Would you get your jaw-wired to lose weight?

Published: August 3, 2014
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Of course, she will shed all those ‘extra’ pounds and probably will be able to grab an acha rishta, but how inhumane is that? PHOTO: drted.com

“Hey, you have lost weight?”

This is a question almost every woman in this world hopes to be asked. Every day, we discuss, think about, act on and cheat on this weight monster.

Recently at work, one of my female co-workers proudly announced that her family friends got their daughter’s jaws wired so that she cannot eat or chew. The poor 17-year-old will be living on liquids for the next two years. What is the end result? Of course, she will shed all those ‘extra’ pounds and probably will be able to grab an acha rishta, but how inhumane is that?

While listening to this conversation, I was shocked, worried and utterly embarrassed. When and how did we start treating our women in terms of pounds and kilos only? The woman who was killed by her brothers outside the court for their so-called honour and this poor girl whose jaws are locked for losing weight, are they both not the same? Aren’t they and others like them, going through the same misery?

When I think about it, my mind starts making excuses. The only one I could come up with was that the girl must have been obese and so the parents, worried for the state of her health, had no option but to opt for such a beastly contraption. Even then, while I applaud the parents for their intentions, this is definitely not the way to go about obesity. Will this step not affect the girl in any adverse ways? Not taking any solid food, not chewing for two years, not going out with friends, explaining to everyone why she cannot eat her own birthday cake, isn’t that going to take a toll on her physical and emotional well-being also? Or does that not matter?

Perhaps the doting parents are trying to save the poor girl from ridicule and bullying at school for being fat and so, again, they had no option but to resort to such extreme measures. If that is the case, then I agree with them for caring so much. But is this not another form of bullying? Aren’t those ‘rishta aunties’ we so eagerly wait for just a bunch of bullies?

What if she feels like having a piece of raw fruit or vegetable? How can you, being parents, deprive your child of things as basic as an apple? Yes, physical appearances matter but not to this dangerous extent. It is unfortunate that health is still attributed to the physical state of a human body. Do we forget about emotional damage? Do we even understand that there is such a thing called mental health?

But why blame the parents? Are they not just going by the rules set by society itself? Size zero is in fashion, is it not? I, too, am guilty of playing a part in all this. We have gradually replaced the word ‘health’ with ‘fashion’. We see models and skinny actresses as ideals for a healthy lifestyle. How can anyone expect us to have a high level of self-esteem, knowing that our bodies can never truly match their unnatural perfection?

The fate of women in our part of the world rests in one question; is she pyari or not? And this can make or break them. Pyari, essentially means tall, fair and thin.

Who made these standards and why are they followed so vehemently? Our women are performing multifaceted roles in this society; they are working, managing families, meeting friends, studying, taking part in sports and what not, and yet, we cannot refrain from categorising them under labels like fair, dark, tall, short, thin and ugly?

Do we really want a generation of women who think of themselves just in terms of ‘bodies and sizes’ and nothing else? Will that make us a ‘healthy’ society?

These questions need to be seriously pondered upon.

Lastly, I would like to mention that in no way am I in favour of obesity. I believe that a girl is more than just a number. Losing weight is no big deal. Trust me, anyone can lose weight with pills for diarrhoea, but there is a healthy way of losing weight too and that is what we should be focusing on.

We need to look beyond the kilos and inches. We need to recognise talent and intelligence not figures and scales. Jaw-wiring should be banned and doctors who perform such inhuman operations on young girls should be penalised. I hope against hope that this dangerous dilemma does not spread here, especially in Pakistan, where some people die of liposuction, laser treatments and diet pills on one hand… and starvation on the other.

Raphidah Shabbir

Raphidah Shabbir

An educationist, presently working with a renowned school system to incorporate creativity, activity and service into curriculum. She likes to write about social issues which affect the women in Pakistan. She tweets @raphidah1682 (twitter.com/raphidah1682)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.