Yesterday, October 28th, Reham Saeed’s show Sabaya El Kheir was the talk of the entire country. Not for its content as much as it was for Reham’s extreme views, which she freely flaunted on her show. Reham is no stranger to outbursts such as this one, where she would defend her views so passionately – and with complete disregard to common sense sometimes – that she puts herself in the wrong if she wasn’t to begin with. In that particular episode, Reham interviewed Sumaya Tarik, a young woman who was telling the story of how she was sexually harassed and physically assaulted at a mall, and then had to see the assailant get away.
During the interview, Reham grilled her interviewee about every little detail of the incident; what her harasser said to her, what she said back… etc, as the video footage taken at the mall was played on the screen. Watching the episode felt more like watching an interrogation rather than an interview. Reham even went as far as to discuss Sumaya’s clothing. Stating that while she herself wears sleeveless shirts and tight jeans, she thinks it was inappropriate of Sumaya to wear them at a mall.
After the interview, we were greeted again by Reham whose tone remained hostile towards Sumaya. She said that she had a “feeling” that something wasn’t right, even attempting to punch holes in Sumaya’s story. She then said that the producer of her show received pictures that made her glad she did not take Sumaya’s side. This was followed by a slideshow of what can only be described as private pictures of Sumaya. After the slideshow, Reham gave a heated speech, the gist of which was that supporting Sumaya would have been a bad idea.
Sumaya responded the same day, claiming that the photos were taken from her phone by Reham’s crew. There is talk of a lawsuit, but nothing has been confirmed by Sumaya thus far.
All hearsay aside, and even if Reham never gets in trouble over the photographs, she has gotten herself in trouble due to the things she said. Her views on society, harassment and social conduct came off as misogynistic, elitist and outdated. Reham’s outspokenness was shocking as she, with much temerity, has said the following quotes throughout the episode:
“I can dress like that because it looks nice, or if I’m on the beach, but to dress like that with the intention of getting attention, no”.
“He doesn’t look like he’s been to prison; he’s wearing jeans and nice clothes. He looks decent”.
“Just as we judge harassers, we should do the same to women who harass men. And girls who encourage men to harass them by laughing, talking and dressing in a way that could lure those men”.
“I would’ve been wrong had I made a big deal out of this and blamed the security and police”.
“If I accept being carried while wearing a swimsuit like that, of course I’ll accept to be harassed, it wouldn’t be the end of the world”.
“Control your girls and protect them and nothing will happen to them”.
Those are only a few of the many sexist and elitist comments Reham made throughout the episode, completely disregarding any code of ethics she should, as TV Presenter, have. Reham ignored something as vital as consent! One is frustrated to see that until now, we have to explain that a woman should be able to choose how to be touched and by whom. The audience’s backlash was so strong due to the fact that no longer do people easily overlook the encouragement of rape culture, especially coming from a woman. Victim-blaming and slut-shaming is something Egypt has seen time and time again, but seeing it being done by someone who claims to be open-minded has proven itself to be much scarier.
“I would blame her as a TV Presenter and as a woman; this is unprofessional and unethical that people would trust you to take their voices to the world and you’d abuse that”, Sally Zohney, Women’s Rights Advocate and Adviser on Sexual Harassment at GIZ Egypt.
The repercussions of Reham’s outburst have already started, with news of companies taking their ads off Reham’s program. Not only is her television show suffering, but also her image, “I would blame her as a TV Presenter and as a woman; this is unprofessional and unethical that people would trust you to take their voices to the world and you’d abuse that”, Sally Zohny, Women’s Rights Advocate and Adviser on Sexual Harassment at GIZ Egypt, says. With Egyptian women doing their best to fight for their rights, something like this could affect the work that has already been done, “it’s catastrophic. I’m not saying it would take over the awareness or education, but it backfires”, Sally says, “because many people will watch and rethink how they let their daughters dress, or women will end up saying that if they talk back to their harassers they will hit them”.
She seems to be oblivious to simple concepts such as privacy and personal rights. She sounds like a misogynist”, Mickey, Radio Personality
Reham’s unprofessional conduct wasn’t well-received in the media. We reached out to radio personalities Yara El Guindy and Mickey, “I think she has gone off the show objective and general trail and has taken it to a personal level. She is at this point using her show to reply, bash, defend or accuse on the expense of her viewers or fans”, Yara says. The problem isn’t only with her behavior on the show, but also her views, “I don’t understand how educated women could take such a stance against women. She seems to be oblivious to simple concepts such as privacy and personal rights”, Mickey says, “she sounds like a misogynist”.
The negative attention was not only that of the media, but also people all over Egypt. An event calling for her show to be taken off the air and for her to be put on trial was launched on Facebook with 14K people attending. Nourhan, the admin of the page that launched the event spoke to us, “when I saw the show I thought this girl could be me, my sister or my daughter. This doesn’t necessarily mean I’m on the girl’s side, but this is personal and she interfered in that”, Nourhan says. The reactions to her page and event were mixed, “lots of people encouraged us, and some people were against the whole thing, and there are actually many of them out there”, she tells.
Needless to say, Reham’s show is under serious threat at this point; whether it be from angry viewers or even advertisers. One has to wonder, will it work this time, or will it be like the many other times there was an outrage about an issue, only for it to be forgotten within days whether or not the issue is actually solved. Reham’s misconduct might prove to be something that Egyptians will find hard to forget.