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This News Director in Egypt Suspended 8 Female Anchors for Being “Overweight”

Kaitlin Irwin

The director of a state-run television and radio company in Egypt has fired eight female news anchors for being overweight. Safaa Hegazy’s dismissal of the anchorwomen is a push towards creating a new and “improved” image for the news media company. However, discriminating against people based on weight is an outdated practice that is illegal in most places.

Ms. Hegazy stated that removing the eight women from their news anchor posts was a move toward modernizing the company. Ms. Hegazy took over the news station in April 2016 and is hoping to refresh the look and feel of the media company, which covers state television and radio in Egypt. Yet the company, Egyptian Radio Television Union (ERTU), is considered by many to be highly repressed and not reputable at all. It has even been said that no one takes ERTU seriously as it has lost all of its credibility and quality by diminishing the importance of skill in news coverage and media. 

Apparently, Ms. Hegazy told the eight anchorwomen that they can work behind the scenes in production until they lose weight. They have until mid-September to attain the “appropriate appearance” of an anchorwoman. Ms. Hegazy declined to mention what an anchorwoman is supposed to look like; should they just be replicas of Ms. Hegazy herself? 

Everything about this is so wrong. Here we have a woman in a powerful position and she is using it to put other women down. She is setting a poor example of what a lady boss should be by sending the message that only thin people are allowed to be seen in front of the camera; everyone else can work on the sidelines. Do workplace discrimination laws not exist in Egypt? (Hint: they do.) This not only makes me angry, but it makes me extremely sad.

Finally, can we just step back for a moment and address the fact that the firing was done by a woman? There is nothing modern about a woman putting other women down based solely on their physical appearance and weight. If Ms. Hegazy would like to “modernize” ERTU, then she should realize that female solidarity and body acceptance are slowly but surely changing the perspective and conversation all around the world. 

The belief that appearance and weight determines a person’s skill set and value is outdated and just plain wrong. One supporter of Ms. Hegazy’s decision said that "An anchorwoman's fitness gives an impression of liveliness on the screen.” Hmm, really? It’s quite easy to find lots of women who don’t fit the body size ideal of Hollywood and still manage to be successful, beautiful and lively. Melissa McCarthy, Oprah Winfrey, Rebel Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Adele, Gabourey Sidibe, Kelly Clarkson, Mindy Kaling...the list goes on and on.

Ms. Hegazy’s declaration that firing overweight employees will enhance the success of the company is totally ridiculous. It’s 2016 and people are realizing that women are pretty badass. Maybe Ms. Hegazy has been so busy working that she hasn’t seen any Olympics coverage, which featured women of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities blowing away the competition and winning medals. 

Breaking news, Ms. Hegazy: all women of all sizes are beautiful and worthy. Put that in your news coverage.

Kaitlin Irwin is recovering from anorexia. She spent her college years struggling to hide her illness and hopes to use her love of creative expression to spread positivity and love to others.