By Sowhatiff? Jenkins
The archetype of a black woman isn’t tall and slim. Often, she is depicted or imagined as thick up top and down bottom: small waist, full hips, and a behind that makes one want to shake their head with a desire to beat in admiration of her figure. As such, there is an assumption that black women don’t have issues with weight, or how we view our bodies when compared to each other, or the majority. For example, when you think about those who struggle with eating disorders, what does the woman that popped into your mind look like? Probably that girl you in saw on the Abercrombie billboard..and my guess is…she wasn’t black.
Growing up in a family of shapely southern and Caribbean women, I was always (and still get) clowned for being “skinny” or “maga”. At holiday dinners, I am encouraged to eat grown man portions. After not seeing a relative for some time, I am met with a look of concern, and get told to eat bread or food known to put on pounds. And please believe…I am not shy when it comes to my appetite. So what’s the deal? Why do I need to plump up? This idea speaks to an issue seldom talked about about in the black community: body image.
As a skinny black woman, I get mixed messages. When I look at the women often used on TV or in print ads, I see myself reflected, but only as far as my body type goes. Yep. I am thin like the white girls on the telly. And yeah, this awards me some positive comments related to the types of clothes I wear, or how fast my metabolism is. But, no you can’t see that thang from the front. Nope, I don’t have tig ole bitties…Instead I rock tittle ole littles. And when fully clothed, I don’t appear to have child bearing hips.
Living in this blasted blessed country, as a thick or thin woman, is easy to get mixed messages. In our homes and communities, we generally look one way. But when we turn on the television or pass a magazine stand, we are told how to lose weight or change our bodies. Which do we adhere to?
How do we reconcile the conflicting messages? Is body image even an issue at all among black women? How do we appreciate each other (and ourselves individually) without tearing each other down? How do skinny black women fair? What about the thicky thick ladies? What role do men play in furthering the issues?
I would love to read your good thoughts.