Day By Day

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Babes of Beirut: A Symposium of Posts

There has been a great deal of discussion on the web the last few days on the subject of beautiful women being featured in photographs of the Beirut opposition and how this benefits the movement. I have been blogging about this phenomenon for some time. Since the posts are distributed widely, I have collected them here for a readers' convenience. Check them out.

The reason for blogging the subject early on is that I am an historian and correspond with other historians, all of whom are, by training, exquisitely sensitive to gender issues.

When the first Lebanese demonstrations occurred I posted two pictures that seemed to make pertinent points regarding them. One had to do with the way modern media spread information and enthusiasm everywhere, which I illustrated with a picture of some women on a street avidly reading the Arab press [here]. The other point I tried to make was that the atmosphere was, for those of us old enough to remember, was much like that of the sixties "flower power" crusade, which I illustrated with a picture of a young girl handing a flower to a soldier [here].

I immediately got an e-mail from one of my correspondents inquiring as to whether I was showing a gender bias in my choice of illustrations, along with a comment that this was common among male bloggers. This got me thinking about the whole question of bias and I have since posted several times on the subject with varying degrees of seriousness. Here's a summary:

I discussed the subject of gender bias in a post on "revolution in a media age" [here]. I admitted that I did like to see pictures of pretty young women, and that other male bloggers, Instapundit included, probably shared that bias. I also suggested that male photographers might also share that bias because, when I surveyed the range of pictures available on the net illustrating the Beirut protests, I found that pretty women were quite prominently displayed. I also suggested that editors and publishers would be interested in showing pictures of pretty women because such pictures attract the attention of male readers and viewers and this might influence what kinds of pictures are taken or selected for display.

In the same [long] post I also linked to an article by Ulrich Schmid that appeared in the German press in which he noted that organizers of the Ukraine Orange revolution, upon which the Lebanese protest were modeled, were very media conscious and were influenced in part by western PR experts. He also had some really interesting and complimentary things to say about bloggers, and made some sharp and persuasive observations about the European Left and its response to pro-capitalist liberation movements.

I concluded by writing:

The protesters may not be disproportionately female, but they certainly are young and media savvy and they know that it is in their interest to prominently display young and pretty women in the vanguard of their movement.

In many ways modern terrorism is a creation of the media world. Terrorists have long known how to capture the attention of the media and have used it to their advantage. What is encouraging here is that the forces of liberation have begun to exhibit an equally sophisticated understanding of what it takes to succeed in the modern media age.
I also pointed out in another post that the practice of prominently featuring pretty women in revolutionary settings long predated the modern media age. Check out "Liberty Leading the People" here.

In another post [here] I speculated that the absence of smokin' hot babes to feature in photographs might have something to do with the failure of the media to focus on election protests in Kyrgyzstan, and accompanied it with a picture of a definitely not "hot" Kyrgyz female protester here.

In another post on the subject here I included a throwaway line to the effect that "maybe it really is the case that there are a lot of young, well-dressed, smokin' hot babes in Beiruit."

To my surprise I then read this in an article in Slate:

Because the economy is so bad [in Beirut], and so many younger people, mostly men, are forced to emigrate to find work, the ratio of marriageable women to men, my friend Rouba explains, is something like 4-to-1.
So it turns out that there actually is a huge surplus of good looking women in Beirut. I blogged it here.

There's more, but I tire of reading my own posts. Just scroll down and you will find a lot of posts on women protesters and perhaps other things of interest.

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