In June 2018, the police authorities of the town of Brummana in the main district of Mount Lebanon in Lebanon issued a new uniform that caused controversy on social media. The policewomen of the town are now wearing summer uniforms consisting of black shorts and a T-shirt. They are also wearing a red barrette with Lebanon’s national symbol on it, the Lebanese Cedar tree.
The reason for this decision was explicated by their mayor, Pierre Achkar. He explained that he wanted to attract tourists from the West to the region because “Ninety-nine per cent of the tourists in the Mediterranean region wear shorts”.
He also explained that the uniform change should change the views of conservatism the West has of countries in the Middle East: “We in Lebanon want to change the bleak picture of the country in the West,” Achkar claimed.
Some citizens of Lebanon said that their authorities should not change their town to fit in with the West, but only for themselves and their culture. Ackhar wished to “modernize” the image of Lebanon, not for Lebanon, but for tourists.
Here is where the controversy starts, because the concept of modernity is subjective. Around the world, many cultures think that covering up is modern and elegant, and some do not. Many claim that the West is so hostile and critical of culture in the Middle East, which results in racism. Is there really a need to change for the West?
The concept of modernity is subjective. Around the world, many cultures think that covering up is modern and elegant, and some do not.
This is not the first time an event in history occurs where an Arab country changes something to “modernize” an image for the people of the West, especially in tourism. No one is really to blame; scholars argue that this is a basic result of globalization.
Many on social media argued that what a woman wears should not be used to sexualize her. A Twitter user claimed that “It’s a great initiative to engage more women in municipalities, the only problem is that they’re clearly not in standard police uniforms but are being exploited (and) sexualized by their employers.”
A policewoman, Samata Saad, claimed she is happy with the uniform and with the job. “We have accepted it with enthusiasm and we still hope that it will return in every summer season”.
Are all the women happy with the uniform, or do they not want to protest for fear of losing their jobs? The women on the force claimed that there was no problem with the uniform. So, is it really still a controversy if the women were not forced into changing their work attire?
One Twitter user stated: “Are these women supposed to help keep the safety of the city or be the touristic attractions in it?” The motives of the city authorities were questioned.
Additionally, the policemen’s uniform did not change at all; adding on to the whole idea that many people think that these policewomen are being sexualized.
Ultimately, should the controversy should be discussed if no one is being harmed and the police force is continuing their jobs effectively for the safety of the people of Lebanon?