Dubai fitness influencer in hot water over comments amid coronavirus crisis

The influencer (not pictured in this stock photo) raised the issue of running outdoors. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 25 March 2020

Dubai fitness influencer in hot water over comments amid coronavirus crisis

DUBAI: On Monday, Dubai-based influencer Semia Azaiz, who goes by “The Trendy Frenchie” on Instagram, uploaded a series of videos on her account seemingly implying that her followers should go against the advice of health authorities regarding staying at home as much as possible in order to prevent the further spread of coronavirus, prompting several Twitter users to report the video by tagging the Dubai Police.

On Tuesday, Dubai Police announced that a member of the public had been arrested for "showing her indifference to the #StayHome national campaign."

"Dubai Police has arrested a European national of Arab origin for posting a video showing her indifference to the #StayHome national campaign and encouraging people to defy authorities' social distancing instructions. Legal measures were taken against her. The case has been referred to the Federal Public Prosecution for Information Technology Crimes. Dubai Police stresses the importance of residents fully complying with directives issued by authorities to safeguard public health," it tweeted on Tuesday evening. 



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#repost @dubaimediaoffice ・・・ شرطة دبي تلقي القبض على شابة أوروبية من أصول عربية بثت مقطع فيديو يظهر عدم اكتراثها بمبادرة #خلك_في_البيت والتعليمات الصحية والأمنية الحالية، وتحولها إلى نيابة مكافحة جرائم تقنية المعلومات بالنيابة العامة الاتحادية. الشرطة تؤكد أهمية الالتزام بالتعليمات حفاظاً على السلامة العامة، وتحذر من مخالفتها. عقوبة الحبس وغرامة لا تقل عن 200 ألف درهم ولا تتجاوز مليون درهم، أو إحدى العقوبتين، لكل من دعا أو حرض بأي طريقة تقنية أو وسيلة معلوماتية لعدم الانقياد إلى القوانين والأنظمة المعمول بها في الدولة. . Dubai Police has arrested a European national of Arab origin for posting a video showing her indifference to the #StayHome national campaign and encouraging people to defy authorities' social distancing instructions. Legal measures were taken against her. The case has been referred to the Federal Public Prosecution for Information Technology Crimes. Dubai Police stresses the importance of residents fully complying with directives issued by authorities to safeguard public health. Inciting non-compliance with safety measures will lead to imprisonment and/or a fine of between AED200,000 and AED1 million.

A post shared by Dubai Police شرطة دبي (@dubaipolicehq) on

In the video posted by the influencer, she seems to mock the measures. 

“Finally, we’re going for a run,” said Azaiz who is seen outside with one of her friends. “I wanted to tell you that yesterday I went for a run with my friend and I was afraid to put up a video because two days ago when I was running and when I told people they should go out and do whatever they want, I have been attacked on social media, I was called irresponsible and crazy,” she continued.

“However, I’m doing small runs. I’m by myself or I bring a friend with me because I don’t want to make anyone unhappy and I don’t want to take any risks. But what I’m saying is you don’t have to take part in this campaign, staying at home,” she said. 

“Do whatever you wanna do, no matter what’s out there. If you want to leave the house, go for a walk or go for a run, just do it. Stay positive and stop adding to this drama staying at home. Why are you staying at home?” she said to her 41,000 Instagram followers in the now-deleted videos, which have garnered immense backlash on social media since their upload — some users even reported the clips to Dubai Police.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by The Trendy frenchie(@the_trendy_frenchie) on

Today, Reebok MENA released a statement saying that they are cutting ties with the influencer over her comments.

“Reebok MENA, in no way shape or form, endorses the activities of @the_trendy_frenchie and has immediately suspended all collaborations with her,” wrote the athletic label. “She previously attended a Reebok event in January and posted recently. Her comments are misleading and do not represent the core values or principles that the brand stands for. We encourage the entire community to stay at home and practice social distancing,” said the statement. 




Instagram/@reebokmena

Azaiz’s comments came just after the Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan, took to Instagram and Twitter to share a lengthy, heartfelt plea urging the residents of UAE to stay home amid the rapidly spreading coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, on Monday night, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa lit up with the message “Stay Home... Stay Safe.”

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

#StayHome #خلك_في_البيت

A post shared by Burj Khalifa (@burjkhalifa) on


South Asian marriage websites under fire for color bias

Updated 12 July 2020

South Asian marriage websites under fire for color bias

DHAHRAN: An online backlash has forced the matrimonial website Shaadi.com to take down an ‘skin color’ filter which asked users to specify their skin color using descriptors such as fair, wheatish or dark. The filter on the popular site, which caters to the South Asian diaspora, was one of the parameters for matching prospective partners.

Meghan Nagpal, a Toronto-based graduate student, logged on to the website and was appalled to see the skin-color filter. “Why should I support such archaic view [in 2020]?” she told Arab News.

Nagpal cited further examples of implicit biases against skin color in the diaspora communities – women who are dark-skinned are never acknowledged as “beautiful” or how light-skinned South Asian women who are mistaken as Caucasian consider it a compliment.

“Such biases stem from a history of colonization and the mentality that ‘white is superior’,” she said.

When Nagpal emailed the website’s customer service team, she received the response that “this is what most parents require.” She shared her experience on a Facebook group, attracting the attention of Florida-based Roshni Patel and Dallas-based Hetal Lakhani. The former took to online activism by tweeting the company and the latter started an online petition.

Overnight, the petition garnered more 1,500 signatures and the site eventually removed the filter.

“Now is the time to re-evaluate what we consider beautiful. Colorism has significant consequences in our community, especially for women. People with darker skin experience greater prejudice, violence, bullying and social sanctions,” the petition reads. “The idea that fairer skin is ‘good’ and darker skin is ‘bad’ is completely irrational. Not only is it untrue, but it is an entirely socially constructed perception based in neo-colonialism and casteism, which has no place in the 21st century.”

Overnight, the petition garnered more 1,500 signatures and the site eventually removed the filter.

“When a user highlighted this, we were thankful and had the remnants removed immediately. We do not discriminate based on skin color and our member base is as diverse and pluralistic as the world,” a spokesperson said.

“If one company starts a movement like this, it can change minds and perceptions. This is a step in the right direction,” said Nagpal. Soon after, Shaadi.com’s competitor Jeevansathi.com also took down the skin filter from its website.

Colorism and bias in matrimony is only one issue; prejudices are deeply ingrained and widespread across society. Dr. Sarah Rasmi, a Dubai-based psychologist, highlights research and observations on how light skin is an advantage in society.

The website took down the skin filter following backlash.

“Dark skin tends to have lower socio-economic status and, in the US justice system, has been found to get harsher and more punitive sentences.

“These biases for fair as opposed to dark skin comes from colonial prejudices and the idea that historically, light skin has been associated with privilege, power and superiority,” she said.

However, in the wake of #BlackLivesMatter protests, change is underway.

Last month, Johnson & Johnson announced that it will be discontinuing its skin whitening creams in Asian and Middle Eastern markets, and earlier this month Hindustan Unilever Limited (Unilever’s Indian subsidiary) announced that it will remove the words ‘fair, white and light’ from its products and marketing. To promote an inclusive standard of beauty, it has also renamed its flagship Fair & Lovely product line to Glow & Lovely.

“Brands have to move away from these standards of beauty and be more inclusive so that people – regardless of their color, size, shape or gender – can find a role model that looks like them in the mass media,” said Dr. Rasmi.