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Deconstructing the ‘Lebanese bimbo’
Women have long been stereotyped as blank bimbos or kitchen cleaners in Lebanese advertising. Industry watchers say this is gradually changing, but few are clamoring for liberation, says Communicate magazine.
June 3, 2009 9:13 by Nathalie Bontems
Lebanon is often labeled the most progressive country in the Arab world, a place where (almost) anything can be said, done or shown. But when it comes to the portrayal of women, it seems the country’s advertising and communications industry is split between two simplistic clichés: the traditional housewife fretting over her dishes and laundry, and a human Barbie doll out to arouse and seduce. With nothing much in between, the image of women is stuck in a curious limbo.
Along the highway into Beirut, numerous jeans and lingerie brands praise the merits of their products on dozens upon dozens of billboards. They differ in size and shape, but all show close-ups of female bottoms clad in blue fabric, or of generous bosoms draped in lace. Once in a while, an incongruous ad for ham interrupts the lines.
Not that the use of clichés and stereotypes seems to matter much to either the brands or the public. In today’s Lebanon, advertising rarely portrays or addresses women in a manner that isn’t awkwardly related either to looks or, at the other end of the spectrum, to motherly function. In both cases, “creativity succumbs to facility,” says Alain Brenas, director of ALBA, the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts.