Lebanon is not pleased with Olympic Alpine skier Jackie Chamoun, after topless photos of the athlete surfaced online shortly before the Games. But, not surprisingly, the Internet is more supportive of the whole thing.
The rather innocent origin story of that photos is that Chamoun, 22, posed for an Austrian calendar featuring scantily-clad Olympic ski instructors three years ago. Though the images are basically PG-13, thanks to a lot of strategically placed skiing equipment, a behind-the-scenes video from the shoot that has gone viral in Lebanon is less so. At certain points in the video, she is captured without her shirt on. The video is tame by Western standards, the proceedings don't seem particularly shady, nudity is not gratuitous (although maybe don't watch it at work.) However, she's still representing a very conservative nation on the world's biggest stage.
At one point, Chamoun is asked "what's easier, being a model or a ski racer?" She responds, in full winter garb, "it's easier to ski because I'm not used to posing with no clothes on." She also says that she's studying sports and event management. Pretty wholesome answers. But not wholesome enough to keep the Lebanese government from opening an investigation into her slightly racy past. Lebanon's Sports and Youth Minister Faisal Karami demanded that the International Olympic Committee look into the photos and videos to ensure "the protection of Lebanon's reputation," just days before Chamoun is set to compete.
But Lebanon's attempt to protect its reputation is backfiring. Though the country is considered to be relatively open-minded for a region with notoriously poor women's rights, it still has a lot of issues. Blogger Joyce Karam writes for Al Arabiya that Karami's stance on domestic violence has been pretty deplorable:
His performance in the government, and positions on women’s rights and individual freedoms have been horrendous. Last year, Karami described a draft law to protect women against domestic violence as a “blow to family values.” Those values could not protect Rola Yaacoub and Manal Assi when they were beaten to death by their husbands.
Chamoun apologized on her Facebook page, writing:
I know that Lebanon is a conservative country and this is not the image that reflects our culture. I fully understand if you want to criticise this. Now that I’m at the Olympic Games, these photos that I never saw before are being shared. It is sad. All I can ask to each of you who saw this, is to stop spreading it, it will really help me focusing on what is really important now: my trainings and race
The post received more than 16,000 likes, so maybe she shouldn't be too worried. Her supporters are calling Karami and the government out for hypocrisy by showing solidarity with a #StripForJackie social media campaign:
Apparently, men especially are taking part in the campaign:
Even advertisers are getting in on the action:
Chamoun is one of two Lebanese athletes at the Winter Games this year, and only one of four Arabs competing. At least in some small way the images have called attention to those achievements as well.
Image via YouTube
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.