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No room for curves! Women pressured to lose weight in Egypt

Over the past week Egypt has been in the spotlight regarding the issue of women’s weight

Published: Updated:

Forget about stories about Egypt trying to ink deals with the IMF or the ISIS affiliate in the Arab country confirming its chief’s death. Instead, the stories which are really putting Egypt in the spotlight is that of its women facing the heat to lose weight.

Recently, the news that eight television presenters who were seen as bulky by their woman manager were given the ultimatum to either lose weight or lose their jobs, grabbed headlines worldwide.

The presenters who worked in the state-owned broadcaster Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU), were suspended for a month to slim down before they could appear on air again with an “appropriate appearance,” Egypt’s Al-Yawm al-Sabi news site reported.

Egyptian presenter Khadiga Khattab, regular host of a 30-minute television show on ERTU, is a veteran journalist, who has been in the business for more than 20 years.

For Khatttab, the suspension is an outright gender ‘discrimination’ despite the decision coming from a fellow woman - ERTU’s female director Saffa Hijazi - who asked the presenters to go on a diet if they wanted to keep their jobs.

“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,” Khattab, told British daily The Guardian, describing the situation as unfair.

The presenters garnered sympathetic support on social media but there were others who called them ‘bakabouzas’ – an Egyptian term used to describe overweight women.

Gym faux pas

The presenters’ dilemma over their weight is not only what is causing a controversy over women and their bodies in Egypt this week.

The Facebook account of the global-chain Gold Gym was inundated with social media backlash after publishing a picture of a pear, with a cautionary message: “This is no shape for a girl.”

The gym had another post of a woman standing next to a horse, but showing the photo to be cropped to only display her face, with the caption: “What you leave out of [Facebook] messenger, put it into Gold’s Gym.”

The gym’s posts sparked outrage on social media worldwide.

Following the fierce social media response, the gym apologized.

“Our apology, this post was not meant to offend anyone, and not against God's creation, or any type of women’s body,” it said. “It was meant to refer to a Healthy Fit body and cutting fats, not the actual structure of the body.”

The gym also took down its Facebook account.

But mending ties with its women clients was not over for the gym.

The gym’s headquarters in the US posted a lengthy apology across their social media platforms, distancing themselves from their branch in Egypt.

There were even reports that the gym is planning to terminate its franchise in Egypt.