By Lindsey S.
Recently, Lebanese Olympic skier Jackie Chamoun was scrutinized for posing topless in a leaked photo-shoot. Unkind comments from all around the world poured in, stating crudely mean assumptions that made her sound like an immoral person, which is not the case. For one thing, she has the right to love and appreciate her own body, and take any kind of photograph she wants to. For another thing, these photographs were leaked without her consent. They derived from an Austrian photo-shoot taken over three years ago, and she, herself, never even released them. She did not sell them or try to promote herself in any way, but she shouldn’t be stigmatized even if she did. While she should be able to practice skiing in Sochi in peace, she is now left with the whole world judging her in a negative limelight.
This news piece also struck me on a personal level. As a young multiracial woman in America, I am constantly faced with the plight of both overt and covert racism. Both my parents were born in Lebanon, but we have a strong heritage that traces to Egyptian, Algerian, French, and Native-Mexican ancestry. Often, people ask me, “What are you?” as if I would respond with such insouciance, “Why of course, I am a dragon.” It is honestly one of the most hurtful things to hear when people say things like, “But you look white,” or, “So you don’t belong to any single race then?” Race is a sensitive matter dealing with which of your ancestry you are most culturally connected with and what you can self-identify with. But there is a double-standard in this country, and it has to do with the false binaries we promote. We tend to stereotype entire cultures, and yet I remember nursery rhymes that claimed the notion with such certainty that “everyone is different.”
Menaced by the hate, Jackie Chamoun issued an apology to tame the media, but she didn’t really have to. The criticism she faced only highlights our society’s ignorance. Lebanon is considered a very liberal country, especially in comparison with some of its neighboring nations in the Middle East. And plus, why should we dedicates headlines and front covers of newspapers to a story like this; a woman took a topless photo-shoot three years ago and it was leaked. And so? It does not say anything about her character or modesty, as modesty is but a measure of humility and generosity rather than physical choices. Unfortunately, the world is only reminded by this story that the oppression and shaming of women are very contemporary issues.