The Obolobo Show: An African Woman Battles The Stereotype About Obesity By
By Malaka Gyekye Grant
Women’s issues have been all over the global news lately. With headlines ranging from the horror of domestic violence to the struggles so-called ‘left over women’ in China, one can’t help but look at herself and ponder her place in the world and what society assumes that place is.
In my circle, the issue of weight and body image has been prevalent in our online discussions. It seems trivial, but my BFFFL, Nana Darkoa wrote an excellent piece about the political implications of being a constant victim of body shaming, which in simple terms is the practice of commenting –rather negatively – on another person’s physical attributes, particularly if they are seen as “fat”. “Fat” in Ghana, and most of West Africa I suspect, being “fat” is subjective. Generally, anyone who is larger than an American size 2 is considered “fat”.
As I mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been a victim of body shaming myself on more than one occasion. In fact, while in Ghana on vacation, I was called fat no less than 3 times by both strangers and people I consider friends. I have never understood why Ghanaians feel so authorized to comment on another person’s weight, but there you have it. We don’t walk up to ugly people and tell them how gruesome they look that morning, but when it comes to weight, all tact goes out of the window!
I jokingly said that I was going to start a television program called the “Obolobo Show” that featured fat people doing amazing things. And then it dawned on me a few days ago that “fat people” do amazing things every day!
My husband and I are by no means small people, but we’re relatively active. We’ve gone snorkeling together in the Caribbean. I’ve bungee jumped from Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa– the highest bungee point in the world according to Guinness. I’ve climbed Roberg Mountain and ran down a sand dune with an almost 90 degree gradient. In short, I’ve done things people half my weight have never attempted nor would consider trying!
I’ve come to the conclusion that a healthy weight is whatever size and heft you have determined allows you to live your best life. If that life is limited to sitting behind a desk or on a couch flicking through channels or scaling summits at your national park, get your body in the shape to do whatever it is that you want to do successfully!
I’m on a campaign to show that society’s definition of fitness – or its appearance rather – isn’t gospel that must be unilaterally accepted. I suppose the bullying that Governor Chris Christie found himself the target of was part of the genesis of this realization. Having someone who is not your physician declare that you might “die in office” because of your weight is enough to set anyone on edge. I completely understand his firing back at the media and Dr. Connie Marano, who looked into her crystal ball and determined that his demise was near based on the size of his waist line. I wonder if she has counseled our sitting president about his smoking habit? Last I heard, lung cancer kills people too…
To test my resolve, I drove an hour north to Amicalola Falls to hike up the steps…alone. This is a big deal for 2 reasons: Dawsonville is Confederate Country and I have enough sense to be afraid of the Klan (although if I’m honest I have a better chance of being shot in Bankhead than strung up in the Georgia backwoods) and secondly, I’m scared of heights. But I did it, and it was fun! No shaking!
I’d like to encourage anyone who has considered living a more active lifestyle that you’ve seen as out of reach because your “fat” or “Black” or “poor” or whatever excuse you’ve accepted as prohibiting you from doing it –or having the right to do it – to try. I’d love to hear your stories….and then we can all be on The Obolobo Show!