weeks, the rise of the #MeToo campaign on social media demonstrates the magnitude of the problem of sexual assault and harassment. The issues Laila sees in the Arab world do not stop there. Instead, they are simply one narrative among many around the world. Although that narrative may look different in each place, the underlining theme remains the same: misogyny is present everywhere.

It was present when I myself was in middle school walking down the street in Michigan and it was present riding in numerous taxis in Amman while studying abroad. It was present on my college campus and it was also present when I traveled to Cameroon. However, in each of these places misogyny will be fought with different forms of activism and by different people. The #MeToo campaign and Laila’s videos are the tip of the iceberg regarding this deeply embedded issue.

Sydney Roeder is a 2017 fall intern at the Arab American Institute.