Article On ‘Fat’ Arab Women Sparks Uproar Over Body-Shaming

CorD Recommends

China Activates the World’s Fastest Internet Connection

In a significant technological feat, China has...

Naples Honours WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange with Honorary Citizenship

The city of Naples has bestowed the...

EU Seeks Expansion: Greenlights Talks with Ukraine, Moldova

The European Commission has adopted the 2023...

Slovakia’s New Government Halts Arms Delivery to Ukraine

The incoming Slovak government has taken the...

NALED: One of the First Open Innovation Projects in Serbia to Commence Soon

One of Serbia's first 'open innovation' projects is set to commence soon, offering scientific and research organizations a unique...

Nelt – 30 years on the right route

The Nelt Group marks the anniversary with a focus on employees and annual turnover of EUR 1.3 billion The anniversary...

Serbia Acquires Historic WWII Directive Ordering Attack on Yugoslavia

The Government of the Republic of Serbia announced that, following its recent acquisition of a piece by Paja Jovanović...

Belgrade Hosts International Energy and Environmental Fairs

At the Belgrade Fair, the 18th International Energy Fair and the 19th International Environmental Protection Fair have been opened,...

French Week Celebrated with New Beaujolais and French Ile de France Cheeses

Another celebration of French Week, a now traditional event, was kicked off with a grand welcoming of the new...

To Enas Taleb, the headline felt like a spiteful punch line. “Why women are fatter than men in the Arab world,” it read in bold, above a photograph of the Iraqi actress waving onstage at an arts festival.

The Economist article ran through possible explanations of the obesity gap of 10 percentage points between men and women in the Middle East, then cited Iraqis who see Taleb’s curves as the ideal of beauty.

“Fat,” a word now considered taboo in much of Western media, was repeated six times.

The article triggered torrid criticism on social media. Twitter users blasted it as misogynistic. Local rights groups issued denunciations. Some writers were appalled by what they described as demeaning stereotypes about Arab women.

Taleb, 42, said she’s suing the London-based magazine for defamation.

While analysts acknowledge an epidemic of obesity in the Arab world and its connection to poverty and gender discrimination, Taleb’s case and the ensuing uproar have thrown a light on the issue of body-shaming that is deeply rooted yet rarely discussed in the region.

“If there’s a student who goes to school and hears mean comments and students bullying her for being fat, how would she feel?” Taleb told The Associated Press from Baghdad. “This article is an insult not only to me but a violation of the rights of all Iraqi and Arab women.”

The Economist did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Fat-shaming is offensive enough in the United States that when two sports commentators called some female athletes overweight on air earlier this year, they were swiftly fired.

In the Middle East, the report argued, the desirability of fleshy women may help explain why the region has experienced an explosion of obesity.

But the angry backlash over the article — and Taleb’s horror that her photo was used to illustrate growing waistlines of Arab women — contradicts the oft-repeated belief that being heavy is widely seen as sign of affluence and fertility in the region.

The globalization of Western beauty ideals through branding, TV and social media has long given rise to unrealistic body standards that skew women’s expectations of themselves and others in the Arab world, research shows.

Ammar Albadri/Photo provided by Enas Taleb via AP

In a forthcoming study on Egypt, Joan Costa-Font at the London School of Economics said he found that although some older women in rural areas still view rounder women as affluent, “it’s not true in Egypt that being overweight is a sign of beauty. … Western standards are more relevant.”

Demand for cosmetic surgery has boomed in Lebanon. Some 75% of female Emirati students reported dissatisfaction with their bodies, and 25% are prone to eating disorders, according to a 2010 study at Dubai’s Zayed University.

And yet, many say, fat-shaming remains widespread and acceptable in the region, compared to the U.S. and Europe, where self-esteem movements have gained momentum and galvanized public discussions around inclusivity.

“Our politicians in Lebanon keep making these horrible, sexist comments about women’s bodies. If they come under fire that doesn’t necessarily lead to rising awareness,” said Joumana Haddad, a Lebanese author and human rights activist.

Haddad noted that new forays into female empowerment have provoked “reactionary discourse and anger” from Lebanon’s patriarchal society. Even cavalier public comments about weight can be deeply painful to young women who struggle with insecurity and a pathological will to alter their bodies in pursuit of beauty, she added.

“I’m a 51-year-old harsh, angry feminist and I still weigh myself every single morning,” Haddad said. “You can imagine how hard it is for people who have been less privileged.”

Ameni Esseibi, a Tunisian-born woman who overcame social stigma to become the Arab world’s first plus-sized model, said body positivity remains taboo in the Middle East even as populations have become more overweight.

“Kuwaitis are plus-sized, Saudis are plus-sized. But people are ashamed. They weren’t taught to be confident in this judgmental society,” Esseibi said. “We always want to be skinny, to look good, to get married to the most powerful guy.”

But, she said, there are signs of growing awareness. After years of ignoring vulgar comments about women’s bodies, Arabs are increasingly turning to social media to vent their anger.

The Economist article’s depiction of men “shutting women up at home” to keep them “Rubenesque” touched a nerve.

The Baghdad-based Heya, or “She,” Foundation, which advocates for women in media, denounced the report as “bullying” and demanded the magazine apologize to Taleb.

The Malaysia-based Musawah Foundation, which promotes equality in the Muslim world, said the backlash shows that “women in the region are building a collective discourse that rejects and calls out sexist, racist, and fat-phobic acts and their colonial legacies.”

Taleb, a talk show host and star in blockbuster Iraqi TV dramas, said she had no choice but to speak up.

“They used my photo in this context in a hurtful, negative way,” she said. “I am against using one’s body shape to determine the value of a human being.”

Her lawyer, Samantha Kane, said she has begun legal action, first sending a letter to The Economist demanding an apology for “serious harm caused to (Taleb) and her career.”

Kane declined further comment pending the magazine’s response.

Taleb said she hopes her defamation case serves as “a message” for women “to say, I love myself … to be strong, to confront those difficulties.”

It’s a message that resonates in a region where women see the odds as stacked against them. Traditional attitudes, discriminatory legislation and pay disparities, on top of rigid beauty standards, hinder women’s advancement.


UAE Announces $10 Billion Fund For Investments In Israel

Following a constructive phone call His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed...

The UAE Investing 810M Euros In The Space Program

The United Arab Emirates has implemented a fund of three billion dirhams (810 million euros) to support the space program and a new initiative...

“Women don’t get equal salaries. They don’t get high-level positions. They are forced to keep silent when they are harassed. And in media, they have to be thin and beautiful,” said Zeina Tareq, Heya Foundation’s director.

In Taleb’s home country of Iraq, where safety is scarce after years of conflict, outspoken women also face the threat of targeted killings.

Iraqi journalist Manar al-Zubaidi said the fat-shaming of Arab women comes as no surprise in a world where “most media outlets commodify women and make them into objects of ridicule or temptation.”

“There is nothing to deter them,” she added, except ever-louder “campaigns and challenges on social media.”

Source: AP News 

Related Articles

52nd National Day of UAE

The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Belgrade organised a ceremony to mark the National Day of the UAE, which is being celebrated...

Serbia and UAE Commence Free Trade Negotiations

Serbia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have inked a strategic document, formally initiating free trade talks between the two nations. The document, signed on...

Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Ethiopia, UAE, and Saudi Arabia Invitated to Join BRICS

In a significant development, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has revealed that Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia...

UAE and India Initiate Bilateral Trade Using Local Currencies

In a historic agreement, India and the United Arab Emirates have embarked on bilateral trade in oil, conducting transactions using their respective local currencies. Indian...

UAE Introduces Driverless Robotaxis to Public Transportation

The United Arab Emirates are introducing autonomous driverless taxi vehicles into public transportation, known as robotaxis, offering passengers in Abu Dhabi a unique experience...

UAE, Qatar Reopen Embassies After Years Of Tensions

The United Arab Emirates and Qatar announced on Monday the reopening of their respective diplomatic missions, six years after the Gulf rivals severed ties...

UAE And Serbia Sign Billion Dollars Loan

The President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, and the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, signed nine agreements between...

Dubai Property Sales Surge 60% 

Dubai's residential real estate market surged 60% in the first half of 2022, as investors snapped up properties in the popular city in the...