LONDON: Iraqi actress and TV host Enas Taleb is suing The Economist for using her image in an article about the epidemic of obesity among women in the Arab world, according to Newlines Magazine.
In July, The Economist ran a feature titled “Why women are fatter than men in the Arab world,” in which it pointed blame at socioeconomics — on the grounds that the cheapest local foods are usually the unhealthiest — and pervasive social conservatism in the Arab region.
The British magazine chose an image of Taleb performing at Iraq’s annual Babylon Festival to go with the piece, portraying the actress as an example of such obesity, with a line in the last paragraph stating “Iraqis often cite Enas Taleb, an actress with ample curves (pictured), as the ideal of beauty.”
In an interview with Newlines Magazine, Taleb said she was preparing to sue the English publication.
“I have decided to take legal action against The Economist for their cover story. I am demanding compensation for the emotional, mental and social damage this incident has caused me. My legal team and I are arranging the next steps,” Taleb told Rasha Al-Aqeedi of Newslines Magazine.
“Audiences have loved me for many years. It was disappointing to see an international outlet label me as if all my accomplishments mean nothing. I am healthy and happy with the way I look, and to me that is all that matters,” she added.
The Economist did not respond to questions from Arab News.
The feature sparked outrage among Arab and non-Arab readers with some accusing the publication of double standards.
“In reaction to the piece in The Economist, some readers voiced their incredulity at what they described as a double standard in the conversation about women’s bodies in the West versus in ‘other” cultures,’” Al-Aqeedi wrote in her piece.
“Plus-size artists such as Lizzo and models like Ashley Graham are celebrated for their role in making the body-positive movement mainstream. It is difficult to find an example of an internationally respected publication that has held up a photo of a ‘fat’ Western woman as a means of shaming her,” she added.
The article was widely criticized across the Arab world for falling short in examining the factors that contribute to the obesity issue, where women in particular are affected.
Even though there seems to be a general consensus about the issue, the reality is more complex.
An outdated vision of Arab women being “mere sedentary housewives,” the rise of globalization, which brought significant lifestyle changes and rapid urbanization across the Arab region, and a general predilection for staying up late at night, are all considered contributing factors to the epidemic in the region, which The Economist failed to address.
Despite the magazine’s backhanded compliment to the Iraqi star, Taleb claims The Economist’s piece was an insult not just to her, but to all Arab women.