A recent episode of a top-rated American TV talk show has prompted a barrage of comments on online forums about the way it portrayed Emirati women. The Oprah Winfrey Show, which is broadcast locally on MBC4, featured women from various cities around the world including Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and Istanbul talking about their daily lives.Dr Lamees Hamdan, a physician, businesswoman and mother of four from Dubai, was one of six women featured on a show about the happiest people in the world.
She allowed cameras into her five-bedroom house, her daughters’ bedrooms and her kitchen, which she said she rarely uses because her in-laws, who live across the street, have a private chef.
Dr Hamdan said that people in the UAE do not pay for electricity or health care. And although she chose not to wear a shela or abaya, she told Oprah, via Skype, that her sisters did and that their decision was cultural, rather than religious.The episode of the show, which draws an average of 10 million viewers a month in its Saturday-to-Wednesday twice-daily broadcasts, prompted women from the UAE to voice their opposition on online forums including Oprah.com and the social networking site, Facebook.
In addition to pointing out that health care was not free for everyone, many complained that the episode made Emirati women look dependent, and that Dr Hamdan’s comments about the abaya were misleading.
Fatima al Dhaheri, 25, an Emirati investment analyst at Abu Dhabi Investment Council who saw the programme, believed the issue was with the way Dr Hamdan’s comments were portrayed.
“The problem with the segment is that it was not based on facts, it was based on her own thoughts,” she said.
Fatima Amer, a 25-year-old Emirati financial analyst at the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, agreed: “She should have said, ‘I don’t pay’.”
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