Lebanon’s media has a fine tradition of stupidity, incitement and McCarthyism. It vilifies the weak (foreigners, domestic workers, gays, sex workers) and lionises the strong (“politicians”). I’ve covered this before.
So it won’t come as much surprise to see the reports in the last few days that claimed a topless photo shoot done several years ago by a Lebanese skier, Jackie Chamoun, (to promote her sport) was “scandalous” and had shamed Lebanon in the eyes of the world. I won’t link to the photos, nor shall I shame some websites who have clearly not only shared all the pictures in question with SEO friendly headlines and search words, but have also gone through the video accompanying the shoot and taken screen grabs of the skiers when they are at their most topless. Although I’m tempted.
As has been pointed out, Lebanon’s media morals are currently so skewed that it is totally fine for multiple channels to show the disembowelled corpses of suicide bombing victims, but not fine, apparently, for a grown woman to bare some flesh.
It’s heartening to see the response such reports have provoked, with Lebanese Twitter and Facebook users springing to Chamoun’s defence. Gives one some hope for Lebanon (which rapidly drains out of one after two minutes in front of the news). Chamoun has issued an apology, which I suppose is entirely her prerogative (although speaking personally I’d have preferred a three word response that starts “go fuc…”).
In a giant middle finger to the victims of car bombs and decades of infrastructural decay (things for which resources and time should be allocated) Caretaker Youth and Sports Minister Faisal Karami announced he would be investigating Chamoun’s photo shoot. There is even talk of her being banned from competing in future olympics. Which, if does happen, is about the most perfect analogy of Lebanon’s “misplaced priorities” I’ve seen yet.
Lebanon’s Ministry of Tourism has repeatedly produced promotional videos essentially centred on the bodies of Lebanese women. I’ve covered this before, too.
As I wrote a few years back:
There is an argument to say there is little wrong with a country using its natural assets (Lebanon is still poor in resources, and will remain so until the government can agree on what to do with natural gas and oil reserves in the east Mediterranean) to boost its economic draw. As long as the women in the commercial are consensual, what is wrong with flashing their flesh to promote Lebanon? After all, plenty of countries flaunt their female beauty stocks in a bid to draw beach-dwelling binocular users to their shores.
Not plenty of countries, however, display the same level of hypocrisy by on one hand encouraging grabby men to come and ogle their women while denying those same women basic rights enjoyed by men.
Here’s one of those videos for your perusal:
Lebanon has even before taken to the pages of Playboy to flog its women. Anyway. It’s transparently hypocritical to promote women as physical specimens while simultaneously denying them equal treatment in every facet of professional and familial society, just as people without boobs shouldn’t get to tell people with boobs what to do with them.
Secondly, I urge everyone to read this report about the Lebanese ski team and how it has had to overcome unimaginable managerial incompetence, corruption and fecklessness to even make it to the Olympics. Any Olympics.
One might think the media might be, I dunno, proud of a young professional who – like many, many citizens of Lebanon – has had to struggle and fight in the face of downright ineptitude and obstructiveness to achieve their ambition. But as you know by now, that’s not how Lebanon – least of all the politicised media – does things. It’s waspish, petty, self-righteous and stupid. Put that in a tourism video.