In certain ways, Faysal Karami is an interesting man. He’s the minister of sports and youth in our defunct government. He’s a parliament member representing the city of Tripoli. He’s also offended by the possible impact of Jackie Chamoun’s breasts on the reputation of his country and has asked the Olympic committee to launch an investigation into the incident, which has taken place about three years prior to current events.
Can Mr. Karami be outraged? Well, it’s his right I give him that. But Mr. Karami, don’t you have other things that require you to be infinitely more outraged about?
Lebanon’s sports have always been our pride and joy. We’re a small country with not much to give the world in many of the sectors that count but we did deliver, to the best of our financial capacities, in sports. But let’s forget about sports, of which Mr. Karami is technically in charge. Let’s not talk about how we’ve always had a little basketball team that was quite good and which is not allowed to play on an international scale for a while because he let the basketball league get so upheld in politics that it felt like parliament was in session every time two teams met for a game. Let’s not talk about how our football team, which beat South Korea, ended up in a mess of scandals that left us out of a World Cup dream.
Let’s talk instead about Tripoli, Mr. Karami’s hometown. Has Mr. Karami been offended by the notion that his hometown is being viewed by a lot of Lebanese as a hub for terrorism, a second iteration of Kandahar? Is he affected by the notion that the city of which he is partially in charge is next to dead on every conceivable scale? Is he affected by the idea that the streets he called home have become infested with bearded men whose only purpose in life is to wreck havoc to the people of a city who only want to live? Is Mr. Karami aware that today’s Tripoli is also his fault?
Tripoli is a place I used to visit frequently. In all of the times I spent there, stray bullets and sporadic explosions included, I’ve never heard of Faysal Karami getting upset about the reputation of his hometown and how he got his hometown to end up is reflecting on the precious country whose reputation he holds dear.
A few years down the road, Faisal Karame’s legacy will be that of a man who was more offended by a pair of tits than by the suicidal beards overflowing his town. He’ll be known as the man who got an entire country to basically strip its clothes off to defend a woman. Isn’t that quite the achievement of a lifetime?
Cyril Raidy started a trend on Twitter yesterday which he called #StripForJackie. Soon enough, people of all forms and genders were bracing the harshness of social media platforms, full of guts, stripping their bodies for everyone to see in order to make a point. Some were enthusiastic about it. Others were not. Some were accepting everyone who had the courage to show themselves while others immediately became a form of body police, missing the point entirely.
But why is Lebanon stripping for Jackie?
A recently launched page on Facebook aptly titled “I Am Not Naked” features, well, naked people who are out there to make several points.
In the past month, Lebanon has lost two women to our patriarchally unjust system, to the ruthless hands of husbands who know no morals. Manale Assi’s husband, who beat her to death, turned himself in recently. He did not do so because he felt guilty about him killing his wife. He did so because his lawyer advised him that it would get him to evade a death sentence and eventually get a softer sentence by the judge. There was no outrage by any of our politicians, such as Mr. Karami, about the death of those women. Those women, after all, were not naked when they were killed like animals at a slaughterhouse by creatures that are lesser than animals in nature.
By taking off their clothes, those courageous people are sticking it to our tabloid-like media, who can’t wait to chase scandals. They are giving those media not one scandal but countless little scandals for them to write about. They won’t do so, of course. They are telling those media that the bodies they turn into scandals are not a representation of the people they like to persecute. We are more than our skin, our hair and our private parts.
With one picture and a video, Jackie Chamoun did more to the cause of the Lebanese woman than the past years. With her picture, the discussion about the injustice that befell on Manale Assi and Roula Yaacoub is back to the forefront. People are not only stripping for Jackie. They are stripping for Manale and Roula – for women who lost their lives because they had no one, including their families, to stand up to them.
With her picture, Jackie Chamoun is getting people to talk about the unfairness of our nationality law, of our family laws, of our rape laws, of every single law that we have pertaining to our women.
With her picture, Jackie Chamoun has caused a sexual ripple across Lebanon the likes of which this country hasn’t seen before. Perhaps its effects won’t be everlasting. But who ever thought that this country will one day have people defying the entire establishment through a part of our lives that has always been a taboo? Down with insecurities. There hasn’t been such national fervor about an issue since the days when Khouloud and Nidale Sukkariyeh defied our entire system and got a civil marriage.
People are taking off their clothes for Jackie because they’re sick of seeing weak people with whom they identify go to jail at the hands of the politicians who are protecting the real criminals that should infest those jails. With Faisal Karami probing into her, Jackie Chamoun risks jail time as well as exuberant fines. But will Faisal Karami and the likes of him be able to defy a country that has risen in the defense of a young woman whose fault was to be innocent enough to believe that her picture will not get turned into a national existentialist issue?
People are stripping for Jackie because for once there’s something in this country that we are actually capable of directing, of not having it dictated upon us like every single thing. I long for a day when such upheaval could happen to celebrate our army which dismantled two bombs that would have killed many innocent people today. I hope there will come a day when such an upheaval will happen to tackle the religious establishment’s constant interference with politics. I hope for a day when such an upheaval will happen against the bearded extremists of all religions and all parties, godly or not. I hope for a day when such an upheaval will happen for all the innocent lives lost in all the explosions that have plagued our country over the previous years.
But who would have thought a couple of days ago that such an upheaval about women would take place today? Jackie Chamoun’s issue is not only about an Alpine Olympic skier who took a picture for a calendar. It’s about the Manale Assi’s still at home, getting beaten everyday, and not able to talk about it. It’s about my cousin who can’t pass her nationality to her children later on because her husband is American. It’s about the women who don’t know they can say no. It’s about the women who can’t marry whoever they want because that person prays differently.
Today, Jackie Chamoun matters. I hope you see that too.