There was a debate (and I use that term loosely) when the pictures of Moana and the demigod Maui were released, about the representations of the men and women of Polynesia.
A lot of the disappointment that I witnessed stemmed from the idea that Maui was too “fat” and “ugly”. There were other opinions that Moana and Maui’s bodies should have been switched as the Island girls are stereotypically that big.
Obviously, I was so disappointed when I saw this reaction. It was based on insecurities and pettiness. Because I myself had been so excited about having a Polynesian story on the big screen. Nevertheless this reaction did not change my view that Maui the Demigod looked strong and fighting fit.
Just like in the Western world, Polynesia have a culture of fat shaming and belittling the big and fat of us all. But that is for another post.
Ive been working as a Physiotherapist for 3 years now. Ive had a long struggle with weight issues since I finished high school and yoyo-ed like Zach Gormley. And believe me when I say it was hard to show up to learning about healthy living as a physio student when you have weight issues. I get the irony trust me.
But I want to talk about how bodies like mine, and like Maui the demigod… and like so many other Pacific Islanders are a certain type of body type. Not fat. Not overweight. Not obese. Our bodies are just…well our bodies.
I was taking a course last year where we were taping ankles. Note, as usual Im the only brown girl (Cmon folks, get into Physio!) And the tutor was taping mine. And besides being flat footed, I do have big feet according to Western standards… but that’s just what they are… my Island feet. And as she was taping, she seemed to have a hard time maybe. Because she commented saying that… “It’s okay, Island girls always have gumby feet” and people chuckled. Heck I chuckled too. And then I didnt.
Are you blaming me for your inability to tape my perfectly normal foot? Like seriously. That experience got me thinking for the longest time about how we treat people we see, especially people of colour. And how the health profession blames being fat on many ailments- not that this is not always wrong, but sometimes, it is a scapegoat.
I think we need to do better about learning about different body types and stop pushing this weird idea of what is “normal”. Cause trust me what is “normal” for white folks is definitely not “normal” for Island folks. I have assessed a few Island boys that were huge, but were strong and flexible. And they have been called “fat” and “obese” by my colleagues.
So Im asking that we have an open mind about these things. Dont just assume that people are fat and unhealthy. Fat does not equal unhealthy. And fat does not equal ugly.
Thanks for reading.