Body shaming affects women all over the world - usually in the form of slurs and discrimination. In Egypt, particularly, it came in the form of body shapes not fitting the standards becoming good material for a comedy talk show like 'Tholathi Dawda' Al Hayah'.
A clip from an episode of one of AlHayah's talk shows recently surfaced on the channel's Facebook page, showing actress Shaimaa Seif receiving rude comments regarding her weight and body, causing her to walk off the set in embarrassment. Perhaps more than the content of the remarks themselves, it was the fact that the hosts took the liberty of hyping up the beginning of the show using Seif's body as a subject of deprecation.
According to the show, Seif – a young actress who recently gained fame for her comedy roles in television and theatre, and her sense of humour as a former host in women's talk show Nafsana – recently posted on Instagram that she was going to take up a diet. One host responded to that by saying "Is this you before or after the diet?" Meanwhile, the other host said, "When we ask what your weight is, you should ask if we're wondering about your weight before or after the question!" The audience, along with the hosts, broke out in hysterical laughter.Perhaps we missed the humour here? Apparently, so did Seif. She walked away from the set. That's where the clip ends on Facebook; however, the full episode on YouTube shows that she did return, joining in the jokes and putting it behind her. Seif is not one to shy away from talking about her weight - in fact, she is incredibly encouraging in how proud she is of her weight, and often resorts to self-deprecation. However, she does so at her own discretion and consent.
While some may think that, since she makes fun of her own body, that gives others leeway - there is a huge difference. Seif embracing her body shape and size is a form of self-love, and it encourages women of all sizes to feel confident about their body and the way they look. It gives them a chance to have agency over the language they choose to describe their own body. When she speaks of loving food, or being large, or with any reference to her body, Seif is saying "Fuck you!" to society's standards that would love for her to hate herself and try really hard to fit within the impossible beauty standards.
On the other hand, when she is invited to sit in on a talk show and her body becomes the first topic the oh-so-funny hosts decide to talk about, that perpetuates society's delusional belief that they have the right to determine someone's lifestyle. Ironically enough, one of the hosts talks about satire and comedy, stressing the fact that it's not okay to make fun of people.
Body shaming is never okay. Ever. We recently saw Egypt's state television lay off some of their presenters for being 'too fat' under the condition of losing weight to get their job back, as well as Gold's Gym offensive ad that had social media in an uproar. Clearly, there's a far bigger conversation to be had.