As a proud African-American woman that loves her curves, I have never thought of my curves as being a socio-political statement against oppression. Alice Randall feels that this may be historically the case as she sites sources in her opinion piece entitled “Black Woman and Fat”, one that I feel continues to reinforce negative stereotypes about black woman and our relationship with our curves.
She mentions that she did not want to look like thin Super Model Twiggy but yearned to have big thighs like her dance instructor. Based on her perspective in this piece, I believe that had she a prevalent, black Super Model with the same attributes as Twiggy she would have desired to be the same way. Yearning to have attributes of someone in your community only meant that she discovered that beauty was attainable and real , serving as a possible positive reflection. Reflections like that were hard to come by in mainstream media back then.
There are generational mindsets about being “thick” that exist in black culture that I believe were birthed out of the need to feel like our full hips were valid and beautiful given there was no real validation of that fact anywhere else in society. That generational mindset is perhaps what Alice wants to convey when she sites the work of Andrea Elizabeth Shaw that suggests black women gained weight as a defiant statement against “.. the fit black slave and our fat bodies stood both as an explicit political statement and active political resistance”. I can understand this to a certain extent, being fit would surely make you more marketable in the slavery trade, being the antithesis of that would make you less desirable. We do have an example of this in more recent history with wearing huge afros placing power in the “clouds” that black people wore. I really don’t see that in this current climent we put on weight just so we can stick it to the man!
Alice also goes on to ask that black women strive to get below 200 lbs. to avoid possible health issues yet 200 lbs is still considered overweight. That weight may be her level of social acceptability that she is comfortable being and seeing. I understand that unhealthy eating habits can also be a generational and in some case regional issue that can contribute to weight gain. But last I checked butter queen Paula Deen was not African American. Her diagnosis of diabetes was immediately attributed to her rich southern cooking style. Interesting that her sons possible health issues were never called into question even though they were raised on her delicious treats. I wonder what her socio-political stance is?
I believe that the beauty I find in my full hips is derieved from a deep identity and appreciation of my heritage. I am proud of who I am and the woman that I have grown to become. I think that this piece speaks more to fat shaming than to a call to action.
Read the article and let me know what you think! http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/06/opinion/sunday/why-black-women-are-fat.html