Put your political inclinations aside and take a deep breath. This isn’t an attack on your family or your honor; this is an objective critique of a public servant’s actions.

A video posted to YouTube on Sunday shows Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil meeting with several officials at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The video, taken in a private meeting between delegates, shows Minister Bassil asking “where is Caroline?” in reference to Caroline Ziadeh, the UN Deputy Permanent Representative of Lebanon. Minister Bassil then follows up his question with a suggestive hand gesture, alluding to Caroline’s appealing figure. The video then cuts to Ms. Ziadeh looking extremely uncomfortable and peeved.

Congratulations, Mr. Bassil, for successfully reducing a woman’s lengthy and impressive career into two seconds of demeaning hand gestures and sexual innuendos while simultaneously making an utter embarrassment out of yourself, your so-called career, and the country you represent. Bravo.

Maybe being at the General Assembly somehow reminded you of your college dorm days, where you would spend hours making what I’m sure were hilarious jokes with your frat buddies about your math teacher's tits. Good times! Maybe you were transported to your favorite sports bar where you and Minister of Education Elias Bou Saab enjoyed kicking back with a few beers after a long day of legislating to make comments about the barmaid’s ass.

I jest, I do. But the fact of the matter is: your comment goes beyond an innocent joke, it was a clear representation of the blatant misogyny women are subjected to on a daily basis in Lebanon. It is deeply disturbing to think that a man with state-sanctioned responsibilities like yourself can make a comment so demeaning to women in such a casual, gesticulating way.

This is the same type of misogyny, no doubt, that motivates lawmakers to offer superficial platitudes about their desire to protect women from sexual violence while doing little in the way of real reform. This is the same type of misogyny that legally allows a man in this country to rape his wife with no consequences.

It's up to everyone - women and men - to combat the pervasive culture of misogyny in Lebanon. But it is foremost a burden of our leaders and official representatives, men like Gebran Bassil, to uphold the respect and reverence women - as equals, regardless of gender - deserve.


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