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Freedom is sexy

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.

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!"
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:
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.

...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.
Interestingly, as Ahmad notes, the Jordanian opposition figures aren't big fans of liberal democracy:
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.


Anonymous said...

I think you have hit on something very fundamental here.

Any totalitarian system is forced to either co-opt or squash any exceptional individuals. Therefore for the common people, a uniformity will have to be enforced. Natually this will extend as far as possible and certainly will include the most obvious features such as dress and even general demeanor. 

Posted by Dave Justus

Anonymous said...

So Joe Francis  of "Girls Gone Wild" is an member of the modern-day (international) version of The Minutemen? Oy gevalt! 

Seriously though, I like your thoughts here. They make the "tyrants and their minions are just afriad of female sexuality" argument seem superficial. I may have more thougths later, but you've got a compelling argument going on here. 

Posted by Langtry

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed reading your thoughts and quotes. Many months ago I read a western reporter in Baghdad describing the beautiful sound of laughter coming from a female reporter in the hotel and how it suddenly struck him how that had been absent there - under Islamic rule, female laughter had been forbidden. 

Posted by BR

Anonymous said...

I think a relavant passage, from Bill Whittle's essay Trinity:
Really about socialist egalitarianism than communist oppression (Trinity tends to conflate the two)...but I think the point stands.

If society had a magical way of raising the bottom up, of speeding up, buffing up, and tidying up Michael Moore, thereby giving him the means to beat Michael Jordan in our (sadly) mythical game of half-court, well we’d all be the winners and life would be just dandy. But, alas, this wonderful, brilliant idea is marred only by the annoying fact that it is demonstrably impossible. Michael Moore can never play as well as Michael Jordan. Never. If you want that game to come out a tie – equal! – then you are going to have to hobble Michael Jordon.

You’re going to have to remove a foot or two from his femurs, stitch him into a clumsy, bulky, ugly suit adding a few hundred pounds, heavily sedate him to slow down his mental powers, fill him full of cheap booze to degrade his aim and coordination – oh, and really mess up his face surgically. No fair if people are rooting for him disproportionately! That might hurt Michael Moore’s self-esteem and limit his ability to compete.

Do all these things, and more, and you will have two equal players. You will have a really stupid, incompetent, pointless game. You will have removed all the grace, power, style, finesse and genius from a gifted and noble man, and added nothing whatsoever to his opponent. You just made Michael Moore equal to Michael Jordan. Is that fair to Michael Jordan?

And after you’ve done all these things, Michael Jordan will still hand Michael Moore his ass because he thinks and acts like a winner and not a victim.

Equality under the law: good. Essential.

Forcing people of differing skills, motivation and capability to be “equal:” ruinous. Suicidal

Posted by Gino

Anonymous said...

What? No pictures to illustrate your thesis? ;^) 

Posted by Jabba the Tutt

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately for your thesis, the Sixties provided all the sex and "openness" anyone could want but rock and roll did not bring any real revolution. Tyrannical regimes in the modern world are quite good at coopting every happiness, from sexiness to cool clothes to music. Rock and Roll, after all, now has a "Hall of Fame"!! Just like bowling. 

Posted by Robert Speirs

Anonymous said...

The thing is to avoid objectifying a human being -- i.e. turning them into a commodity or object rather than a work of sacred art. In the case of women, for example, the Islamic culture objectifies them as property -- the property of the husband -- and places them under lock and key (the chador or purdah). In Western, post-Christian culture, women are seen as tradeable commodities, valuable for their sexuality and swank value alone. Both extremes are immoral. The moral alternative is to celebrate women as human beings, not livestock with commodity value. The sexual allure of the female is perfectly good and natural in and of itself, but it is within the context of Christian marriage that this sexuality is restoired to its proper and healthy place. 

Posted by B Chan

Anonymous said...

Robert Spiers:

I'm going from media images here - I was born in the late '60s and so don't have firsthand experience of people's sex appeal then. But I did have long, long hair for a lot of years, and I'm here to tell you that if you don't care for it daily, it is NOT sexy. Likewise facial hair. Dirty feet aren't sexy; stale body odor isn't sexy (fresh body odor can be). Similarly, shapeless clothes that obscure the form, whether on boys or girls, aren't sexy except in a very limited context (that is, the hugely baggy jeans popular among some boys and young men are "sexy" only if the guy wearing them occasionally stands in front of a fan that blows his shirt up to reveal his washboard abs or something - and a glimpse of forbidden ankle in the olden days was sexy for the same reason). Lack of foundation garments works on some of the very young, the childless, and the surgically enhanced (I suppose there are probably a few lucky women who retain a youthful shape past childbirth and without surgery, but IMHO they're darn rare!), but the rest of us can either (a) reveal or (b) suggest a more attractive form than nature provides with the judicious use of inner and outer clothing, plus those bourgeouis standbys of healthy exercise and diet (I say "bourgeouis" because I imagine undertaking them for the purpose of looking good is not very proletarian)...

Therefore I conclude that the '60s, while trumpeting sexual freedom and openness, didn't make good on its promises. I've always thought the "sexual revolution," which started out well with the concept that women had a right to - OK, I probably don't need to go into detail here; anyway, the "sexual revolution" seems to me to have been co-opted by the same old forces of repression, twisted around backwards: a woman who DIDN'T think that gratifying her urges without restraint was suddenly an establishment fuddy-duddy. Just more peer pressure, but now from a much larger "peer" group.

Pretty girls and strong women and the men who love and admire them and democracy: I like the picture. 

Posted by Jamie

Anonymous said...

Oh, please B Chan, can't there ever be a frolicsome appreciation of female beauty without some lefty feminut or Christian finger-wagger coming out of the woodwork to pee on the picnic?

I am personally a Christian, and I don't engage in sexual relations with women outside of a committed relationship (I'm even considering as far as no relations before marriage, but I'm not currently dating and haven't really mulled it over), but you're damned skippy I'm objectifying these Lebanese women. Just like I objectify the Venus de Milo, and the Mona Lisa, and Michealangelo's David. They're freaking beautiful. And I appreciate them like any precious artwork. Until I get to know them personally, they are objects and also wonderfully human.

Some people just don't get it. Here's a clue: men are men, women are women, and God made us that way. I like to look at beautiful women. Love it, in fact. I'll objectify away at the mall, at the beach. Hell, I'll even objectify at the gas station! I objectified today at work! There's a reason the typical man isn't interested in fine art. It's because so much of it is walking around in broad daylight.

So, for me: more Lebanese women in halter tops, enjoying being free of the type of puritanism that curiously pokes its nose forward precisely at times that should be pure fun and joy. 

Posted by Squatch

Anonymous said...

Anyone care to speculate on how long before "Girls Gone Wild -- Beirut" is out on dvd? 

Posted by Clint

Anonymous said...

Herein lies the the crux of the problem, the lynchpin. Islamic societies have been around for how long? And what have they accomplished? Absolutely squat. Societies and economies are surging worldwide bristling with new technologies, progress and improving quality of life. The ONLY accomplishment for Muslims is the subjugation of their women. Burkas, honor killings, arranged marriages, women as chattel, rape. Break this link and just maybe we can drag them kicking and screaming into the 21st century. 

Posted by glenmore

Anonymous said...

This theme of beautiful women as symbols of democratic revolution began in 1830 with Eugene Delacroix’s "Liberty Leading the People ," depicting a bare-breasted babe carrying a gun in the fight against tyranny. The men couldn’t help but follow. 

Posted by Frank Warner

Anonymous said...

Well done! This is a subject that demands rigorous research. 

Posted by Mark Buehner

Anonymous said...

And a babe  shall lead them. 

Posted by Daniel

Anonymous said...

Gino -

Thanks for the Bill Whittle excerpt. I need to go back and check that blog again.

It reminded me of this one Vonnegut story I had to read in school (how something that subversive snuck in is beyond me, but it was back in the days before political correctness). Same basic thing about hobbling the gifted so that all could be "equal". 

Posted by Kory O

Anonymous said...

I have more on this on my blog,, with lots of great pictures here:



Posted by Will Franklin

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, while sexy women are a plus in Lebanon, they are definitely a minus in the USA. Here, attractive women uniformly follow Hollywood into admiration of subhuman Democrat trash and reject our servicemen who put their lives on the line. 

Posted by I, the Militia

Anonymous said...

I was there in the 60s. What I can remember of it was pretty good.

The folks that brought you the personal computer were hippies. I was there too.

Take a look at some early Microsoft photos. And a M'soft founder used to be a regular contributor to alt.drugs.

Sex, drugs, rock 'n roll. It's not just for computer geeks.

As revolutions go it worked out OK. We found out what the limits were without destroying our world. Came pretty close though. And a few were one toke over the line. But all in all a good legacy.

And you can still hum the music. 

Posted by M. Simon

Anonymous said...

Can I be the babe who leads them, Daniel? Heh. I kid, I kid. 

Posted by Kim



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