Lebanese Women

March 17th, 2005

So, I’ve read a few blog posts about attractive Lebanese women gracing the covers of magazines. They all miss the point. Wait while I drag out my soapbox and clear my throat…

The media constantly displays images of attractive people in an effort to make us all think of ourselves as inadequate. If we are confident with ourselves and our lives, we wouldn’t buy most of the things we buy. In order for the public to be in a state where they are willing to consume, those hot guys and girls are paraded in front of our eyes and we feel like that’s the thing missing from our lives. So, we buy the product. Marylin Manson speaks the truth in Bowling for Columbine, though I don’t think the catalyst is limited to fear; feeding on insecurities assures the same result. Although what is insecurity other than fear placed on your own self worth?

So the sad thing about these images and those posts about the “hot Lebanese women” is that at such an important time in Lebanese history, the media focuses on image, as it always does. At such a momentous occassion, the media shows us images that portray women as we are used to oggling them on the covers of magazines: thin, flawless, beautiful, with a little bit of attitude thrown in to shake things up. And it’s all devised for the American audience (although I’m sure other countries’ aesthetic senses draw them to the same images). The emphasis is taken off of the event and placed onto the modern concept of beauty. What is the news story? I don’t know, but those women sure are pretty!

How insulting for those women that the only reason they are on covers of magazines is because of their looks. Despite how much effort they place into living out the faith of their convictions, into bringing democracy to their country, those efforts are not what gets them in the media. Their genes are what gets them in the media.

12 comments on “Lebanese Women”

  1. Matt Says:

    I did a poor job of expressing it in my post, but I’m afraid you’re the one who’s missing the point. Look at those young women. Many of them are fairly ordinary looking, if you can separate them from the context. I certainly wouldn’t expect any of them to make the cover of Maxim, FHM or, for that matter, Cosmo.

    So why do they seem beautiful? The intense joy and excitement they display. Those emotions are products of the prospect of freedom and the fact that, despite the risks, they are out there realizing that possibility. Those emotions are what make them beautiful. Those women personify something — something far more meaningful and far more inspiring than mere physical aesthetics. They personify the innate human hunger for freedom, and the joy human beings feel when that hunger is satiated (or at least appears about to be so). That was what I hoped to express with my post: Freedom is a beautiful thing.

    I don’t think I missed the point at all.

  2. Todd Says:

    C’mon there, Matt. Your posts aren’t about freedom at all. Refering to these women as “Lebonese democracy babes” and highlighting “the most babelicious” of them doesn’t focus on the emotional aspect of the situation one bit. You so clearly focus on the beauty of these women and you do not make it clear that they are beautiful because of the actions they are partaking in. Your comment up above is not the tenor of the blogs on your site.

    I’m not convinced that I’ve missed the point, anyhow. Perhaps I’ve missed your point (though I’d argue that you only made it clear in the comment here), but the point of the media of including those images is that they sell due to the physical beauty. Even though democratic elections are a glorious thing to have happen in the middle east, we still can’t get away from the idea of sex sells, even to celebrate for the freedom the people of that region are experiencing. In that regard, I still think you’ve missed my point.

    I’m going to have to reconsider this whole trackback thing. This site is a personal record not meant for public consumption (at least not yet)!

  3. Matt Says:

    I do understand your larger point. I just can’t get outraged about the fact that that sex sells. And, frankly, I think you grossly overstate the reality of that old cliche. I sincerely doubt that anyone buys The Weekly Standard because they think the cover model with the Lebanese flags on her cheeks has a centerfold spread. Even if they did, they’d end up with an article about pro-freedom, pro-independence demonstrators in Lebanon. Outrageous!

    I won’t address your conclusions re: my motive for the original post. A fair-minded reading of the original post, the comments to it, and my first comment here are sufficient to do that, I think.

    Finally, I didn’t find you through a trackback. Someone clicked through from your blog to mine, so you showed up in my referrer log. The only way to prevent that sort of thing is to take down the blog, or eliminate all links. Honestly, though, why on God’s green Earth would you put something on the Internet if it weren’t meant for public consumption?!

  4. Todd Says:

    I’m not sure how it’s possible to “grossly overstate” a trite saying. The Weekly Standard didn’t use the image of the woman with a wart on her nose and hair on her lip because it wouldn’t sell as readily as the lady with the flag on her cheek. Is that an overstatement? I’m not sure what you mean there.

    You focus on the “hubba-hubba” factor of the images and so do your commentors. How can you possibly argue with that stance when you so clearly mention the “babelicious”-ness of an image without even a single mention of what she stands for in that post? Am I simply taking that particular post out of context? I haven’t scoured your site, but the posts I’ve read suggest that I am not.

    From what you’ve written here, I might agree with you in terms of why they appear beautiful. But from what you have on your site, you focus on how pretty those women are and I don’t see that it’s because they are taking part in the democratic process. You even said yourself that you did a poor job of expressing this in your post. If that’s the case, then I probably should miss the point of a poorly stated argument.

    I just think I’m more cynical about this than you appear to be. I really believe that there are those that look at those images without taking the time to “read all about it” and it’s sad that the moment behind the photo is lost in sex appeal. Sad? Hrmm… Perhaps just a bit strange and worthy of social commentary in the form of an blog entry.

    And I suppose that I don’t mind the occassional soul wandering onto this site, but I’m actaully quite embarrassed of the design, here. This standard template is not too appealing. I just had the image of “launching” this site when it was somehow cooler to visit. You know, plans for change that never come to fruition. That’s all I meant. I know it’s available, I just wanted it to go unnoticed for now, while I get used to writing in it regularly and work on a better look. But, if I get visitors I get visitors! I enjoy it.

  5. Matt Says:

    Todd,

    What I said was that I think you grossly overstate the reality of the cliche. By which I meant that while it’s true that sex sells, I think many people vastly overestimate its importance in many contexts. And I suspect this is one of them.

    As to the point of my original post, yes, I did a poor job of expressing it, and I don’t blame you for not picking up on it at the time. But in light of my comments here, I’d think some of the following might take on more significance to you:

    -“Gorgeous women risking life and limb for democracy and independence? ”

    -“I haven’t felt this way since the Wall fell.”

    -“the beautiful, courageous women of Lebanon.

    -“What’s truly beautiful is the joy on their faces.

    [I couldn’t agree more. — Matt]”

    That said, I don’t particularly expect you to be persuaded; frankly, you don’t seem very open to that possibility. No matter.

    “I really believe that there are those that look at those images without taking the time to ‘read all about it’ and it’s sad that the moment behind the photo is lost in sex appeal.” That may be. But people who are that shallow and ignorant very likely won’t look at all, no matter what images are used. And there is some number of people who would not look absent the image but, once drawn in by it, will learn more. So I would be willing to bet that, in the long run, those sorts of images result in more people learning about “the moment behind the photo” than would have occurred absent the images. And that seems like a good thing.

  6. Todd Says:

    Perhaps. And it’s not about being persuaded about an issue (you have no idea how open I am, so why comment on that here?). As I’ve said, your comments here indicate a different tone that I’m willing to agree with. Why are they beautiful? For exactly the reasons you’ve indicated. But they also conform to the current notion of purely physical beauty, too. That can’t be a coincidence and I merely pontificated on that.

    Yes, those quotes do hold a bit more significance; I just re-read your post and did see those comments. But there’s still much about the babelicious quality of these women with a slight focus on the elections. Do you really feel I’m wrong in that assertion?

    I’m not sure what I am to be persuaded of. Did I unfairly categorize your ideas? The ideas here are fairly clear and anyone clicking through to your site will see your ideas, but you were one in a grouping of people who blogged about this. Your entry wasn’t as egregious as ones that were merely “Yowza!”

    I agree with you; the youthful look is one of hope and expectation at the democratic process. But do you really think that the sex appeal of those images is not worth noting and shaking one’s head at? That these women just became another in a series of objectified images of women on magazines?

  7. Matt Says:

    Todd,

    You seemed to be resisting my explanation of the motive for my own post. Now you seem willing to accept that explanation, at least in part. So I was wrong: You’re more open to persuasion that I thought.

    I’m afraid I just can’t get worked up about the fact that images of pretty girls help sell magazines. Given the biological imperative, I’d expect nothing else. (If women were as visually oriented as men, images of “pretty” men would sell magazines — and we’d see a lot more magazine covers featuring pretty men.)

    For another, more refined perspective on some of these issues, see these two posts: 1, 2.

  8. Todd Says:

    No need to get worked up over it, just realize that you were partaking in it. It seems that you object to my suggestion that you were writing, at least in part, to the “Yowza!” effect. Now, I didn’t represent what you had to say about the why of that effect, and I acknowledge that, but I keyed in on the part of your writing that troubled me.

    The objectification of those women, by the media and by misc. blog posts such as some you have made, was worth a comment (it doesn’t quite bother me, but I’m not chuckling about it either, you know?). It seems that your original *intent* was much more in line with my beliefs, but some comments you made struck me as incongruous to that (I again draw your attention to this post).

    I prefer to think of that “biological imperative” as not such an imperative; not all impulses must be obeyed and we can hopefully move to a point where the media doesn’t pander to that common denominator. We can rise above our insticts to something greater/more important/worthwhile/more intelligent/equitable.

    this is one reason (besides the obvious) why the coarsely named “babe revolution” in Lebanon has seized the world’s attention. Encoded in those images of attractive, laughing women, arms outstretched in gestures of freedom, is a visual language that spells more than just political freedom–but sexual liberation, as well.

    Excellently stated! Thanks for the link to that site.

    If I’ve gotten nothing else from the experience of installing WordPress, I’ve begun an enlightening conversation with you and been given the address of an interesting site. That will surely be the topic of another post here, soon.

    I really need to make this comment textarea bigger… Maybe get a little preview action going on, too.

  9. Matt Says:

    Playing with formatting can be fun, but it eventually gets old. I’m glad it’s not my profession. Though if it were, I might make more money. ;-)

    Yes, I don’t deny that there’s some “yowza” factor involved in my original post; I’m a heterosexual male.* I simply wanted to make clear that it was about something more than that. Not everyone “got” it. In fact, even as I was composing the original post — by far the most popular, linked-to and commented-on post that I’ve ever done, BTW — I was asking myself, “what is my point here? Pretty girls, sure, but pretty girls are a dime a dozen and most of these aren’t extraordinarily pretty. I don’t normally compose a post everytime I see a photo of a pretty girl. What’s so special about this particular set? Why am I doing this?” It took me some time to properly articulate the emotion, which — I hope — is why I didn’t do it very well in the first pass.

    I certainly agree that not all impulses must be obeyed. That said, I don’t believe that merely noticing attractive women is something we can control. I wouldn’t even call it an impulse; I’d call it a reaction to visual stimuli. The urge do do something in response to that reaction is an impulse that we can control. I may be able to resist looking twice at a pretty girl — particularly if my wife happens to be nearby — but I can’t help noticing that she’s pretty. A picture of a pretty Lebanese girl will attract my attention over a picture of Bashar Assad every single time (unless, perhaps, Assad happens to be doing something extraordinarily interesting). I harbor no illusions that I can do anything about it. Bashar Assad wasn’t hardwired into my brain by millennia of evolution. Pretty girls were.

    *The post to which you keep linking is purely “yowza.” I don’t deny it. She’s an exceptionally attractive young woman, even outside the context of the protests. I posted her pic for the same reason I’ve posted photos of Pam Anderson — pre-Tommy Lee, -surgery and -Hepatitis — Jessica Simpson, Liz Taylor — in her youth, of course — Cindy Crawford, Jewel Kilcher, Maria Menounos, Salma Hayek, and Angie Harmon: Because I like to look at them, and suspect others might as well.

  10. Todd Says:

    “Because I like to look at them, and suspect others might as well.”

    ‘Nuff said.

  11. Debbie Says:

    You guys crack me up.

    So, from a true Lebanese chick – and not anyone that’s going to grace magazine covers anytime soon – it’s actually pretty freaking cool that women are the focus of protest pictures from Lebanon. While women have had influence over political things in Lebanon, I would venture to say it’s only been in the last 10 years that it has been “cool” in the Lebanese feminine culture to want to do so.

    My cousin, who is mostly Lebanese and amazingly gorgeous and doesn’t look at all Lebanese with her freckles and strawberry blonde hair, still travels around the Middle East regularly. She says out in the rural areas of Lebanon, middle-aged and older women still can’t be bothered with politics because it doesn’t seem to have any affect on anything they experience. Many of the younger girls from the rural areas go to big cities to get involved, though. Part of this is wonderful and to be celebrated, but part of it is taking “new blood” away from communities that have relied on old ways. Women who live away from the urban areas pass their knowledge and memories and traditions down to their children, especially their daughters, and the daughters are less focused on the past and moreso on the future.

    Btw, all of my 100% Lebanese aunts cousins are crazy-lovely-looking, but because they’ve taken care of themselves over the years. I imagine if you dropped them in a similar situation with similar heightened emotions, they’d’ve been beautiful enough for the cover of a magazine, too.

  12. Lebanese Girls Says:

    Nothing more beautiful than a girl from Lebanon. Took a look at this site http://www.lebanese-girls.com Where can u can find just regular pictures of lebanese woman, just Lebanese girls

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