Is the new Miss USA packing a bomb in her bikini? Rima Fakih, an Arab-American beauty who really knows her way around a stripper pole, has managed to upset prudes, neo-cons and anti-immigrationists alike.
“It’s a sad day in America,” writes conservative blogger Debbie Schlussel who has dubbed Miss USA 2010 “Miss Hezbollah,” as well as a “Muslim activist and propagandist extraordinaire.”
Despite Schlussel’s and others’ insistence that Rima’s bid for the crown has been supported by the Hezbollah organization, Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah, when asked his opinion on the new Miss USA, answered disdainfully, “The criteria through which we evaluate women are different from those of the west.”
The raven-haired bombshell was indeed born to a prominent Shia Muslim family, in the village of Sfria in Lebanon—now controlled by Hezbollah. Most of the members of the Fakih family are Muslim, though some are Christian; Rima herself grew up going to Catholic schools in Lebanon, New York and Detroit. Moreover, she insists that she and her family are “not religious.” They certainly don’t appear to be—they are very supportive of Rima posing in bikinis and lingerie.
Is it possible that there are non-religious, non-fanatical Muslims, just as there are non-religious, non-fanatical Christians and Jews? Maybe some of them don’t even hate “our way of life.”
Nevertheless, vigilant Americans can’t be too careful; after Rima’s Las Vegas win, “rima fakih hezbollah” became a suggested search term on Google. Tea Partiers and lslamaphobes are proclaiming—as usual—that where there’s Muslim smoke, there’s terrorist fire.
The idea is “ludicrous,” said Magnus Ranstorp, a Swedish political scientist and one of the world’s leading experts on Hezbollah. “[Rima] would be flogged if she showed up in any of Hezbollah’s neighborhoods in Beirut.” It seems the beauty queen is far more at risk of having some kind of Fatwa put on her than any Americans are endangered by crowning her Miss USA.
But neo-cons know that just because the Muslim is wearing a cheeky bikini, it doesn’t mean that she’s not a terrorist. After all, “Underwear Bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a.k.a. Farouk1986, proved that you could use your panties as a weapon…well, almost.
The ascendancy of “Miss Hezbolleh” caused neo-con Daniel Pipes to grumble about “this surprising frequency of Muslims winning beauty pageants”—he listed five examples in three countries since 2005—and suggested that the Donald Trump-owned Miss USA pageant had “bowed to affirmative action.”
Judging from the looks of Rima in her swimsuit, it doesn’t appear that she needed any affirmative action to ace a beauty contest. The girl is hot.
But what if such a thing had occurred? What if some of the judges gave “the Arab girl” an extra point over the blonde this year, just because she’s from an ethnic group that needs a boost in the self-image department? More likely, it’s The Donald looking to impress some sheiks, having dissed Dubai by taking his pageants to Vegas, not to mention supported his daughter Ivanka’s conversion to Orthodox Judaism to marry New York Observer owner and real estate scion Jared Kushner.
Regardless of the motivation, as a sex therapist, it seems to me that Arab women could use a little “affirmative action,” when it comes to showing the world that they can be powerful, sexual beauties. Blondes already know how to have fun (or so the theory goes). Muslim girls also ought to see hot, sexy, well-educated, responsible role models to whom they can relate succeeding in life—even promoting western values—beyond the burqa. This is what we ethical hedonists mean when we talk about practicing “peace through pleasure.” It’s better to win hearts and minds through Weapons of Mass Seduction, like Rima’s hot body and sparkling personality, than to crush them with the usual Weapons of Mass Destruction, Perma-Wars and occupations that achieve little more than the creation of sworn enemies among the survivors for generations to come.
And then there is the matter of the stripper pole. Fewer than 24 hours after her historical win, Rima Fakih was “exposed” as a former champion pole dancer by radio show “Mojo In The Morning,” which featured photos of her participating in the “Stripper 101” contest—an all-girl gathering at the Coliseum Gentlemen’s Club in Detroit in 2007. We haven’t seen so much international furor over a pretty woman showing off her body since Janet Jackson’s Nipplegate.
Thus far, no one has come out to say that Rima should resign, but pundits and talk-show hosts like Joy Behar have flogged the new Miss USA over Stripperpolegate on national TV. “Why is there money in your brassiere?” Behar demanded like a Victorian schoolmarm, “We’re not going to see some kind of sex tape of you come out now, are we?”
Well, at least we Americans don’t stone our sexual women to death in a public square; we just verbally spank and attempt to humiliate them in our media. It’s a little sexist and degrading, but it’s a big step up from honor-killing.
This has nothing to do with Rima being Arab or Muslim. The arbiters of American culture have made our anointed beauty queens walk the catwalk of sexual shame many times before, regardless of their race or religion. Last year, topless shots former Miss USA runner-up and “man-woman marriage” advocate Carrie Prejean created a scandal. Before her, Miss USA Tara Conner engaged in underage drinking and kissed Miss Teen USA Katie Blair in public, while Miss Nevada Katie Rees lost her title after the emergence of an erotic photo shoot. Then there’s Vanessa Williams who, before her multi-faceted career as an entertainer earning Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award nominations, was forced to resign as Miss America 1984 when nude photos of her appeared in Penthouse.
It’s tough to find an attractive young lady nowadays who likes to show off her body enough to parade around in beauty pageants, yet hasn’t posed nude, kissed girls or wrapped her legs around a stripper pole at some point in her life.
Pole Dancing (sans stripping) is getting so popular, it will soon become an Olympic sport—and why not? What’s the difference between an expert pole-dance and a gymnastics balance beam routine, beyond positioning the phallic “beam” horizontally instead of vertically?
Speaking of balance, Rima stumbled a little in her white evening gown, but she aced the interview portion of the contest—the segment that famously derailed Carrie Prejean in 2009. When asked if she thought health insurance should pay for birth control, Rima voiced her support, saying: “I believe that birth control is just like every other medication, even though it’s a controlled substance.”
Sound like a Hezbollah-approved answer? Not unless it’s in deep code. At face value, it sounds like a girl who just wants to have fun and make something of her life at an age (24) at which most strict Muslim—or fundamentalist Christian or Orthodox Jewish—women have had two or three kids already, with a platoon on the way.
So far, the new Miss USA is holding up well in the swells of controversy. Here’s hoping she stays the course and becomes a beautiful, sexual, non-religious, integrating force for positive change; a vision of earthly loveliness to help sway the minds of Muslim men who think they have to die and go to heaven to see women like her; an inspiration to Muslim women who want to come out from their burqas; and a lesson to narrow-minded Americans who think Arab women are all cowering domestic slaves with covered heads.
And if she ever wants to try the Speakeasy stripper pole, she has a standing invitation.
Dr. SUSAN BLOCK is a sex therapist and author of The 10 Commandments of Pleasure, occasionally seen on HBO and other channels. Commit Bloggamy with her at http://drsusanblock.com/blog/ Email your comments and fantasies to her at email@example.com
© May 21, 2010.