To avoid getting arrested in Dubai during the three-week filming of the new season of Paris Hilton’s My New BFF, the popular heiress hired a team of “Middle Eastern cultural experts” (as though the entire Middle East is one monolithic culture) to keep her out of jail. In the United Arab Emirates it is a crime to swear or appear intoxicated in public: two things that were apparently common occurrences for Paris and her former BFFs.
Before leaving the States, Paris made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live where she joked about creating a Paris line of see-through burqas. (Har dee har har.) Then, after arriving in Dubai, she even made a public promise in her first interview with members of the UAE press to adhere to the country’s legal and cultural regulations. She said, “I’ve definitely studied on the culture here–on the rules, on what happens here–because I wanted to make sure that everything was okay, and I just wanna respect everyone here.”
Guess what happened next?
“Paris had made a big public speech, saying how much she loved the Middle East and respected its culture. But the following day she was prancing around on the beach in her bikini and posing provocatively,” reports The Daily Mirror.
Awesome. I love it when Americans travel abroad and show the world what egotistical, ethnocentric assholes we can be. Now, it’s not illegal to wear a bikini in Dubai, but one can be issued a ticket for dressing too provocatively. Skimpy clothing will almost certainly attract stares, as the cultural norm is to dress modestly in an abaya and headscarf.
Paris’s actions are particularly problematic in a city whose population is just 18% Emiratee (the remaining 82% are wealthy expats and South Asian migrant laborers), which causes a significant amount of ethnic tension, and maintaining cultural identity is a prominent struggle.
Some people have congratulated Paris for showing her body, saying that her actions are speaking up for women’s rights. But here’s the thing: it’s not her place to determine what is best for the women in Dubai. By eschewing cultural norms, Paris not only asserts her Western, white, and ridiculously upper-class privilege, she also undermines the agency of women in Dubai determine to what is best for them.
Thanks Paris! You’re, like, totally a Goodwill Ambassador for your country.