The objectification of women seems to be a worldwide epidemic that's been injected into society by members of the patriarchy. We've seen misogynistic and sexist narratives make their way onto marketing campaigns, everyday conversations, and policies present in respective countries. The latter puts many Arab women in a subordinate position to men because the laws themselves are not in favor of X chromosomes, it seems. But, sometimes, Arab countries catch you off guard in that regard.
Kuwaiti authorities recently subjected a man to questioning for objectifying women through the launching of a leg beauty pageant (yes, you read that right); his actions were deemed a violation of the "country's traditions and morals." It started when the 30-something-year-old man posted a video online, in which he says he will award the "woman with the most beautiful legs" a gold accessory worth 250 dinars ($824). He had reportedly claimed to have received 1,500 photos (of legs) from potential contestants.
The police eventually identified the man and called him in for questioning over the footage.
The video began circulating online until it was detected by the Department of Cybercrime in Kuwait who contacted the public prosecutor who then issued a warrant for the man's arrest. By the time that happened, the man had already shared a photo of the winner's legs on social media while wearing the anklet dipped in objectification.
According to Gulf News, the Interior Ministry said police identified and ordered the man be questioned. Though the video was later deleted from his social media accounts, the man seems to draw amusement from the objectification of women. He said the whole challenge, pageant, or whatever you want to call it was for entertainment only.
The ministry's relations and security media department confirmed that the man has been "referred to agencies concerned to take the necessary legal procedures against him," in a statement shared by Gulf News.
An Arabic hashtag titled "leg pageant" began making the rounds online following the release of the man's video. Some responded with sarcasm and humor which we hope was an attempt to call out the hashtag's objectification of women. But the fact that many of those hashtags came from men makes it highly unlikely.
The objectification of Arab women is quite revolting as it has appeared in instances where women's appearance had nothing to do with the conversation. Anyway, the only time women's appearance has anything to do with the conversation is when beauty pageants take place, and those are problematic in and of themselves.
With objectification comes a dash (or handful) of sexism in the Arab world. You have words such as 3anes (spinster) and beyra (unmarried) that are often used to describe women who choose not to marry, but men rarely get called out for not conforming to the concept of tying the knot. You have words like 3ayb (shame) and faltene (loose) that shame women for exploring their body and sexuality, for experiencing life as they know it, and for questioning their mindset by not conforming to the norm they've been spoon-fed since the day they learned to speak. These are just words and phrases that have been created to justify treating women as second-class citizens and treating women as objects whose morality is directly linked to their hymen. These terms are not inherently female, but the patriarchy has made society believe they are.
But when it's a woman's body being used as a marketing ploy, then it becomes shameless? The representation of women in the media industry is often characterized by three things: sexualization, objectification, and sexism. The nauseating definitions of what it means to be a woman are reinforced quite often in adverts in the Arab world. Thus, women are often pressured into adhering to impossible beauty standards perpetuated by society and marketing campaigns alike. Either that or they are downgraded to the level of a simple object or mere sexual being which was the case in Kuwait recently.
The man was arrested because his actions were deemed a violation of the "country's traditions and morals." It's a good step, but it's not enough. And we're not just talking about Kuwait here. In reality, many Arab men violate women in ways that should be illegal, whether it occurs in public or behind closed doors, but they are often backed by laws (or loopholes) that help them get away with their actions. This should be against the traditions and morals of any society that respects women just as much as it respects men.