The Egyptian Radio and Television Union has suspended eight female TV anchors for one month because apparently, they’re just too overweight to do their jobs.
The New York Times reports that the decree came from the newly-appointed head of the ERTU, Safaa Hegazy, a former TV anchor herself. The women in question have been asked to go on a diet during their suspension in the hopes that they will return with a more “appropriate appearance.”
According to the Independent, Hegazy has been tasked with overhauling the state-run network, ridding it of its “dowdy” reputation and luring the sweet, sweet eyeballs of millennials who have abandoned Egyptian TV for international satellite channels populated with legions of skinny and conventionally attractive presenters. Hmm.
There’s also this, from the Times:
Viewership of state television, long dismissed by many Egyptians as a comically biased news source, fell significantly after the uprising that removed President Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011.
Seems to me that that’s the real reason, but what do I know? Maybe Hegazy should take that into consideration before suspending 8 women on the basis of their looks, but you know, whatever.
The women who’ve been suspended are taking this news as well as can be expected. From the BBC:
Khadija Khattab, a host on Egypt’s Channel 2, told the paper that she wants people to watch her most recent TV appearances and judge for themselves if she is really “fat”, and whether she deserves to be prevented from working. Another presenter said the situation had upset their families and should have been dealt with internally.
Yes, this absolutely should have been dealt with internally, but the fact is that it didn’t need to be dealt with at all. The Women’s Centre for Guidance and Legal Awareness, an Egyptian NGO that works to prevent violence against women and promote women’s rights rightfully referred to the suspension as an “act of violence against women.”
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Amr Al-Shennawaii, a manager at state-run Nile TV defended the decision. “For many years, people have mocked Egyptian presenters because of their appearance and lack of qualification, so when we are finally trying to bring reform, people are angry. That’s strange.” Al-Shennawaii also pointed out that the rule will apply to male television presenters as well, saying that “The eyes see before the ears hear, so appearance is important.”
Free-press advocate Mustafa Shaky told the Times that the real reason no one’s watching state-run TV has nothing at all to do with the women’s weight and underscoring how patently ridiculous it is to order someone to lose weight when their weight has absolutely no bearing on how they do their job.
“They don’t understand that people don’t watch them because they have no credibility, skills or quality,” he said, proving nicely just how fucked up this move actually is. Policing women’s weight by publicly putting them on blast is something you’d think just doesn’t happen anymore but here we are, in 2016, dealing with this shit over and over again.
Despite criticism, the ERTU will not reverse the decision. In what I suppose is a tiny consolation, the women are still receiving pay and benefits. At least there’s that.