Bear with me…

Yes please, bear with me for yet another rant.

This time, it’s the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism that has annoyed me, and big time.

Have you seen this ad? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Siovanti2u0 (For some reason, the Ministry has required that comments and embedding are disabled, huummmm why I wonder)

So basically, the Ministry of Tourism is encouraging tourists to come to Lebanon based on the following message : “Come to Lebanon, we have beer, boobs and beaches” (no no, I haven’t written “bitches”, although that’s the idea yes)

Shocked, I posted this on Facebook, with the following message:

“The ad that sparked outrage. Beyond being demeaning, belittling and insulting to Lebanese women, it shows how little these people think of Lebanon: so the only good thing Lebanon has are (fake) boobs, parties and sex? Note to Ministry of Tourism: selling your country as the whorehouse of the Middle East (with all due respect to sex workers) is an insult to Gebran, the Cedars, the people, Saïd Akl, the Bekaa valley, and all the people who struggle under your harmful and pathetic rule. Now Apologize.”

Needless to say, the ad sparked outrage among many activists, bloggers and human beings, who expressed themselves on their blogs:

Beirut Spring: http://beirutspring.com/blog/2011/03/15/lebanese-minister-of-tourism-gives-women-the-hummus-treatment/

Mich Café: http://michcafe.blogspot.com/2011/03/lebanon-blues.html

Global Voices: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2011/03/14/lebanon-womens-anger-at-new-tourism-campaign/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

However, among those outraged voices, came some comments which I would like to address here and not on my Facebook wall.

For example, when we said that walaw, the Ministry of Tourism did not find another angle to sell Lebanon to tourists, a country whose history, natural beauty and people are most renowned, some people came back to me saying that the Ministry of Tourism had already explored these areas, and that, Paola, stop being such a prude/party pooper, sex sells and that’s that. Apparently, I had to respect all kinds of tourists, the ones interested in Gebran’s museum and the one interested in tanning at the seaside.

I really don’t see how me being shocked at the message the Ministry is sending means that I don’t respect all kinds of tourists. Come to Lebanon and do whatever you want, but yes, I do have a problem with my government, a government that doesn’t grant me my rights to start with, selling my country as the brothel of the Middle East. I think the sordid stories we hear over the summer with Lebanese women abused by various tourists are enough, thanks very much.

Regarding the “sex sells”: yes, well it does. But is it the only thing that sells? Do we have to be as mediocre as everyone else ? (us, the Lebanese, who by the way drive people mad with all our talk about how the Lebanese are AWESOME and cultured and blah blah blah, don’t make me puke now)? What’s wrong with ecotourism (which by the way would empower economically villagers and not the Director of Casino du Liban, who, let’s face it, is not in need)? Concerts? Cultural life? and yes, even parties, but do you have to showcase parties showing women’s breasts? Is it the only way to party? I don’t know about you, personnally I do enjoy having my clothes about my person when I’m dancing.

Which brings me nicely to the main issue: the use of women in this ad. If someone tells me one more time that Lebanese are the prettiest/sexiest in the Arab world I will not take responsibility for my actions. The government is playing with this idiotic urban legend to bait young men to come to Lebanon. So let me get this straight: if I’m dressed in a mini skirt and I’m raped, it’s my fault and the laws are not there to protect me and make sure the perpetrator is behind bars (worse still, if he marries me, it’s ok), but I HAVE to wear a mini skirt to attract tourists? WTF?

I’ve heard and read Lebanese citizens (men and women) praying for God to get rid of feminists, telling us we’re overreacting, but now it’s my turn to be shocked. So you don’t mind seeing Lebanon portrayed like that? So you don’t mind that the average salary is 700 USD, with people working three jobs to make ends meet, and yet the government is happily showcasing Maameltein and slot machines as Lebanon main selling point?

Would you like your sister/mother/cousin/girlfriend’s breasts to be drooled over next time you go to the beach?

Government of Lebanon, we’re asking you that FOR ONCE IN YOUR USELESS EXISTENCE YOU PUT THE PEOPLE OF LEBANON FIRST. Imagine that most young Lebanese women ban the city centre from their route over the summer, so unbearable the harassment from some tourists is.

Advertise Lebanon, but advertise it in a way that rallies the people behind it, not in a way that alienates us (frankly, I don’t think we could sustain any more division)

As for me, I’ll follow closely the videos Nasawiya is currently brewing up, just to show that there’s an awful lot of things that are wrong in our country that we should work on, instead of nodding stupidly at anything that has our poor flag on it.

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