Creators of Arab TV series think it's somehow acceptable to perpetuate misogyny and sexism through scenes featured in their dramas. One of the most popular shows this Ramadan does exactly that.
Titled Khamseh w Noss (Five and a Half), the show stars Syrian actor Kosai Khauli and Lebanese star Nadine Nassib Njeim as a newlywed couple. A recently aired scene between the two sparked quite the outrage online. In it, Khauli's character (Ghimar) demands his wife (an oncologist named Bayan) change her attire because he thinks her dress is too revealing and fears it "will make him jealous."
It's one thing to depict issues women face in the Arab world in film and television to challenge and question them ... but it's completely another to romanticize them - which is exactly what this scene does.
To be fair, Njeim's character does take a stand against domestic violence in some episodes. In others, she also convinces her cousin to leave an abusive relationship and questions her decision to halt her career to be a housewife.
Regardless of the few "good" episodes, these scenes remain faint and contradictory when compared to this particular one. One Twitter user shared the clip on the micro-blogging platform, leaving people divided online. While it was deemed "romantic" by some fans, it left most people outraged.
"He said it so nicely"
Some tried to defend the scene
But many hit the brake on this one
Because why depict misogyny when we need to challenge it?
Summing up Arab dramas
"This is not romance"
Case in point?
Arab dramas rarely challenge sexism
In fact, the majority of Arab dramas normalize sexist behaviors along with domestic violence and verbal abuse. If the excuse behind such content is the need to highlight these issues then the way they're being put forth is flawed, to say the least.
Scenes of husbands beating their wives are considered "normal" in Arab TV shows. Popular series including Tango (2018) and the second season of Al Hayba (2018) don't shy away from featuring them. Other period and oriental Syrian dramas also include them.
Rarely do we see anyone taking a stand against such abuse on screen, it's just put out there.
On Arab screens, women are victims, never fighters; they're weak, but seldom powerful. They sit back as misogynistic values already engrained in our societies are perpetuated.
But that is not a reflection of women in our region today - many of whom are fighting against the patriarchy. Arab writers and creators of visual art and media better catch up with that soon.