Mia Khalifa and Marika Esperidon Turn the Tables on Lebanon’s Politicians

Rami El-Amin
Lebanese Journalist
August 14, 2020
Mia Khalifa was not spared from the word “honor,” by which she is showered from her critics -or you could say slanderers- and her supporters alike.

Both parties link between her and “honor” to clip her wings as if it were a stigma or an old unforgiven disgrace. On the one hand, the slanderers always deny her “honor,” using this word laden with a social, cultural, and religious heritage that links between honor and women’s behaviors in our societies. Given that “honor” here is a mere male concept, that does not equate between men and women in judgment. A man does not lose his honor if he had sex, let us say, with Mia Khalifa, or any other woman. But Mia, according to her critics and mudslingers, loses her honor if she has sex with men, or performs in pornographic films. On the other hand, Mia’s supporters hold fast to the word “honor” to praise her. In the context of defaming the Lebanese political class, Mia harshly criticized them on social media. They tend to lash out at the representatives of the political class by saying that, “Mia Khalifa is more honorable than them,” thus they insult her even more by way of insulting the politicians.

Mia is fully aware of what she is doing and she believes that her freedom to choose her profession is in conjunction with her absolute freedom to use her body as she wants, and that all of this is not separate from what she says as well.

However, Mia exercises her democratic and human right to freely express her opinions, regardless of the nature of her work, which happens to be related to an Arab and eastern taboo, that our society has not yet managed to overcome. Mia could have been a nurse, an engineer, a taxi driver, a beautician. She could have been a politician, a college professor, or a football player, and no one would dare to connect between her profession and her political views. No one would say that Mia Khalifa drives her car better than Michel Aoun drives the country. If it happens that you read a comparison like this, and Mia was a taxi driver, for example, then it would be a meaningless exception to the rule. We would spare this barrage of comparisons that link Mia’s work in pornographic films to her political stance from Lebanese officials at the helm of Lebanon. An analogy that humiliates Mia deliberately or accidentally.

Mia, for those who follow her social media accounts, never misses a chance to criticize and reprimand the political class with its all various symbols. From her distant place, she never distinguishes between one politician or another. She never worries too much about Lebanese issues or its behind-the-scenes matters. She seems deeply concerned about the Lebanese cause, especially in the wake of the last blast that made her overwhelmed and furious. Consequently, she launched a donation campaign by displaying the glasses that she wore in most of her pornographic films for sale at public auction, to raise a large sum of money that goes to support the port blast victims. The auction has so far raised more than 100,000 dollars for the two pairs of glasses.

Mia is fully aware of what she is doing and she believes that her freedom to choose her profession is related to her absolute freedom to use her body as she wants, and is not separate from what she says as well. As long as her opinions are guided by freedom of expression and have nothing to do with racism, sexism, homophobia, and other human taboos that constrict the individual’s freedom to be whatever they want without any interference, bullying, or insults. She gives critical remarks in politics and knows how to use a language that could be slanderous sometimes to address our officials, who were not touched by the blast that killed hundreds of people, wounded hundreds, rendered thousands homeless, and destroyed the city; yet, they are offended by some obscenities from people in the streets and file complaints against them and send the security forces to track them down.

Mia is fully aware of this detail, and she is well acquainted with the Lebanese authority’s mechanism in governance and repression. Because she knows all of that, she addresses the people of this class in the most provocative language, and rest assured that she could get scot-free and they are unable to pursue her. Simply because she lives abroad, and her whole life is beyond the reach of these people. Mia is fully aware of the sensitivity of her work to Lebanese people and Lebanese politicians and understands that some of what it said about her -evil or good- is humiliating from the Lebanese point of view. However, this has never held her back as long as her words will disturb the Lebanese officials and get under their skin. To the extent that made the staff of the president, who manage his account on social media, block her on Instagram. She replied with an angry tweet accusing The President of Lebanon, Michel Aoun, of being a coward. She asked him “Can’t take a few choice comments under your useless posts? Gonna hide from your people on Instagram, too? Coward!”

The tweet had more than 5.000 likes and 500 retweets. Mia also chooses carefully what she retweets, and what is related to the Lebanese developments. She records videos in which she speaks directly to Lebanese politicians and asks them to quit. All of them. She has no internal Lebanese agenda in her lashing out on all parties including the Lebanese Forces; She was inspired in the past to tattoo “the voided cross”, emblem of the Lebanese Forces, on her hand. Finally, she posted the image of the political/sectarian tattoo on her hand on Instagram, along with the comment: ”Do you know a good tattoo artist who could cover this one?” alluding to the fact that she is getting over the past that she had tattooed on her hand, and is no longer satisfied with it, but in fact is now disappointed.

Mia could have lived in Lebanon and practiced her profession downtown the city in the “Souk Al-Mutanabbi,” which was known as the “whores’ market,” and was adjacent to the port in the past. Had it not been for the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War that destroyed the street and turned it into ruins, it wouldn’t have disappeared entirely. The market flourished in early 1880, the very same year the profession of “prostitution,” as it was called then, became official and its traditions were regulated by an Ottoman Decree. In February 1931, a law was passed under the name of “Preserving Public Health from Prostitution,” which stipulated that “Prostitution is the profession of any woman defamed of usually surrendering to men to commit an obscene act in return for money, either in public or in private. The market which was like an original Lebanese “Red Light District,” continued to operate until the civil war erupted, although it witnessed a decline in its “activity.” The last name that was engraved in Lebanese memory of this street dated back to the Greek sex “legend” Marika Esperidon, who could not remember, as Bhagat Jaber said in his detailed “Portrait,” why she chose to come to Lebanon, “Maybe, she said, because she knew the captain of a ship that passed through Beirut, and they talked about it…” Then he promised to take her there “as if she was in a dream,” then the captain “lured her into his cabin and had sex with her and gave her some food and money.” The Greek ship docked in the port of Beirut in 1912, where the story of Marika started.

Today, the port is wreaking havoc. Its ruins could not even provide the memory for “Souk Al-Mutanbbi” in the Lebanese Sectarian Civil War in 1975, but now it has vanished in the ammonium explosion. Perhaps, Mia Khalifa’s appearance is a kind of revenge for the memory of “Souk Al-Mutanabbi” from the past and current destruction. Perhaps it will reclaim the glamour of this profession in shaping the free public space of the city, and maybe it is a tribute to Marika.

الأكثر قراءة

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