Skinny Women Need Love Too

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.


25 responses to “Skinny Women Need Love Too

  1. I feel you. I’m not thin, but I feel you. Even though I hate the term, I guess people would say I was “thick”. Ugh. I have full thighs, breasts, waist smaller than my hips. Plus, I’m increasingly losing weight and feeling good about it.
    The thing I DON’T feel good about is the fact that I’m a Black woman and I don’t have a DONKEY on my back. While I’m not totally devoid of a backside, I feel like there’s something wrong. One the one hand, mainstream society says be thin thin. Black men/culture say be thin in the waist and padow everywhere else. Those video chicks or the women in King magazine… that’s a clear message we’re receiving. I wish I could say that stuff didn’t matter, but it does. How do you get bombarded with others’ “ideal” of how you should look, yet stay happy with your reality?

  2. I would have to say that everyone is kidding themselves if we believe that body image isn’t an issue for black women. If you are existing in society today, it is an issue! I can’t count the number of times I’ve given a female friend a compliment only to hear in return how “I wish I had bigger breast” or “I got the hips but the butt needs work”. Body image is a critical issue that is rarely addressed.

    I’ve heard complaints on skin shade and tone, height, size, bust, etc. And frankly, us men aren’t helping with how we break our necks and our “Damn, look at THAT!” when a well portioned woman walks by. I think it starts with everyone being satisfied with our bodies and then accepting our people for their bodies. We need to stop idolizing what we see in music video and magazine spreads, and start loving what we have.

  3. I think the problem of body image does stem from the multitude of cultural standards being exploited in the media. Between the battle of mainstream America’s obsession with breast and black America focus on rear-ends only two of the 1,000 parts of a person became relevant. Coupled with the skin color crisis and media selling sex.

    I think the issue is more than just size, but it can extend to skin color, hair styles, to facial features. It is not surprising that body image is finally becoming a talked about issue black among community.

    As far as a solution, we should continue to shift towards being healthy as being beautiful. Attack the outlets influencing our perception of an ideal body.

    Dove has the right idea “real beauty” (although not perfect). Eliminating the emphasis on particular parts and realizing beauty is only the sum of parts.

    Is body image just a discussion of self esteem or does it also deal with the desire to attract physical/sexual attention?

  4. Sowhatiff Jenkins

    Great question Flash!,

    I think the two (self esteem and desire to attract attention) are intertwined to the extent that when you have high self esteem, you can attract that attention (or attracting attention adds to self esteem) but if you don’t get attention, it feeds low self esteem. This is not to say though that our self esteem should be a function of whether we do or don’t get cat calls on the streets…but it is what it is.

  5. Sowhatiff looks good in my book lol.

    Flash, I think it is a combination of both. B/c there are boat loads of ppl who are as ugly as sin and are not equipped with the best bodies but b/c they have such high self-esteem (sometimes a defense mechanism against said infliction) they get just as much attention as anyone else. Ultimately, body image is intertwined with self esteem and the desire to attract physical/sexual attention.

    Katt Williams said its “esteem of yo mufcukin self”.

    Sidebar: Skinny girls are the real freaks.

  6. Amen Sowhatiff! You very perfectly described what I have struggled with my entire life. I too am tall and skinny; everyone constantly asks where does all that food go? (I eat like a NFL linebacker) I think everyone has issues with self-image and feels some degree of validation from compliments.

    For me the solution was talking candidly with my friends. In doing this I realized that we ALL have issues about our bodies. My short friends want to be tall, my skinny friends want to be thick, and my thick friends want to loose weight. Realizing this makes it easier to accept that no one is perfect. What I consider a problem someone else views as perfect. I think everyone should just embrace themselves for what they are…imperfections and all. Just realize you may not have the fattest rear, but you have beautiful legs, so rock shorts and skirts 🙂

  7. I personally don’t think everybody needs to have bones covered in copious amounts of meat. Everybody has their own unique attributes that a dude will find attractive. Some men like being able to throw chicks in the air and position themselves perfectly for her descent. Other men like a lot of push back when inserting asserting their manliness. Some even want to get lost between a few rolls, provided the hygiene is on point. Peeps just need to understand it’s impossible to please everybody. Simple as that.

  8. Sowhatiff Jenkins

    That’s right Slim. Insert assert that manliness.

  9. Skinny women need love too, i love a slim woman as much i love a thick woman. Everyone has their preference , i think Slim pretty much explain 90% of the guys i know lol. It’s ok Tiff your good in my book.

  10. OMG LMAO SLIM! Insert manliness?!! I’m dying in the library.

  11. I like this topic. I am a skinny woman. Have been my entire life. My mom is about 10 lbs heavier than me a thin woman, and my father is obese. I got daddy’s beautiful features, and mama’s body. Being in a family with skinny people, and much larger people. I feel all sorts of backlash. The larger portion wonder where the food goes because they know I eat! The thin people in the family say things like “Wow, I didn’t think anyone could be skinnier than me! Then there is society.. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “do you eat?!?!?”. I eat plenty, and recently I’ve started to gain a few pounds because I’m working out regularly. Eating plenty of carbs, and protein and ripping my muscles in the gym..I’m not trying to be a body builder but I am starting to develope muscles along with a few pounds. I’m glad about it. My boyfriend happens to be a white man. Very few black men look at me, the only ones that do are those prefer skinny women instead of thicker ones (plus the cute face helps, lol). I use to be VERY insecure about my chicken monkey arms..I’ve been called it all..Hurt coming home from school crying to my obsese father that skinny people have it just as bad. Truth is, society will kill you if you let it, and I’ll never be an average size woman (maybe if i have a kid). At the age of 21 I now accept that, myself, and love myself. Although I’m only 5 ft I’m walking very tall in my size 1’s.

  12. Yes we do need love too. Mainstream society glamorizes thin women but within the African American culture thick is in. So I will admit that I do wish I had a little more cushion in certain areas, but saying that among a group of my friends will undoubtedly causes a few eye rolls. We all, big and small, want a little of what the other has (or less of what we have).
    I agree with ChanelPetite. Working out is a great remedy for body image. It’s not only for losing weight, and it helps you feel great.

  13. Vanessa aka Miss V

    I definitely feel you on this post, Tiff!

    I’m also tall and skinny, and I remember growing up just hating my body. I wanted to be more shapely (read: bigger boobs and booty), but no matter how much I ate, it never happened. What you see at home and what you see on TV can def screw with your self-esteem and image, as a child and as an adult.

    Over the years, though, I’ve become more comfortable with my body (esp since I got a little something something to work with now =p), but I still get pissed off when people comment on my slim-ness… I mean, what the hell? I don’t go around calling people fat…. skinny people need love, too!

  14. well…I am tall 5’9 1/2″ but I would describe my body type as “bottom heavy.” I’m skinny on the top and “boom, boom” from the hips down. Before the age of 21, I always wanted to be skinny through out. I hated my “boom, boomness” lol. I used to cover myself up with extremely large clothing throughout high school and half-way through out college, but now that I’ve begun to show myself off; I started to receive a lot more attention. I’ve grown to be a little bit more okay with the “boom, boom”. Sad, but true. It’s only been a mere two years since I started to show it off, so I still got to get used to the attention. But sometimes I look at really slim girls and still kind of wish I looked like them. This just show it goes both ways around, you always want what you don’t have.

  15. Sowhatiff Jenkins

    LOL @ “I don’t go around calling people fat.”

  16. WithRainbowSprinkles

    1) Skinny black women UNITE!!!
    2) Some people are fat…some people can help it…these people should lose weight for themselves and everyone else…
    3) It’s most important that people are healthy, not everyone is meant to be a size 2, but I don’t think anyone is supposed to be a 22 either, we just have to accept that some things are a way of life, not everyone can eat cookies and ice cream every night and still maintain and even those that can probably still shouldn’t. Everyone needs exercise and fruits and veggies no matter how skinny, fat, big, small, tall, short, whatev…
    4) LOL at Slim
    5) Back to my original thoughts–> skinny black women unite!!!

  17. You have just found a fan for life.

    People naturally assume that skinny women do not have body image issues. And if we are confident, then we’re “Skinny Bitches.” Can’t win for losing.

  18. SBG, I was literally just about to visit your site from Sisterlicious and then your comment magically appeared Nice timing.

  19. I used to be very skinny when I was younger, but now I am starting to put on weight. I am 5’6, 130 lbs. I consider myself to be average-sized, but can you believe I still have black men calling me skinny and wanting to “fatten me up?” I think I look very good. There are some black people who think Beyonce is too skinny! If you think Beyonce is too skinny, then you have issues. I think the black community is the only community that accepts being big and fat, and that’s the reason why so many black people have all kinds of diseases.

  20. It’s about time somebody understands my pain. I am about 5’10 and go up and down between 133 and 136 lbs. All my life I have had issues with my weight. I was never “thick” enough, even though I’m working with a lil something back there. If I lose two pounds, you can tell.

    Sometimes I feel guilty when my friends are complaining about losing weight and I can eat whatever I want. But now I don’t. I don’t have to worry about dieting (for now). When college homecomings and reunions come around, I’m the only one who isn’t “on swole”. It’s a gift and a curse.

    Also, as far as men, the men I’ve dated had no issue. Every man and woman has their preference, so just go for what you like.

  21. I have always felt the need to cling to my skinny friends. I cannot understand what gives fat people the right to ALWAYS be commenting about me being 110 lbs. Gosh, I never tell them how blubbery they look, how big their gut is etc. I am working on just accepting my body type but I agree with the comment that black men generally do not like skinny black women. They really do believe that they need to eat a lot more but trust me, I have always had a healthy appetite. Hail to the skinny ones…

  22. How tall are you? Thin chicks get it pizzlin. There’s also less of a chance of injury to our

  23. I disagree with the post written by Kisha Mcormick that stated the following: “I think the black community is the only community that accepts being big and fat, and that’s the reason why so many black people have all kinds of diseases.”
    Please do not mistake having a body like a woman (hips, booty, and/or big breast) as being obese or fat. Women of African descent or blessed with the model body- yes, model body. We are the proto-type that God used when he created the perfect woman. So please do not insult what God’s perfection and artistic ability.

    I recently lost about 20 lbs (due to a hyperactive thyroid) ..I was about 140 and now I weigh about 120- I HATE MY RECENT WEIGHT LOSS. I no longer have my booty- and Im trying to put back on some weight.

  24. That Saddity Chic

    Girl my family gave me the nickname “Maga Mone” as a child. I’ve always been the naturally skinny one in my caribbean family. Even now I can’t go to a family gathering without someone feeling the need to say something about my weight. It’s frustrating and really crushed my self-esteem growing up. But now I feel good, look good and eat clean. The funny thing is now my sister has asked to hit the gym with me and to help her eat better lol. Of course I’ll do it though.

  25. long long long story short thin slim and petite women are definetly one of a kind undescribeable now in hw u view what I just said u probably very confuse so take me at my word I kno the stuff John B

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