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Michelle Ghoussoub

On Slacktivism and Objectification: Why #StripforJackie Misses the Point

Image courtesy of Jackie Chamoun/Instagram

In the wake of Lebanon’s latest pseudo scandal, Olympic skier Jackie Chamoun has been vilified for a three year old photo-shoot in which she posed topless. In a particularly poignant logical fallacy, even for Lebanese governmental standards, Minister Faisal Karami has requested an investigation into the shoot.

 

The irony that a minister considers a pair of breasts more of a threat to the country’s international reputation than weekly car bombings, crumbling infrastructure and rampant corruption is so absurd that it requires no further comment. The reaction to the scandal has been as visceral as it has been viral. And while the hearts of those involved may be in the right place, the movement, like so many in Lebanon, may be missing the point entirely, if not demonstrating the country’s inability to rally for meaningful social action.

 

The #StripforJackie and “I Am Not Naked” campaigns that have sprung up in support of the young athlete, while well-intentioned, are also prime examples of slacktivism – "feel-good" measures in support of a social cause that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it take satisfaction from the feeling they have contributed. Indeed, the onslaught of semi-nude selfies doesn’t achieve much more than to promote the Facebook and Twitter pages of the individuals posting them, who can then pat themselves on the back as they watch their “like” count rise.

 

Much like the Kony 2012 campaign, which garnered millions of likes worldwide but failed to produce any concrete results, it is unlikely that either of these social media-driven campaigns will produce real change.

 

The #StripforJackie campaign has temporarily placed Lebanon in the headlines – Buzzfeed has already compiled the sexiest images in another one of its interminable lists, various international news outlets are abuzz with the story of the attractive young skier being criticized back in her “conservative” home country, and the Lebanese twittersphere is aflutter with activity. But within days, the story will fade into the news cycle, and the campaigns largely forgotten. The well-meaning selfies will not bring justice to Manal al-Assi, a woman beaten to death by her husband not a week ago. Nor will it hold the government accountable for the unpunished deaths of the 24 other women who have been killed in cases of domestic violence between 2010 and 2013.

 

While fury in the wake of the slut shaming of one woman is commendable, why is this same rage not felt in reaction to the murders of others, or to the general lack of rights of Lebanese women, who as of today are not protected by law against domestic violence, and cannot pass citizenship on to their own children.

 

The second issue being misconstrued is the interpretation of Jackie as some kind of feminist hero as a simple function of her decision to pose nude. While she should be commended for expressing herself by confidently exposing her body, which she has undoubtedly trained countless hours to sculpt into one worthy of an Olympian, nudity is not in itself empowerment. And ironically, the same voices hailing her as a feminist role model often objectify her in the same breath, suggesting that her power ultimately stems from her “hotness” rather than from her status as an internationally recognized athlete.

 

When added to the context of Lebanon’s rampant objectification of women, the argument of nudity as power, becomes increasingly problematic. Let’s not forget how actress Darine Hamze was criticized for her racy scenes in Beirut Hotel, a 2012 movie banned from being released in Lebanon because of its apparent potential to “endanger the country’s security.” (Unfettered media censorship – yet another issue actually detrimental to Lebanon’s international reputation.) It is no secret that women are constantly objectified in Lebanese media, whether through tasteless advertising, or the scantily clad figures constantly paraded across every local television channel.   

 

Jackie Chamoun is a hero, but not because she posed nude. She is a female role model because she qualified to compete at the international level in an incredibly difficult sport. She accomplished this without the sponsors and proper training facilities that most professional athletes enjoy, and despite a massively corrupt Lebanese Ski Federation.

 

As described by stand-up comedian Nemr Abou Nassar in a statement on Mix FM, which he later uploaded to his Facebook page, the Jackie Chamoun story is a “distraction [from the real problems], and we are falling for it hook, line and sinker.” (In a more satisfying turn of phrase, he describes the selfie campaigns by saying: “They are stupid, they are hipster, and they are dumb.”)

 

The Lebanese political system is not designed for stability. It is designed to maintain the status quo – and upholds a system that promotes corruption, political deadlock, and allows the murder of innocent civilians, by suicide bombers or at the hands of their own families, to go unpunished. Though they may have good intentions, it will ultimately take more than hashtags to change a society so twisted it fixates on pseudo-scandals rather than the literal bombs being planted in its backyard.

 

You can follow the author on Twitter @MichelleGhsoub. 

Image courtesy of Jackie Chamoun/Instagram

The well-meaning selfies will not bring justice to Manal al-Assi, a woman beaten to death by her husband not a week ago."

  • mazen.abdallah

    Obviously the strip for jackie campaign wasn't meant as a legitimate form of activism, it was people having some fun and trolling the conservative system. People weren't taking off their pants and going 'this'll surely help the plight of Lebanese women'. I think the fact that so many people were giggling and posing ironically shows that a big chunk of the people didn't take it seriously. They were just dicking around. And the 5 minutes it took to take off a pair of pants and snap a selfie didn't take away from any legitimate struggle, because 5 minutes of activism in Lebanon can't actually make a difference. Hell five years of activism in Lebanon haven't done it for some people

    February 15, 2014

  • Maia

    the author's reply to the blog post attacking her: http://eyesonbeirut.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/re-on-slacktivism-and-objectification-why-stripforjackie-misses-the-point/

    February 15, 2014

  • ThisisMk

    Easy on ur English mate!

    February 14, 2014

  • Noora

    Isn't it a little too early to bet on the failure of the campaign? Change has to start somewhere and spreading awareness about an issue through social media is a good start. Also, your article lost its legitimacy the second you used Nemr Abou Nassar as a reference; a man who criticizes people with zero class and a whole lot of disrespect.

    February 14, 2014

  • nemo21

    http://champontop.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/why-michelle-ghoussoub-nemr-abou-nassar-and-some-were-the-ones-who-actually-missed-the-point/ just saying...

    February 14, 2014

  • Zeeman

    Bob F. shut the ... up. thanks.

    February 14, 2014

  • mel j

    A very nice well written Article and in Response to Bob you know she qualified and participated in the 2010 Olympics before she did the pictures but cynical people always look at the angle to Trash someone with innuendo without any shred of proof. This is the world we live in and everyone is entitled to his/her opinion.

    February 14, 2014

  • Marc P

    The Lebanese system is designed to not give a single ... about everything bad that happens while also ... & screwing everything good that happens. #StripforJackie doesn't miss the point, people like you are missing the point with your rants & your attention seeking content. With only a hashtag, the social media campaign spread like wildfire, removed the heat from one of our rare Olympics Athlete and enlightened the world on the magnitude of the mess that we live in. Why write a full post criticizing the campaign while you could have written something more useful to spread awareness on other issues in Lebanon. OR even better, why not start a campaign to shed awareness on other issues?

    February 14, 2014

  • mosszone

    and about the article= haters gonna hate... by definition a hipster tend to be skinny sensitive creative people. let them do there part (online activism, cultural activism...) because thats what they do best. Now we (the streets) need to do OUR part because thats what we do best: take our country back from the sickening religious and political figures. let's stop hating on each other. if she want to pose naked let her be. if you dont want to look at them tits just look away. live and let live. c'mon country wake up.

    February 14, 2014

  • Bob F.

    The question that is worth asking is did Jackie use her sexuality to qualify for the Olymipcs? Did she ... her way to Sochi? With a massively corrupt Lebanese Ski Federation, this might well be the case.

    February 14, 2014

  • mosszone

    TO BOB F: in order to qualify for the olympics you need to beat a certaine time during certain international competitions. sorry about that homie. no need to have yourself a little fantasy in order to rationalise the fact that she has talent while you don't. wouldnt would be sending 1000's of athletes if it was as easy as your sick little mind think. You probably would have had a gold medal for sure. now go suck on this clock

    February 14, 2014

  • Marc P

    Retard alert

    February 14, 2014

  • mel j

    A very nice well written Article and in Response to Bob you know she qualified and participated in the 2010 Olympics before she did the pictures but cynical people always look at the angle to Trash someone with innuendo without any shred of proof. This is the world we live in and everyone is entitled to his/her opinion

    February 14, 2014

  • Daniella_a

    You're an idiot. Please crawl back to your cave and die. Thank you.

    February 19, 2014

  • Heyziz

    Unfortunately, Slacktivism is rampant, and needs social media campaigns with strong momentum to give activism a necessary push. I think if steered wisely, this campaign can be used as a vessel to champion more important causes. the Jackie issue I believe is simply a catalyst and will be forgotten as you said, But it's also important to capitalize on this momentum today.

    February 14, 2014