Egyptian State TV

Channel 2 host Khadija Khattab (Image: YouTube)

In a time when body diversity is more evident in the media, we often forget that in certain parts of the world, fatphobia and bias still exist to the point where even public figures are scrutized.

Case in point, the recent suspension of eight on-air female anchors by Egyptian state television, simply because they don’t “deserve” to be on air due to their weight. They have been given one month to lose weight and gain an “appropriate appearance” in order to be allowed back on air.

Viewers were asked to judge for themselves if these women deserve their jobs. The state-run Egyptian radio and television company has been known to enforce a heavy hand on reporters and journalists, who have had to watch what they say in order to keep their jobs. So this move is no surprise to us.

One of the women suspended, Channel 2 host Khadija Khattab, told a privately owned television station in an interview that she was informed that Egyptian state television will “take measures” towards those who don’t lose weight by mid-September.

See for yourself during one of Khattab’s segments – is she too fat for TV?

The suspensions have been met with overwhelming debate and have opened a widespread conversation on body image. Some people do agree with the suspensions and have called them “bakabouzas” on social media, an Egyptian term use to describe overweight women.

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However, most are angry that looks are being more focused on than skill. In a country that has been known to push the belief that only women who meet a certain criteria of beauty should work on television, this is a conversation we hope continues and perhaps changes the perception of body image there.

Reda Eldanbouki, director of the women’s centre for guidance and legal awareness, told The Guardian:

“This decision was shameful and violates various clauses of the Egyptian constitution and objectifies women and is abusive towards them. It also violates the ability for women to work freely in public positions. It contradicts the most important agreements that demands total equality between the genders in public positions and also the agreements to end all discrimination against women.”

Khattab, who has worked for Egyptian radio and television union Ertu for more than 20 years, told The Guardian:

“It’s discriminatory. They discriminate between men and women. They haven’t gone to any men, accusing them of being fat and suspending them. Only women. My appearance is my business, not theirs. It’s my private matter and in fact, I’m the way a common, natural Egyptian woman is. You can’t judge a presenter only by how much they weigh.”

Check back on the blog to see more on this pending story and its outcome.