The World is changing and Jeem is growing

379 words

How are we going to celebrate our birthday?

It’s the second anniversary of Jeem, in the midst of all this clamor, all these events. The world is changing, and Jeem is growing.

We have to confess that we love celebrations. We love donning those strange little colored hats, blowing balloons and blowing out candles, dancing and smearing our faces with cake and laughing like it’s really funny.

It’s difficult to celebrate these days, especially since we’re a small team and each one of us is from — and in — a different country. We try to support each other. We meet virtually and chat about the weather, food, relationships, disappointments, frustrations. Work seeps gradually into these intimate conversations; we go from talking about pickled olives and our expanding waistlines, to discussing proposals for upcoming dossiers in Jeem. Then we remember we’re on a break from work, but our conversation keeps shifting between the personal, the social, and Jeem. The situation is confusing, and we need to take care of ourselves so that we can also take good care of our audience.

But how do we take care of ourselves when the world is collapsing around us? The road ahead looks long and tough, and we’re only in our second year. Producing feminist and queer knowledge in Arabic is an exhausting undertaking, but we’re trying. We’ve published several dossiers in our second year, shedding light on various issues with critical approaches. “First Time” is a visual dossier on first sexual experiences, while “How do I love myself?” tackles the issue of self-care. We’ve published a dossier entitled “Queer Perspectives on Arabic Cinema,” and another called “Constructing Masculinity.” We’ve also produced articles, texts, and a podcast on feminism in the age of revolutions, and we’ve put them together into a dossier that celebrates the spaces of hope that feminist movements in the region have made possible.

At Jeem, we also value personal experiences highly; to us, they are just as important as analytical work. We love eloquence and loud, confident voices, but we also love confused, fragile, and muffled voices. We’re actively working on this at Jeem, and this year we launched a section called “Jadal,” a safe and open space for these voices to be heard. We sometimes collaborate with people who are not necessarily experienced writers, but who wish to speak about issues of sexual and gender diversity, along with their own experiences. Writers who are seeking to break the barriers of fear and shame, and so we accompany them as editors, thinking and learning together. Sometimes we stumble or falter, but we’re doing our best to learn from our mistakes, and to evolve.

A lot has happened. Our colleague Nada died, leaving behind a burning wound in our hearts. We had to disappear and hibernate for a while; we can’t always be warriors. We came back, with a lump in our throats, and continued to work on texts and to publish a variety of audio and visual material.

The world is changing, and Jeem is growing. We’re grateful to everyone who’s on this journey with us: our audience, contributors, and partners. Thank you to you all. Let’s all gather around a candle to celebrate this milestone, and sing: “Happy birthday to Jeem.”