LOUD WHISPERS: The Obsession With Women’s Bodies

I was in a store recently, looking for clothes for one of my little God-daughters. I was appalled at what was on offer. Why does a clothing range for 10-12-year olds look like the same as the one for adults? I wondered. Is a ten-year-old supposed to display cleavage? In most cultures of the world, there is an unhealthy obsession with the bodies of women and girls. It is not just about what these bodies represent in terms of sexual appeal or attraction, it is much deeper than that. The female body has always been perceived and treated as a threat to patriarchal order.  Wars have been fought over women’s bodies and women’s bodies have always been sites of war. Times do not seem to have changed. The female body has to be owned, controlled and manipulated, and it does not really matter whether we are talking about ancient times when young women were used to host guests in some communities or contemporary times when poor young girls are trafficked far away from home.

Many would argue that women’s bodies are revered because women produce life. Yes, women give life, but they and their bodies do not have the respect they deserve.  A six-month old for example is supposed be just a baby, to be cuddled and cooed over.  Yet, this baby girl somehow arouses the passion of a grown male, who manages to force himself into her. A baby.  It should not even be possible to think of a baby girl as having ‘a body’.  There are possibly three explanations for this inexplicable horror, pardon the oxymoron. The first explanation is insanity. The second is that the perpetrator was acting on the possible instructions of one of the many ‘native doctors’ who prescribe the bodies of babies as a cure for an incurable ailment, passport to riches or the attainment of high office. The third is an uncontrollable passion and sexual urge. It doesn’t really matter what the reason is, the end result is the same – the manifestation of a morbid obsession with women’s bodies. This is the reason why I will not be an advocate for the abolition of the death penalty. I used to be coy about admitting this, not anymore.

In the name of religion, culture and tradition, depending on context, parts of women’s bodies are also chopped off and sewn up, thanks to a pernicious practice that affects millions of women around the world. When rights activists talk about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and people try to equate the practice with male circumcision, we point out that men only lose their foreskin during circumcision. Women lose their clitoris, labia minora and labia majora, depending on the type of FGM practiced in her community. The result of all this is the remodeling of women’s bodies to make them a site of reproduction only and not a place where normal, mutually satisfying sexual intercourse can take place. If men where to lose the same body parts as women through this grotesque practice, they would be undergoing Penectomy – the removal of parts or the whole of the penis. I would like to see men lining themselves or their sons up as volunteers. I can already hear the gasps of shock.

The war on women’s bodies continues through the lack of safety little girls experience as they grow up, and with every step they take, their innocence is at stake. Sitting on the lap of a favourite Uncle. Riding to school with Francis the driver who always has sweets to give. The Biology teacher who examines her breasts in his office and declares her ‘a woman’. Even daddy who always comes in to the bedroom late at night to tuck her in. As a girl grows into a young woman, she becomes aware of the power her body has and begins to develop strategies to either protect it or exploit it, unwittingly completing the cycle of socialization. We live in a world where personal accomplishments and goals are not enough unless they have been validated through the eyes of others. A young woman quickly learns that she is not pretty enough, tall enough, light skinned enough, skinny enough, demure enough or her hair is not long enough. And so, the quest continues for the perfect body to attract the perfect man and at the same time find and hold down the perfect job. This unhealthy obsession with the bodies of women continues to play itself out because there are so few sanctions for those who take it upon themselves to own women’s bodies by force. From sexual harassment to acquaintance rape to violent sexual assaults, the crimes go unpunished because the perpetrators are emboldened by a culture of impunity.

Recently, an alarming new trend has evolved. The same mad ‘native doctors’ who have been prescribing the rape of tiny girls from South Africa to Uganda to Nigeria, have come up with something else. Killing women for their private parts has been around for a while. However, there seems to be the discovery that the underwear and/or the menstrual pads of women are useful in making powerful charms. And so, the obsession with women’s bodies takes a new dimension as young men stalk women to figure out where they leave their underwear to dry or where they dispose of their sanitary protection. Several women have been found dead at the hands of these demons who planned to use their bodies for rituals. We used to think that older women are spared the horrors of rape and sexual violence because their bodies no longer hold any attraction for male predators. Wrong. Women as old as ninety are raped. What many people have been brought up to believe is that women seduce men with their bodies and wiles, and if a young woman for example wears ‘provocative clothing’, it is ‘reasonable’ to expect that men would be ‘tempted’. Now we are dealing with a new reality. It does not matter if we are dealing with a nine-day old baby or a ninety-year-old woman. What was the six-month old baby wearing? How alluring were the laps of the nonagenarian? Every woman has a body to obsess over, to be invaded, conquered, defiled, you name it. In many ways, we are all complicit. Let us teach respect for the bodies of women and girls. Let the practice of FGM stop. Let sexual crimes be punished according to the full extent of the law (where laws exist) and where they don’t exist, we need to create them. Let corporate bodies stop using women’s bodies to sell their merchandise. Let the promoters of endless beauty pageants find another means of livelihood. Let our musicians scale back on the quantum of breasts and bottoms on display in their videos and on their stages. Let us stop encouraging dubious role models who create the impression that there are shorts cuts to money and fame.  Let us stop demonizing sex education and access to family planning.  Let us stop making women feel they are never enough until they have lightened their skin, have hair like Khloe Kardashian or a backside like Jennifer Lopez. Let fathers teach their daughters self-esteem and self-worth and let mothers raise their sons to be real men who value women and their bodies. Perhaps one of the key reasons why many men (and the handful of women they coerce into this) obsess over women’s bodies is so that women and girls will not have time to use their brains. I for one will continue to make it my business to ensure that this agenda fails. Anyone care to join me? Have a great week.

 

 

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She is currently the 1st Lady of Ekiti State. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

 

 

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14 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: The Obsession With Women’s Bodies

  1. Olori Adeoye January 14, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    I am totally with you on this one ma. It is appalling that women and girls are always the victims. Always. Look at this so called underwear thing now, they went to a restaurant attacked the women and took their pants away. I really don’t know why this is happening but it is becoming tougher being a woman in this world. I join you in this campaign.. I am in with you ma. Happy New Week.

    Reply
  2. Veronica Imaseun January 14, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    May God help us. Thank you for speaking up about this issue. Women are humiliated, girls are not allowed to be girls anymore. As parents we need to be very careful what we expose our daughters to and who we expose them to. I keep telling my girls, nobody is your best friend, i am the only best friend you have. I join you in this ma and well done on the job so far.

    Reply
  3. Aderanti esther January 14, 2019 at 5:30 pm

    I am with you on this. I am totally with you. We will work hard, get on the ladder without removing our shirts. There will be more jobs available to our women and we will help other women grow. Yes! I am with you on this one.

    Reply
  4. Victor Udoh January 14, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    Exactly my point, what’s with a six months old child? what exactly is a 6 months old child wearing? This world is so perverse that it chokes now. It really chokes and if we don’t stand up against all these? it might fall at our doorstep soon.

    Reply
  5. Olabode Olasunkanmi January 14, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    Can these boys stealing pants be dealt with by the law? can police men arrest them, take them to jail? it is so pathetic.

    Reply
  6. Omoboriowo O.B.O January 15, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    I think predators are not being punished that’s it looks more like the enemies are winning the game more than the victims. We need to do much more than talk and act, calculated actions and moves will make us get there.

    Reply
  7. Bisi Alawode January 15, 2019 at 4:02 pm

    I am scared for the kids we would raise in this generation. I am so scared. Things are happening so fast, we cannot keep track. Wickedness is the in thing, they are making memes to laugh over it like it’s nothing. We need to be serious, we need to take drastic actions and i am ready to join to you in this ma. We need to act fast. All these idiots that want to buy Benz, want to use young ladies as prey for their success. They don’t want to work, they just want quick money. so sad.

    Reply
  8. Olakunle Olajide January 15, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    Everyday, every time and everywhere, I am with you on this matter. It is so heart breaking to hear of rape and abuse on females of all ages, it is just pure insanity.
    The punishment should be of no bargain to perpetrators of this ugly act. A lot of things are wrong as you have rightly stated and we will keep fighting.

    Reply
  9. Femi Diipo January 16, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    I cannot describe my feelings reading this. It is so appalling, embarrassing and extremely ridiculous the things that have happened and are still happening in the society concerning the female bodies. The worst case as mentioned is when the victim is a child or an old woman, it just goes beyond rational comprehension. I’m totally with you on fighting against this menace. I believe the society won’t be safe for any of us until all our girls and women are truly safe and rightfully treated.

    Reply
  10. Dom Dom January 16, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    It is sad to think that as a young man, I’m going to become a father in a world where it’s ridiculous for me to bathe for my little daughter, or she cannot safely sleep off on her father’s chest. Whatever these evil men have turned the world to, none of us will know genuine peace until we are rid of them. I want a world where women are safe, have equal rights to education, jobs and amenities. And her freedom and body privacy is fully respected. I’m up for anything necessary to keep the girl child and women generally safe.

    Reply
  11. Lilian Godsgift January 16, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    May God save this generation. That’s how a neighbour’s daughter was raped by their relative and the matter was hushed only to be accused of wearing indecent clothes for a 7-year old child. Imagine o. May God have mercy on us

    Reply
  12. Onyinyechi January 16, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    I am with you on this one ma. We need to stand up to tackle this now. All these diabolic means to get wealth using the parts of a woman must stop. This must stop! We must act fast to destroy this trend. The society has become unsafe for our girls and women.

    Reply
  13. DSEED January 17, 2019 at 8:15 pm

    Yes!!! Am in with you ma. I really love the area you touched that says let the promoters of endless beauty pageants find another means of livelihood. Let our musicians scale back on the quantum of breasts and bottoms on display in their videos and on their stages. Let us stop encouraging dubious role models who create the impression that there are shorts cuts to money and fame. There contributions to this horrible act in our society is high. Media as well. Ma you have addressed it all. God help us.

    Reply
  14. Eric Onuoha January 31, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    I am in full support. I am really surprised at this new trend of using women’s underwear for ritual. Let our girls and women be very careful.
    Parents please give your children, both male and female, proper home training.
    Thank you Ma for sharing this.

    Reply

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