Monday, July 23, 2012

An Inconvenient Prejudice

I’ll admit something I’m not proud to say: I have a prejudice against fat people. I’m a fattist. I have many excuses for my judgemental attitude. For a long time I felt that the obese were simply people who lacked my discipline. Why couldn’t they just get up every morning at 6 am and run several miles? Why couldn’t they just limit their breakfast to a single slice of buttered toast, lunch to one sandwich and dinner to water and a piece of chicken? I did.

It was many years before I realised that I struggled with disordered eating, but that never quite removed the taint of moral superiority that I had about my weight. Even in the times during my childhood when I lived in Nigeria and was derided for being too skinny (the traditional beauty ideal in many African countries is bigger and curvier than in the West) I could never quite shake the feeling that I was still better off.

But times they are a-changing. As looking well-fed is becoming easier to achieve in Nigeria, it’s becoming more socially desirable for women to be slim. The slang word Leppa, which used to be a derogatory term for a skinny woman when I was growing up, is now used positively. Women now talk of going on diets, and mornings in middle-class and affluent neighbourhoods are awash with potbellied residents marching about in jogging suits - exercising. And for the first time, I’m seeing obese children.

I have come to understand that obesity is not a lack of moral fibre. It’s an addiction. But unlike narcotics like cigarettes and heroin, its users don’t even know that they are junkies.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Incomplete Revolution

As a woman of a certain age, I have started thinking about how I will navigate the delicate balance between family and career. I’m not married yet, nor do I have children, but I hope to soon. And the question of whether I can "do it  all" has been bothering me.

I have long been attracted to the bright side of academia – the lectures, the conferences, the prestige that comes with being called “Dr.” But I was always daunted by the amount of time getting a PhD required (5-7 years for a humanities degree) and the long tortuous road to tenure. Beyond personal fears of intellectual adequacy and sustainable interest in my chosen field of scholarship, there was also the problem of how I would balance having children.