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CAMEROON: An Open Letter to Body Shamers

leila Kigha
Posted January 26, 2017 from Cameroon
Photo © borgogniels

Leila Kigha takes a stand against society's beauty standards, exchanging self-hatred for body love.

“We can be the ones to treat each other as human, when no one else will.

Dear Body Shamers,

I was 15 when I first shaved my legs. I regret it.

Your messages came at me from all directions and never relented. Every magazine I thumbed through, every advertisement I was exposed to, and every TV show and movie I watched taught me that hair on my legs was a mistake that needed correcting.

You made me self-conscious about the way I looked and very embarrassed about my leg hair. I was also too embarrassed then to ask for a safety razor to shave with, so I ended up shaving with a razor blade. When my leg hair grew in again it came in thicker and with a rash.

You might not realize your persistent messages were a form of body shaming, but they certainly were. They fueled my education in self-hatredfrom girlhood to teenhood to womanhood.

You make women ashamed of our body hair that grows naturally. You make us believe we must alter and restrict ourselves before anyone will acknowledge our humanity.

We spend time and money shaving off all of our hair without even thinking we have a choice. We do it because you, our body-shaming society, tells us our bodies are supposed to be totally hairless—not for hygienic reasons but because of your absurd standards of beauty.

The day I met Mr. X, however, my mindset about myself, my body, and all God has given me changed.

Mr. X, I assume, had also been subjected to your body-shaming propaganda. Your messages about women seemed to have infiltrated him so deeply to make him defensive at the sight of an unaltered female body.

He was a stranger, but he criticized my body, attempting to shame me because I had rejected his advances. He told me point-blank that a woman is not allowed to let hair grow on her legs. To support his point, he informed me of a lady who had to shave her legs to obtain a job.

Instead of shrinking in silent embarrassment and self-hatred at his remarks, I stood up to him. I refused to be shamed. I told him, “If I have to get rid of the things that make me who I am to be appreciated or valued by a man, then I don’t think you are the person I should be talking to or dealing with.”

That day I pledged to appreciate who God has made me (fearfully and wonderfully) and to carry my head high. I chose to genuinely love me and live from that perspective irrespective of what society says.

Now when I walk in public, I am confident. I draw my strength from accepting myself for who I am and I refuse to submit myself to your definition of what a woman should be.

But it isn’t always easy. Like Mr. X, your messages of what a women should be run deep in me too.

We can be modern and liberal. We can understand the importance of freedom of expression, breaking gender clichés, not conforming to social pressure, and being comfortable in our own skin; but if we’re honest—really honest—few of us would say we prefer a hairy leg to a shaved one. Some men would no doubt say they find it disgusting.

Today I say to all women that wecan learn to stop perpetuating this toxicity from our dominant, anti-female culture. We can learn to stand up to you, the body shamers.

We can learn how to support and love and be awestruck by each other.

We can be the ones to treat each other as human, when no one else will. We can do better.

I hope one day all women know a love of our bodies so boundless and intoxicating that it emanates from our eyes, our smiles, our skin, and graces every person who has the privilege of walking by us.

I hope one day ourpresence in the world will letgirls and women know that they have the right to give their bodies a chance and stop conforming to absurd standards.

I hope that together we’ll become catalysts of self-acceptance. Each one of us can inspire one girl who can then inspire her friends. They'll inspire their teachers, who will inspire other students. One day these students will inspire their daughters, who will go on to inspire their own children.

I hope one day we all will be free to be comfortable in our bodies and not let the dictates of men and culture determine for us how we should appear, feel, and be in our own bodies.

I dare to hope.

Sincerely,

Leila Kigha

Comments 19

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yvoneakoth
Jan 26, 2017
Jan 26, 2017

Dear Leila,

Thank you for sharing your story.I love your confidence and sense of self love. Keep inspiring women and girls all over the world.

leila Kigha
Jan 26, 2017
Jan 26, 2017

Dear Yvoneakoth

thank you so much for reading my story. I am grateful for all the encouragements. They keep our heads up!:)

yvoneakoth
Jan 26, 2017
Jan 26, 2017

Dear Leila,

Thank you for sharing your story.I love your confidence and sense of self love. Keep inspiring women and girls all over the world.

Gwei Mainsah
Jan 26, 2017
Jan 26, 2017

It is good  when a woman talks on point taking into consideration her personal experience and the in particular the after effects, consequences  of some or our daily activities. This is why it is always good to be yourself, do the things you believe are right rather than doing them because you have been advised to do.

leila Kigha
Jan 26, 2017
Jan 26, 2017

Dear Gwen!

you are so right! We are much more in confidence when we act and live  based on convictions not hearsay. 

Clodine Mbuli Shei
Jan 28, 2017
Jan 28, 2017

Dear Leila, thank you for this beautiful piece . i love this, 'I hope one day we all will be free to be comfortable in our bodies and not let the dictates of men and culture determine for us how we should appear, feel, and be in our own bodies'

leila Kigha
Jan 31, 2017
Jan 31, 2017

Oh Yes Clodine! You said it again Hahahah. I look forward to that day when we all will be comfortable in our bodies.

Thank you my dear!

Araba
Jan 28, 2017
Jan 28, 2017

I love the message. Be comfortable in your skin.

leila Kigha
Jan 31, 2017
Jan 31, 2017

Thank you very much my dear!

Sophie Ngassa
Jan 30, 2017
Jan 30, 2017

Dear Leila,

Well done. I admire your courage.

leila Kigha
Jan 31, 2017
Jan 31, 2017

Dear sista!

thank you very much!

Virginia Bernadette
Jan 31, 2017
Jan 31, 2017

You have spoken all I feared to say in 18 years. Thank you Leila

leila Kigha
Jan 31, 2017
Jan 31, 2017

So happy to have someone identify with me. It is time we took our stands and live our truths! 

I pray women everywhere see that they are beautiful inside out!

LillianVB
Jan 31, 2017
Jan 31, 2017

Dear Leila,

wonderful story. you can only be a better imagine of yourself and nothing else - it is liberating to stand up for your self and have that self esteem that enables you be the person you want to be. 

leila Kigha
Jan 31, 2017
Jan 31, 2017

Dear Lillian!

You said it all. the best we can be is ourselves! Nothing external can make us comfortable and confident in ourselves!

Nicole Joseph-Chin
Jan 31, 2017
Jan 31, 2017

This is beautiful and sincere. Thanks for sharing!

leila Kigha
Jan 31, 2017
Jan 31, 2017

Thank you for reading Nicole! I truly appreciate.

Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi
Feb 02, 2017
Feb 02, 2017

Dear Leila,

Thanks for sharing with us the truths about our society. Its true that society has its way of setting standards that judge us but we have to overcome them. We need to fight the norms of society that make us think less of ourseleves and rise above all that.

Thanks for sharing 

ncycat
Feb 12, 2017
Feb 12, 2017

This is an important story for young women to share with each other. I was a teacher for two decades, and one of the areas we explored was body shaming in the western world. It has become a multi-billion dollar industry! Women are constantly being told they don't smell good naturally (perfume, deodorants, douches, etc), their natural hair has to be altered (hair dyes, the zillions of hair products), their skin and face need to be colored and plucked (makeup), their hair has to be shaved off...and young women take in all these messages and obey, thoughtlessly, hoping to be accepted if they change their looks enough. But of course, fashion changes every season, so the industry figures out a way to keep the money coming in. Thank you, thank you, thank you for speaking up, Leila!!! By the way, my daughter's name is Leila, and she is a proud advocate of women's rights too. I applaud you.