Body shaming in Ghana

Body Shaming New File Photo

Thu, 12 Jul 2018 Source: Hafiz Laryea

The phenomenon of body shaming is one that has recently plagued our society. Until recently, body shaming seemed alien to Africans, as stories of how people were being bullied and emotionally abused were only heard of the Americas, Europe and other such places.

Africans had a different story, as people of various body shapes and types enjoyed and felt good about their bodies and were appreciated for their thick, heavy backside, among others. The story, however, is different of late. In this piece, I identify the problem and its various shades. I also suggest a few ways to curb this menace.

Body shaming is not a problem that has only hit our streets of Ghana, but one that almost gotten a permanent place in every facet of our society. In our schools, our kids and siblings are being bullied and called ‘fat’ and ugly, derogatorily. At our work places, colleagues are dieting because of body shaming.

Sometimes, even in our places of worship, people feel unwelcome because they fear the unpleasant comments they receive about their bodies. Sadly, we have not sat to examine the harsh consequences of this. While body shaming is said to be faced by both male and female, statistics show that women turn to be the most victimized, in this regard.

According to a survey conducted by Yahoo Health, it takes women half their lifetime to feel just half of the body confidence teenage boys experience in adolescence. Even though the survey focused on Americans, the case may be said as indifferent in Ghana.

It is worth noting that body shaming is not only when people make fun about your belly, or buttocks, and breasts, but any part of one’s body that is mocked is being shamed. From head to toe. “See her body like boafloat”. Your breasts like that of old ladies. “Your stomach like something”. “Do you have six packs?” “Don’t mind him, his big head like ball”. Familiar with these phrases? If you’ve ever said such or similar to people, you don’t know the great harm you’ve caused.

I know high school students who have resorted to fasting on almost daily basis, only because they were told they looked fat and ugly. The experience, as I have noticed, is not only extremely depressing but causes great health issues. My friend of about twenty years has desperately taken up a two week ‘course’ to change her look. I have seen at firsthand how this ‘course’ is taking a great toll on her. She’s malnourished. While she might be losing weight, she is changing into something else.

The chief contributor to this problem, I believe, is the media. Look at the all these body sprays and cosmetic ads on TV. What kind of impression do they seek to make when all we see is well built, muscled, six packed people, and how they are energized and refreshed by such products. The implicit message is that, such is the ideal body. All others need to ‘fix’ themselves.

For the input of social media, the least said, the better. You remember Rashida Black Beauty? Anytime she messes up, all people talk about is her fallen breasts and what have you. The media shapens thoughts, and its influence cannot be understated. And all these quick fix weight loss people haven’t helped as well.

Why have we created this unnecessary standard for ourselves? We have created a standard that has seen many avoid food, with the aim of losing weight. Unnecessary fasting. The resulting effect being that many have contracted ailments like stomach ulcer, any yet, there’s no change in their bodies.

‘Did we go or did we come’, as they literally say in Ga. Why have we made people feel insecure about themselves? We have robbed them of their confidence and now they are ‘dying’ slowly, only because you said her body is not fine, according to your standard. Don’t get me wrong, I am no way saying getting fit is wrong, but if we have make people feel bad about their body to such an extent that they feel ‘not belonging’ to us any longer, we’ve done no good. We have not helped.

Let’s make a U-Turn from this point. Body shaming is a big deal. People might not be committing suicide about it now, but our comments of people’s bodies might the gradually sending them to their early grave. When you think about mocking the bodies of others, remember the young ‘macho’ man we buried recently.

He had all the abs and muscles, but he’s dust now. By all means, make efforts to be fit, but do not let your quest to be fit be in the interest of those who call you names and shame your body. Our friends in the media, carefully scrutinize what you share on air and online.

We’re already battling many diseases. Let us save our young the early Hypertension due to our undue pressure and stress. Save our young. Save our colleagues. And save our future. #SocietyCanGetBetter

Columnist: Hafiz Laryea