The Economist Faces Backlash Including Lawsuit From Iraqi Actress for Article That Body Shamed Arab Women

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The Economist is facing backlash for an article on the obesity gap in the Middle East that some say body shamed Arab women. The reaction is highlighted by a lawsuit from Iraqi actress Enas Taleb, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

“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, who will sue the magazine for defamation, told The AP. “This article is an insult not only to me but a violation of the rights of all Iraqi and Arab women.”

The article, titled, “Why women are fatter than men in the Arab world,” used a photo of Taleb onstage at an arts festival for its featured image.

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While the article, published in late July, sought to investigate possibilities for the obesity gap between men and women in the Middle East, as been criticized by Taleb and others for body shaming women, using the word, “fat,” six times.

The magazine calls Taleb out by name as it reported that curves represent the ideal of beauty in the region, saying “Iraqis often cite Enas Taleb, an actress with ample curves (pictured), as the ideal of beauty.”

However, many are pushing back upon the notion that weight is seen as a sign of affluence and fertility.

The Atlantic’s Kim Ghattas called out the “shameful headline” and the article that she says is “Sexist, misogynistic [and] orientalist.”

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“Very disappointed in ⁦@TheEconomist⁩,” journalist Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson wrote on Twitter. “The stereotypes here go beyond #fatshaming.”

Instead, Joan Costa-Font, who will soon publish a study on Egypt at the London School of Economics, told The AP that “it’s not true in Egypt that being overweight is a sign of beauty. … Western standards are more relevant.”

Western beauty standards have long pervaded the Arab world and skewed visions of beauty in the area, according to The AP.