Lebo Mashile Uncut!!!! Responds In Her Own Words To The Sowetan Newspaper Article

By Lebo Mashile – This is in response to the column that Eric Miyeni wrote in Sowetan on Monday, the 12th of July 2010.

Eric has never been my friend. We work in the same industry. In the decade that I have shared a social circle with Eric, our interactions have been limited to polite greetings and a few short conversations.

Eric says his piece was inspired by what he heard on SAfm on the 18th May 2010 when I appeared on Karabo Kgoleng’s show. During the interview, several male listeners asked why I never affirm plus-sized men in the same way that I encourage self-acceptance amongst voluptuous women. I conceded to being biased and undertook to create messages in future that would embrace men and women alike.

In the interests of promoting health, I have tested for HIV publicly, thrice. I consistently refuse to perform at events that are sponsored by alcohol and cigarette companies. I do not eat red meat, chicken or pork, and for the past four months, have stopped drinking alcohol and caffeine.

Aside from his brief assertion of “love and respect”, Eric Miyeni has never engaged with my work. He does not know my history, or that my weight has fluctuated since childhood. He does not know that I come from a plus-sized family, or that when he met me at the age of 21, I was starving myself in order to be skinny.

Eric perceives me as an easy target, because I publicly encourage overweight people to love themselves. It is sad that Eric represents a pervasive mentality. Fat people are an obvious target. We walk into a room and people project all of their issues on us. People see overweight people as greedy lazy slobs who have no interest in life. They call us all sorts of names, and statistics show that even in the work place there is discrimination against us.

We are supposed to have low self-esteem. We are supposed to seek approval from others. Society projects their own self-hatred, shame, and self-judgment onto fat people. The trump card they use is medical research. What about alcoholics, smokers or sex addicts? No one judges these people for health reasons when they walk into the same room as me. If you are being attacked for being fat, understand that you are a scapegoat for other issues.

South Africa is a traumatized society. Why don’t people put their cocaine on the table, or their bottles of alcohol, or their extra-marital relationships, their financial debts, their HIV statuses, their illegitimate children, and their repossessed goods on the table? Let’s all put the sources of our shame on the table the way every fat person does when we step out of the door.

Eric has received more attention this past week for insulting me than he has in ages. When has Eric ever represented South Africa on an international platform as a poet? Have Eric’s literary pursuits received any awards? I have never been fired from a job. Eric has been fired from SAfm twice. This is not about his concern for my health. Eric is a misogynist.

Aside from my generous hips and bottom, the quality of my work and reputation can sit on Eric, and their weight will crush him. I am a heavyweight in every respect. Eric’s desperate and pathetic actions are indicative of someone who is looking for free publicity at my expense. This is his attempt to reignite a sagging career by emulating the schoolyard bully who teases the fat girl until she runs away crying. Sadly for him, I am not that chick.