NOTE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! And thanks for the link, Professor.
Just after Baghdad fell to American forces in April 2003, an anonymous Iraqi spoke words that raced around the world and etched themselves into history.
As the New York Times reported:
NAJAF, Iraq, April 2 — In the giddy spirit of the day, nothing could quite top the wish list bellowed out by one man in the throng of people greeting American troops from the 101st Airborne Division who marched into town today.His words came to mind when I saw these pictures of beautiful Lebanese women protesting Syrian occupation. At his blog 360east, Jordanian IT entrepreneur Ahmad Humeid considers how the Lebanese are using images of attractive women in their push for independence:
What, the man was asked, did he hope to see now that the Baath Party had been driven from power in his town? What would the Americans bring?
"Democracy," the man said, his voice rising to lift each word to greater prominence. "Whiskey. And sexy!"
FEMALES!! This last image aspect is extremely important. It is the single most powerful image coming out of Beirut. Young, energetic, emancipated women with Lebanese flags. This image has been reproduced hundreds of times over the past few days.He even includes, and explains, a Jordanian editorial cartoon on the subject (Note that it reads from right to left, so the panel with the well-endowed young ladies comes first):
The image of cool girls demonstrating has not been lost on Jordan’s most famous cartoonist Emad Hajjaj, who produced some interesting work over the past few days.Interestingly, as Ahmad notes, the Jordanian opposition figures aren't big fans of liberal democracy:
...His character Mahjoob plays the role of a Jordanian student at the AUB [American University of Beirut] who’s salivating at the sight of the sexy Lebanese girls of the opposition. He just LOVES this opposition and wants to become a member of the Jordanian opposition.
Next frame: the poor guy is totally turned off by the grim, ugly people in the Jordanian opposition. He runs away in disgust.
Hajjaj’s depiction of the Jordanian opposition is right on! Apart from the typical Islamists and Arab Nationalists...there’s also the cigarette-drenched communist-feminist type! Truly hilarious.Why do Lebanese and Jordanians, like our well-spoken Iraqi friend, instinctively associate hot babes with free elections? Is democracy somehow linked to sex appeal?
I think it is. It's no coincidence that many pro-democracy protesters are, well, hotties.
Women who feel entitled to freedom of speech and the right to vote are more likely to feel free to look sexy, too. Sex appeal, after all, as Condi Rice recently demonstrated, is a form of personal expression and power.
Oppressive regimes, on the other hand, can't afford to let any such seeds of independence germinate among those they rule; hence the strict laws controlling the appearance and conduct of women in many Islamic dictatorships. In such lands, Islam has become at least as much a tool of control as a path to God.
Rulers who promote such harsh restrictions remind me of the twisted monk Jorge in Umberto Eco's book The Name of the Rose. Jorge banned a book by Aristotle on the value of laughter, on the rationale that laughter undermines respect for authority:
Laughter, for a few moments, distracts the villain from fear. But law is imposed by fear, whose true name is fear of God. ...if laughter is the delight of the plebians, the license of the plebians must be restrained and humiliated, and intimidated by sternness.Sexuality similarly distracts people from fear, and therefore represents a threat to despotic regimes that use fear as a tool to maintain their hold on power. And when the freedom to look sexy is squelched, the supply of related products fashionable clothes, cosmetics, fitness centers withers away, along with the incentive to take pride in one's appearance.
What remains is the homogeneous totalitarian dystopia memorably parodied in an old Wendy's commercial depicting a fashion show in the former Soviet Union. It showed a hefty middle-aged woman strutting up and down the runway, supposedly modelling a variety of outfits. But she wore only the same formless grey dress and head scarf, accessorized as necessary: When the announcer called out "Eveningwear", she swung a flashlight; for "Swimwear", she held a beach ball.
In his classic novel 1984, George Orwell drew a similar connection between personal freedoms and personal appearance:
He looked round the canteen again. Nearly everyone was ugly, and would still have been ugly even if dressed otherwise than in the uniform blue overalls. On the far side of the room, sitting at a table alone, a small, curiously beetle-like man was drinking a cup of coffee, his little eyes darting suspicious glances from side to side. How easy it was, thought Winston, if you did not look about you, to believe that the physical type set up by the Party as an ideal tall muscular youths and deep-bosomed maidens, blond-haired, vital, sunburnt, carefree existed and even predominated. Actually, so far as he could judge, the majority of people in Airstrip One were small, dark, and ill-favoured. It was curious how that beetle-like type proliferated in the Ministries: little dumpy men, growing stout very early in life, with short legs, swift scuttling movements, and fat inscrutable faces with very small eyes. It was the type that seemed to flourish best under the dominion of the Party.Back when he was doing impressions of Argentine actor Fernando Lamas on Saturday Night Live, Billy Crystal would sometimes say, "It is better to look mahvelous than to feel mahvelous." More and more, I'm thinking that the two are intertwined. People have more incentive to look good if they also feel good because of the rich range of freedoms they enjoy. If you want sexy, it helps to have democracy.
Since you can never have too much proof for a thesis, more pics of Lebanese pro-democracy hotties are here.
Also, women in the former Soviet republics have come a long way since that Wendy's commercial.