Would you take it as a compliment if someone called you, “jubu?” Unless you’re from Fiji, or know the language, chances are you don’t know what the translation of jubu is. What do you think it means? Try attaching a meaning to it. Is it positive? Negative? It reminds me of juju, as in “good juju,” or jujubes, as in a yummy candy. So for me, this would convey something positive. What about you?
In Fuji, jubu means, “hardy” or “strong.” But for many, hardy or strong might not be taken as a compliment — because in our country we put value on words that convey, “thin” or “skinny.” Walk through a store and you’ll find ice cream called skinny cow, jeans called “skinny” and a book titled, Skinny Bitch. In Fuji, hardy and strong were once considered to be a compliment to a woman — a sign of health and strength that made her an asset to her community. Dr. Anne Becker, a Harvard researcher and psychiatrist, said:
“As an eating disorder researcher, I would tell people, [in Fiji about eating disorders] and they would say, ‘Send them here [to Fiji], we don’t have that,’” Becker said, “In Fiji, so much of whether you were a good member of your community was in how you fed people.”
But now for many women in Fiji, this word “jubu” bears a derogatory connotation. What changed? Expansive Westernization in the Fijian culture and an introduction to American television shows and soap operas.
Becker studied the change and rate of eating problems in the Fijian culture during the time of electronics being integrated into the community.
“In just three years of TV exposure, the rate of teen disordered eating jumped from zero to 11 percent. Of the 63 teenage girls surveyed at the end of the study, 15 percent admitted to resorting to vomiting to control their weight, and 69 percent said they’d adopted some form of dieting — previously a foreign concept to most on the island,” Becker stated.
The high rate which these numbers jumped demonstrates the pervasive impact media has on body image.
Now already two decades after her research, although the media has shifted from the gaunt 90s heroin chic, it is still has yet to show improvement statistically in our youths view of their body image. Today, the ideal image is to be fit and nearly obsessive about what you eat. And although there’s been a shift that leans toward “health,” body image dissatisfaction is showing up in both boys and girls as early as age 8.
With media becoming evermore omnipresent, parents can have a positive role in counteracting the unrealistic messages kids interpret from the media. Check out next weeks Media Monday where we’ll discuss tips for parents on how to redirect this new generation from body shaming to body loving. Let’s shift the ideal to focus on girls and boys that are jubu in body, mind and spirit.