This week, the Internet stirred in protest to socialite Vera Sidika turning her skin colour back to black. Vera first lightened her skin five years ago. Debates raged on for ages with many urging Kenyan women to love their skin. Now that she has decided to go back to her initial skin colour, she is being accused of being a bad role model.
“She is a bad role model. What about the women who had followed in her footsteps and lightened their skin?” I have heard this line used over and over again these past days.
Yes. “What about them?” I have been wondering.
First things first. The Internet is no place for anyone to be looking for role models. I imagine that any woman with access to skin lightening concoctions, pills, injections or even surgery should know this, especially in this era of social media influencers where the number of followers you have online is what pays the bills. You simply can’t take everything you see online at face value. We have women faking many things including sex tapes just to keep people talking and money trickling into their bank accounts. Being on social media for a lot of them is a job. They are just minding their business — literally. Why not mind yours?
Second, we need to stop telling women that they must love their bodies. That to be accepted into the fold, they must take off their clothes and photograph and flaunt their flaws to prove that they really do love their bodies — warts and all. We pretend not to be aware of the bias that woman face every day because they look a certain way, have a certain type of hair or even talk the way they do.
You do not need to love your body. You need to own it. This means you are free to feel whatever you want about various parts of your body at different times. I like to think of the relationship I have with my body as being similar with the one I have with my brothers or the one I have with my friend, Chemutai. Do I gush about her all the time? No. Sometimes, actually, I do not like her. What is constant though, is that I do want what is best for her.
So be gentle to your body. Feed it, hydrate it and take it out for a run to keep it working right. Don’t let anyone tell you, however, that you need to feel this way or that way. If there are parts of your body that you do not like to flaunt, that is OK. If you like your hair straightened and glossy — even if natural hair is so on trend right now — go for that perm by all means.
What all these people who have been drumming your ears with platitudes forget to tell you is that only you will have to live in this body. So do you.