People are not “politically correct” in my village in Lesotho. This may shock you.
In America we try to be “politically correct” so as not to offend someone. There are certain things we would never say, however in Lesotho, being “politically correct” seems to be different.
As a Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho, I’ve been quite surprised to hear how some of my students describe their friends, and how people I’ve met in my village, describe one another.
When my students wrote an essay about a person they admire, they all wrote about a relative or a friend. Some of them described their friend as follows:
“She has a big nose, dark complexion, and her body is like a big cow.”
I don’t think a teacher in the U.S would let a teenager get away with this description in the U.S. The funny thing is this does not offend the Basotho. In fact it seems to be a compliment as I’ve been told by many women that Basotho men prefer large women. It’s a sign of being healthy when a woman is big. Lesotho and South Africa are countries where being obese is beautiful according to a survey, the reason being:
“Due to the prevalence of AIDS, the association between weight loss and illness has contributed to South Africa’s negative view of thinness.” Read article.
I remember watching a show on “Oprah” many years ago about what is considered beautiful in different parts of the world, and in Mauritania, West Africa.
“In this drought-ridden west African nation, female obesity is synonymous with beauty and wealth. Though less common, “gavage” (borrowed from the French to describe fattening a goose’s liver destined for foie gras) is still practiced, with young girls imbibing vast qualities of fatty camel milk daily.” Read article.
Another situation I encountered regarding this topic of being “politically correct” was in a public taxi on my way to Maseru.
A woman asked me if I knew “so-and-so” in my village, and I said, “No.”
She then tried to describe her as, “The one with the monkey face.”
I was stunned.
I was even more shocked when I heard a Basotho radio host talking about his co-host in English and said, “You have a monkey face,” and started howling with laughter.
So I guess, we have to be open to different ways of viewing what is politically correct in our society.