Two BBC news items caught my attention this morning. The first described how 44-year-old Egyptian actress, Rania Youssef, is to go on trial next January for wearing a revealing dress at a recent film festival in Cairo. The charge, brought about by two Egyptian lawyers, is that the dress incited debauchery, defined by my Oxford Dictionary as “excessive indulgence in sex, alcohol, or drugs.“ For copyright reasons, I cannot show you Rania wearing the dress but you can see her wearing it here, here, and here.
Assuming you resisted the urge to click through on the hyperlinks above for fear of becoming debauched, let me describe the dress to you. The actress is wearing what appears to be a black one-piece swimsuit underneath a lacy full-length see-through mesh gown. Her upper body is fully covered by the swimsuit but her legs can be seen through the gown. Apparently, it was the sight of her legs that caused the charges to be brought against the actress. If convicted, Rania Youssef could face up to five years in jail.
What’s ironic in all this is that the undulating gyrating dance known as belly dancing originated in Egypt and was derived from an earlier form of exotic dancing called ghawazi, a euphemism for an erotic dancer. And, just to make sure that belly dancing is alive and well in Cairo, I googled, “Where can I see belly dancing in Cairo?” Rest assured, belly dancers in revealing costumes, such as is shown below, are alive and well in restaurants, nightclubs (adults only), top-class hotels, casinos and even on dinner cruises on the Nile. You can chomp away at your ful mudammas and gebna makleyah while ogling a revolving belly button and shimmering tassels just a few metres away!
I do hope Rania Youssef is not convicted for if she is, the belly dancers will surely have to follow her to jail.
By Tatiane Brito – originally posted to Flickr as Belly dancer Nylla, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9427272
The second news item concerns the Star 102 radio station in Cleveland, Ohio. The station has decided not to play the song Baby, It’s Cold Outside, stating that the lyrics are inappropriate, imply date rape, and are contrary to the #MeToo movement. This song, written in 1944 and immortalised by Marilyn Maxwell and Dean Martin, presents a conversation between a man host and a woman guest wherein the woman wants to leave but the man wants her to stay (although he never says why!). Here are some of the more provocative lyrics:
Extracts from “Baby It’s Cold Outside” Frank Loesser, 1944
(My mother will start to worry) Beautiful, what’s your hurry
(My father will be pacing the floor) Listen to the fireplace roar
(So really I’d better scurry) Beautiful, please don’t hurry
(Well, maybe just half a drink more) Put some records on while I pour
[One assumes the drink is alcoholic; whisky maybe?]
(The neighbors might think) Baby, it’s bad out there
(Say what’s in this drink?) No cabs to be had out there
[This question is said by some to imply the use of a date rape drug.]
(I wish I knew how) Your eyes are like starlight now
(To break this spell) I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell
(My sister will be suspicious) Gosh your lips look delicious
(My brother will be there at the door) Waves upon a tropical shore
(My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious) Gosh your lips are delicious
(But maybe just a cigarette more) Never such a blizzard before
[Cigarettes and whisky and wild wild women come to mind!]
You can read the full set of lyrics here. If you do, what do you think? Did she stay, or did she leave? And if she stayed, is that a reason to remove the song from a radio station’s playlist?
I suspect Star 102 never plays Mick Jagger’s 1967 Let’s Spend The Night Together. That song was an open invitation to a night of debauchery with references to drugs [I’m high, but I try, try, try (oh my)] and a promise of sexual satisfaction [I’ll satisfy your every need (your every need)].
In today’s world of freely-available hard-core pornography, explicit song lyrics and movies, and overt sexualisation of young adult dress fashions, the actions of the Egyptian lawyers and Cleveland radio presenters seem strangely old-fashioned. As Bob Dylan said in 1964, For the times they are a-changin’, and they’ve certainly changed except for two lawyers in Cairo and a radio station presenter in Cleveland.