Lebanon’s Interior Minister Is Now Saying That Women Can’t Be Prime Ministers

TDS/Mohamad Azakir | AP Photo

In his latest gender-biased remarks, Lebanese caretaker Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi said that he believes women can’t take on the role of prime minister.

His comment came in response to a question posed by talk show host, Neshan Der Haroutiounian, who asked, “Do you think we can have a female prime minister? Do you think a woman can take on this task?”

“I don’t doubt a woman’s ability to work,” said Fahmi, who was preceded by Lebanon’s first female interior minister Raya El-Hassan.

Pressed to answer yes or no, he said, “Yes, but… in the current situation in Lebanon, you need someone who isn’t gentle, the woman is gentle, the woman is soft and timid.”

He said this confidently as though decades of men in power have been a success for Lebanon, which is not the case.

“You are generalizing,” Neshan said, prompting him to change his mind.

“I have to be convinced to change my mind,” Fahmi responded. He added that he was convinced and supportive of the woman’s role in society, but apparently not enough to think women can be prime minister.

Fahmi’s latest remark comes shortly after his recent sexist comment that women “should cook” on Sunday (during the lockdown) instead of ordering delivery.

In rejection of Fahmi’s sexist comments, Lebanese men created the “Fahmi challenge” posting videos and photographs of their meals or of them cooking. Their hashtag تَحَدي_فهمي (#Fahmi_Challenge) took over Twitter on Sunday.

It’s clear the old ways of sexist and gender-biased old-age thinking will no longer be tolerated by forward-thinking Lebanese who want to make a change in the country.

If women have proven anything, especially since the beginning of the revolution, is that they are far from timid.

Adding that the many successful Lebanese women, whether in the country or the diaspora, couldn’t possibly have succeeded in the highly-competitive business or political fields if timidity was one of their character’s features.

Forbes | SEAN KILPATRICK/CANADIAN PRESS

Such a gender-bias mindset towards Lebanese women plainly declares them less intelligent, less educated, and less competent than their peers in the world, where female country’s leaders and prime ministers have proven even more remarkably successful than male premiers in many instances.

“I have to be convinced to change my mind,” minister Fahmi said.

For the sake of argument, although it would be impossible to change an archaic mindset like that, we cite Britain’s world-famous “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher, Sri Lanka’s PM Sirimavo Bandaranaike who led her party through 3 successful elections, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern, and Finland’s PM Sanna Marin.

That’s just a few examples of the 73 women who have held “the most powerful positions of executive power in their respective countries.”(Ref. Statista)

The difference between these women and their peers in Lebanon is that they weren’t prejudiced for their gender, but valued for their qualifications, which has allowed them to put their competence at work for the benefit of their countries. What PM Jacinda Arden, for instance, has done for her country and in such a short period is absolutely impressive.

That all isn’t probably enough evidence for minister Fahmi that women are very well capable to be prime ministers, and he needs to be convinced to change his mind.

Looking at Lebanon of today and of the past decades, with the minister’s claim that only men are competent enough to be premiers, one could only say, “How has it worked out for Lebanon so far?”

It is time to cease judging people’s capabilities solely according to their gender. That was only valid during the stone age and middle ages when men’s body constitution was necessary to physically fight through the challenges of “powerful positions of executive power.” That hasn’t been the case for decades now.

As a wise man once said, a woman who can raise a great leader can very well be a great leader herself. That is, of course, if she’s not pushed away in the shadow by gender prejudice.