We spoke to some women about their unique experiences and how they are treated because they look somehow that was deemed “unsatisfactory” by societal standards.
Grace was in a student council meeting that was making plans for a marathon. She decided to contribute, suggesting that they provide refreshments for the athletes and spectators. The man who was serving as the secretary laughed and said, “We haven’t even finished discussing the main event and you are talking about refreshments. No wonder you are so big, na so so chop chop.”
Grace said everyone in the meeting burst into laughter and this event and its attendant effects still plague Grace to date. “This happened in 2017 but it still haunts me. That experience took something from me, I had never felt so hurt in my life. It was a very embarrassing moment.” After that event, she told her mum she would go on a hunger strike because she was fat and people kept laughing at her.
Many of us, like Grace, have had the unsolicited opinions of people ruin our mood and our perception of ourselves. Encountering fatphobia hardly leaves you the same. “The event still affects me to date. I never eat outside. When I go out I just order a drink because I can imagine people saying In their head, as fat as she is, she is still eating”.
In the aftermath of that event, Grace feels better but she still never talks about food or eats in public. Someone’s tactless, unnecessary, disrespectful and ignorant backhanded comment still has a bearing on its object years later.
Itohan has a wealth of experience in this regard. “There was a time my tailor and I got into a fight. She saw me eating and then, she sewed a dress for me that was too tight. She said it was too tight because I’ve been eating too much (she saw me eating a f*cking salad) and then, I’m like, no, this thing is tight because the measurements are incorrect. She disagreed. My mother took a tape rule to measure and guess what? Aunty cut like two inches from the original measurement.”
On another occasion, Itohan was talking to a pharmacist about the number of pills to take for a particular drug she had been taking for years. The pharmacist said she was taking the wrong dose and she needed to climb a measuring scale for him to recommend the appropriate dose. Itohan was unwilling because, well, she knew she was taking the correct dosage and, like many of us, she’s not a big fan of the scale. “I told him I don’t like scales he’s like too bad, climb it. Then they started laughing at me.” The common denominator of mockery.
Now, get this, Itohan climbed the scale and it turned out that she was taking the right dose after all.
“There was also a time when I complained that something was unstable and shaky and people shouldn’t be using it but of course, they termed it a fat person problem until a thin person sat on it and fell. The worst is when you’re talking about health, fitness and fatness and people are like what do you know. I’m so confused because I’m fat and I read. What’s so difficult to understand?”
In Itohan’s experience, fat bodies are constantly judged. “It’s the weird sexualisation, fetishisation, sexism and fatphobia all in one. I wear a t-shirt and I’m suddenly calling attention to myself. I have breasts. I can’t remove them and keep them in my house. And then all the men that want women with “meat on their bones”, what does that even mean???” When you do dress “provocatively” they say you’re showing too much skin and nobody wants to see that. There’s no winning.
Nigerians “mind their business” to the detriment of others by ignoring harmful situations but take up arms to police other people for things that truly do not concern them at all. Women whose appearances do not fit into the mould society has designed (fat women, disabled women, dark-skinned women, women with acne and so on) get disrespected and shunned.
There seems to be this desire to humble women and “cut them down to size” when they are happy and confident even though society does not consider them worthy or beautiful. As seen through the lenses of these women, your unsolicited two cents will not do any good; keep it to yourself and unlearn the bigotry that inspires you to treat fat women or any other women badly and ignore their opinions. Women do not live to please you and, your judgements and assumptions are probably erroneous and unnecessary.