Monday, May 21, 2012

The War on Black Women's Bodies Again

Tonya L Jones
           So, about a week ago I am doing my morning ritual of scrolling the newsfeed of my Facebook page.  Instead of watching TV news, I like to find out about what’s happening in the world via social media. I have “liked” many groups on Facebook that I feel provide a better alternative voice for people who are often marginalized in mainstream news (POC, the poor, etc). My favorite page What About Our Daughters (a blog dedicated to the empowerment of Black girls and women), posted a scathing review on an article that had just been published in the New York Times.  The article was called “Why Black Women Are Fat” written by Alice Randall (a self-identified Black woman).  The article seemed like a well-meaning discussion on the issue of obesity in the black community, yet in the end it was just another mainstream piece to publically shame black women (it’s a known fact that the BMI is racially biased).  If Ms. Randall was truly concerned about the plight of “fat” Black women why not discuss it in a Black woman’s magazine like Heart & Soul (dedicated to the health of Black women). The mainstream newspapers don’t care about fat OR skinny Black women (I mean I haven’t seen any articles about missing Black women, have you?)
The writer of WAOD noted, “We get it, we’re Black, we’re a fat, we’re all gonna DIE!” I could relate to WAOD’s frustrations. Within the last year there seems to be a media obsession with all things Black women and not in a good way. We can’t get any man to marry us (as if that’s our biggest goal in life), we have the highest rates of herpes (the CDC had to retract that statement after claiming they “made a mistake” in their research), we only have $5 dollars to our name, and we are considered the ugliest of women (Psychology Today’s “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?”).  Dealing with issues of weight can be hard for Black women as we have to struggle against two standards of beauty, outside AND within the black community.  
Just as Eurocentric beauty standards can be damaging to a Black woman’s psyche (skinny, blonde, etc) so can black standards of beauty (if you don’t look like Beyonce or if your butt isn’t THIS big). It’s not surprising eating disorders are actually increasing with Black women (Google: “Breaking the Silence: Eating Disorders in Black Women”). I’m sure some of you have heard about the young black woman that recently died in surgery because of a desire to have a bigger bottom (Google: “Tragic bottom implant girl thought having illegal injection would make her a hip hop star”). Black women are being pressured to fit into two contradictory body types. While I will always bump Jennifer Hudson’s song “Spotlight” it’s becoming quite disconcerting to flip the channels and see her hollering at me to join Weight Watchers (as well as Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson). It seems Black women have become the new target to make money off of and what better way than to remind us about how undesirable we are.  
So, what’s my advice to Black women regarding weight? I feel you have to do what’s best for you. It’s a personal journey. If you feel it’s time to start being healthier then do it. If you are just concerned about living your life then do that too.

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