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On Being Brown + Round in the Health Profession

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.

Image result for moana disney 2018

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.

marion

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musings of an ‘introvert?’ sidenote: i hate labels

i would say i am antisocial but antisocial has such a negative connotation to it
im antisocial in the way that i prefer my own company
(and how is that a bad thing if its not hurting anyone?)
but im not rude to people when i do have to interact
and why should i have to do things that make me feel uncomfortable and fake?
i make a lot of friends because i do generally like people
and im a polite person
i just find it extremely hard to maintain friendships and relationships
because i hate getting to know people
because that’s when they start to annoy me
when you get to know people you have to make compromises
you have to engage them, tolerate them, accept their faults
and let them see yours
and sometimes im pushed to change myself so that people will accept me
i feel things that i dont even believe in
and i hate that part of me
and the best me is the me when im alone
the best me is a slob who loves dancing and reading books, watching tv series and taking long walks and not going out clubbing and getting drunk and dressing however the hell i feel like which is basically a tee and shorts and most days i marvel at my self consciousness. like why do i feel the need to shell myself for people because im afraid that they will find me uncomfortable? find me strange? find me repulsive?

fuck a social norm i need to love myself.

because honestly? if not me then who?

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Why I Write

I love books. I’ve dived into worlds upon worlds in books. And then I started getting emotionally attached to these worlds in these books and so I try not to read too much because I kind of sink into a novel wholeheartedly. I can’t help it, it just happens. When I realised I had the WHAT IS LIFE? syndrome from reading, my new motto became “BE HERE NOW… BE PRESENT, MARION” because I just grew so detached from my own surroundings that it was almost unhealthy. I love books so much I don’t understand how people can not love books. But it’s like my brother and his love of games and such. To each his own.

Recently, I’ve started writing my own stories. They aren’t great… at all. I cringe when I read them haha. And as much as I’d love to be the next Juliet Marillier, I really can’t write for shit. It’s funny though, I never ever thought of writing until this year. And the reason I started writing was this, because all the great books I had ever read were about white girls. I might have sounded racist just then but I really don’t mean to come off as racist at all (Just an observation is all). I just noticed the gap in literature. The small population I come from is rarely represented in most books. Yeah, I love Dashti, Hermione and Katniss… Yeah we have bad ass characters like Katsa and Sorcha… But where are the brown girls? (Where are the brown people, actually?)

I want to read about a strong, polynesian chick who doesn’t even necessarily have to be a bad-ass warrior with tribal tattoos (which was what my protagonist was like in my first few stories haha I will see myself out after this I promise) she can just be an everyday chick who just happens be very culturally rooted… Or some brown protagonist in a fantasy novel about, I don’t know, vampires or some shit. And even if it was cliche, I might even read it. And don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the books out today… My eyes have just been opened to the fact that the protagonists like Katniss and Hermione and Bella even, are all women who girls can look up to, white women. Do you realise how empowering it was just to see Angel Coulby’s version of Guinevere? How empowering it is just to see Beyonce up there doing her thing? Serena Williams? Even Katara from Avatar… Yeah, I know what I’m talking about may seem so trivial to you but these women represent hope and pride in myself that, hey, being brown doesn’t mean you have to be a statistic or a stereotype.

And maybe one day I will finish one of these damn stories I’ve written and contribute to the lack of brown protagonists… But I want, no I need to see more brown skinned folks in books. I know there is a series by a Samoan author going around called Telesa… which I will read one day hopefully… (it’s just the thought of teen paranormal fantasies that make me cringe… also, haven’t been able to purchase any hard copies yet)… (plus, congratulations Lani Wendt on your success!! 2 thumbs up from me!).

Maybe I’m just reading too much into this thing. Anyway, that’s my brain scrambles for the day. Thought I’d leave you with this quote I found the other day, which resonates with me and pretty much sums up what I mean but 750x better… 

“Why am I compelled to write? Because the writing saves me from this complacency I fear. Because I have no choice. Because I must keep the spirit of my revolt and myself alive. Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write to record what others erase when I speak, to rewrite the stories others have miswritten about me, about you. To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy. To dispel the myths that I am a mad prophet or a poor suffering soul. To convince myself that I am worth and that what I have to say is not a pile of shit. To show that I can and that I will write, never mind the outraged gasp of the censor and the audience. Finally, I write because I’m scared of writing but I’m more scared of not writing.”

Gloria Anzaldua in Speaking in Tongues: A Letter To 3rd World Women Writers

Fresh Laundry and Cool breezes!!