Eight female presenters employed on Egyptian state television have been suspended due to their size and ordered to lose weight.
The website for Egyptian state-owned Al-Ahram news reports that Safaa Hegazy, the director of state-run Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU), gave the women one month to shed their excess weight before they would be allowed on air again with an “appropriate appearance.”
Hegazy, herself a former state TV presenter, was appointed as the ERTU director in April of this year. She has promised wide, sweeping changes to improve falling ratings of the state channel.
ERTU chairman Majdi Lasheen hailed the suspension, saying:
“This decision sounds the alarm for all TV presenters that they have to pay attention to their appearances, including body weight. This is the beginning of a plan to apply discipline and regulations designed to restore the beautiful image of all official TV stations. The decision to suspend the eight presenters is aimed at giving them a chance to change their looks in order to fit appearance on television.”
In an interview with a privately owned Newspaper, Khadija Khatab, one of the suspended TV presenters, said she was yet to receive a formal notification about the suspension. She also condemned the move.
“It is humiliating and even scandalous,” she admitted. “I believe I am an ordinary Egyptian woman who looks normal, and I don’t wear too much makeup.” Khatab said she felt it was unfair and insulting to use words like “fat” to describe her.
Other critics of the move have slammed it as sexist and an attempt at fat-shaming the presenters for their size. Many have wondered if ERTU’s male presenters have been subjected to the same level of scrutiny. Eman Beibers, chairperson of the Cairo-based Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women told Gulf News that “judging anybody on the basis of his or her body weight is not the right criterion.
“Our problem is that we judge people by appearance rather than performance and content. I’d have appreciated the suspension decision if those presenters were suspended because they did their job badly or appeared with excessive make-up. It does not matter if the presenter is fat or thin as long as he or she does not use nasty words on the air and knows well how to deal with guests.”
Many have hailed the decision to suspend the eight presenters, however, saying the move is necessary to craft a new, slick image for Egyptian state-owned TV that has seen its ratings plummet markedly over the years.