“My HUGE bum – PIC” – Daily Sun

Date: August 26, 2011
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Name of stories: “My life of hell with a big bum”, “How to fix Mantombi’s BIG bum”

Name of journalist: Ntomboxolo Makoba

Name of publication: Daily Sun

Dates: 22 August 2011, 24 August 2011

Country: South Africa

Theme: Health

Skills: Headlines, sources, language, portrayal

Genre: Images, news

GEM classification: Blatant stereotype


On Monday 22 August, a Daily Sun headline on a lamp post shouted: “MY HUGE BUM – PIC”. The news behind this headline is about the angst that a woman with a large behind experiences on a daily basis. While there is merit in highlighting the health condition of a woman and how it impacts her life in order to raise awareness or garner assistance, this article perpetuates a blatant stereotype about African women. It feeds into racist and sexist colonial discourse about African female bodies and is written in a way that isolates the woman further. It is highly unethical because it uses a woman’s experiences to make profit – rather than highlight a woman’s experiences to create awareness or empathy.



The headline that the Daily Sun plastered on lamp posts all over Gauteng is highly problematic. “MY HUGE BUM – PIC” reflects the essence of the story but it does so in an insensitive and crude manner. The emphasis here – or the way that the newspaper is sold – is by stating that there is a “pic” of this “huge bum”. The focus is therefore not on the content of the story but on the image that accompanies it. “

My life of hell with a big bum” is partially fair because it refers to the woman’s own words in the article: “My life is hell.” However, the woman does not refer to herself as having a “big bum” – she rather, more subtly, says “my condition”. It is therefore unfair of the Daily Sun to take a sensationalist and crude approach to the story, when it is not the way the woman represented herself.

“How to fix Mantombi’s BIG bum” is relevant to the story but it is still problematic because of the unnecessary caps (“BIG”) in the headline. This detail sensationalises the subject in order to grab the reader’s attention.


The only source in “My life of hell with a big bum” is Mantombi Ngocobo, the woman whose behind is the subject of the story. The bulk of the short article quotes Ngocobo directly about her experience of having a large rear end and the way it makes her feel isolated and ashamed. It highlights her daily troubles and the impact that her buttocks has on her life, such as the fact that she can’t take taxis or work anymore. Single-sourced stories are not a sign of good journalism and this article could have been vastly improved. The journalist could have interviewed Ngocobo’s children for their perspectives and included the objective views of a health practitioner. I

n “How to fix Mantombi’s BIG bum”, there is a short quote by Ngocobo at the end of the article. Apart from that, the journalist interviewed two medical practitioners – Dr. Oscar Setsubi from Gugulethu and Dr. Richard Mwebeze from KZN. Since they are doctors, the journalist should have included information such as the clinics in which they practice or the institutions from which they graduated in order to add credibility to their “expert” advice. The article merely states that “the Daily Sun called some doctors” and did not justify why these doctors in particular were referred to and why their advice is the most expert. Inclusion of this detail would have made the story more credible. The medical practitioners offer reasons why Ngocobo might have this condition and propose solutions to her problem. These views are valuable and should have been included in the first article about Ngocobo. Without the medical reasons behind her condition, it is easy for readers to Other Ngocobo and to cast her as somebody “abnormal” or a “freak of nature”. The sensationalist headlines contribute to this effect and the first article would have been more fair if the medical sources were included.

The fact that the medical sources were only included two days later shows that the Daily Sun printed the story without necessary fact-finding, which is bad journalistic practice. It implies that the purpose of the publishing the story was to sell papers and not to create awareness or empathy for Ngocobo. From a gender perspective, the journalist could have improved the use of sources in “How to fix Mantombi’s BIG bum” by interviewing one female doctor and one male doctor. It would have balanced the story and it might have improved the quality of the article, since a female doctor might have been more empathetic with Ngocobo’s condition.


The language of “My life of hell with a big bum” feeds into a patriarchal and colonial discourse about African women. The journalist writes, “She cannot sit at a normal table on normal chairs”, which automatically implies that Ngocobo is an abnormal person who does not fit a normative mould. The emphasis on Ngocobo’s deviation from the norm in this sentence is unnecessary as the fact could have been conveyed without the adjective “normal”. By using the word “normal”, the journalist creates the impression that there is an “us” (“normal” people who can sit on “normal” chairs) and an “Other” (Ngocobo). This perpetuates a problematic stereotype that could have been avoided by using more neutral and sensitive language. The use of exclamation marks by the journalist is an unnecessary addition to the story that further sensationalises the issue. The journalist writes that Ngocobo “is embarrassed by the huge size of her bum!” This is a serious issue, but the exclamation mark trivialises it and conveys a playful tone. It is entirely inappropriate given the sensitive nature of the topic. The journalist could have replaced all exclamation marks with full stops and it wouldn’t have altered the content of the story, but it would have given a more empathetic quality to the text. “How to fix Mantombi’s BIG bum” is written in a more objective way. There are no exclamation marks and the language is neutral. This is perhaps because the “shock” effect that the journalist wanted had been achieved in the last article and this was simply a follow-up on the issue.

Visual images

The “PIC” of Ngocobo is a selling factor of the article and the newspaper as a whole. The visual image that accompanies the article is advertised on lamp posts and is blown up on the front cover of the newspaper. It is a full-length photograph of Mantombi Ngocobo, taken from behind with Ngocobo’s head turned to face the camera. On one level, it is a fair image because it conveys the content of the story. The reader’s eyes are immediately drawn to Ngocobo’s rear end and this is what the story is about. However, this image is disturbingly reminiscent of the drawings of Saartjie Baartman that colonialists distributed far and wide in the eighteenth century. It conveys the stereotype of African women as exotic and “different” to the “norm”. The image exaggerates Ngocobo’s physical body and the story could have been told effectively without a picture. It would have been more appropriate to take a photograph of Ngocobo that does not exaggerate her physical characteristics or sell newspapers based on the image.

Story angle or perspective

The angle that the journalist took in telling this story is crude and overly simplistic. Given the sensitive history of the representation of South African women’s bodies during the colonial era, the journalist should have exercised more caution in the way that Ngocobo’s condition was portrayed. The journalist makes an implicit judgement that Ngocobo is an abnormal exception in society and this is evident in the story’s language and perspective. This is a neo-colonial stereotype that should not be perpetuated in post-Apartheid South Africa.

The main viewpoint of “My life of hell with a big bum” is that of Ngocobo. This is reasonable given that she is an expert of her own experiences. The missing voices of her children could have fleshed out and added depth to the story. In “How to fix Mantombi’s BIG bum”, the main voices are that of the doctors who might have expert knowledge on the human body. If these two articles were merged into one, it would have resulted in a more fair and balanced story. The professional opinions would have shown that Ngocobo isn’t a “freak” of nature but somebody with a physiological condition that can be solved with medical attention.

Placement or positioning

The story is given paramount positioning – it appears on the front page of the Daily Sun and both articles appeared on page three. This shows that it was given high importance by the editors. This is not necessarily because they think that Ngocobo’s condition is a serious issue, but because the image and story will be good for sales.

Training exercises

  • Research the story of Saartjie Baartman and find colonial images and texts about her. Compare these with the Daily Sun‘s story – what are the similarities and differences?
  • Do you think that Mantombi Ngocobo was represented fairly in the headlines of the Daily Sun? Provide alternative headlines for the stories.
  • Is there a more empathetic and sensitive way of portraying Ngocobo’s condition? If so, how?
  • In reference to Ngocobo’s life, do you think that there are any positive or negative effects of this article being printed? State the possible effects and what these mean for responsible journalism.

Other training resources

Download : 13480_img00425-20110822-0804.jpg
Download : 13481_lifewithahugebum_dailysun_220811.jpg
Download : 13482_howtofixmanthobisbigbum_dailysun_240811.jpg
Download : 13488_bigbum_dailysun_2208110.jpg

2 thoughts on ““My HUGE bum – PIC” – Daily Sun”

Eddie says:

It’s really unfair and unethical what the media does nowadays,when we the society relies on it,to voice out our cries, im not a doctor but i can try to donate wherever is needed

Clarence says:

i want to help with everything

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