Black Women Are Fat Because They Want to BeMay 9, 2012 No Comments
One editorial in last week’s New York Times has started a significant debate about women of colour and their relationship with their bodies. Alice Randall wrote that many black women are fat because “we want to be.” That is why, she explains, “four out of five black women are seriously overweight” and “one out of four middle-aged black women has diabetes.”
Why do black women want to be fat? Randall argues that black culture accepts and even values “fat thighs” over “skinny legs.” She also argues that black women have historically used their bodies to resist white body standards and gender standards. A third argument is that black men want their wives to be fat and worry when they lose weight.
So, which is it? Are black women resisting? Are they pleasing their husbands? Or is this something else entirely. Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, who deals with childhood obesity policies, responded with a Huffington Post article. She argued that Randall was leaving out important facts about the culture of poverty and depression that lead many black women to overeat. Dr. Rockeymoore also drew attention to the problem of limited food options that are inexpensive. A cheeseburger is much cheaper than an organic salad.
This debate brings up a lot of race, culture and class issues. But is also brings up the issue of authenticity. Who is entitled to speak “authentically” for a group of people? If Randall and her African-American friends have been told by their husbands to stay overweight, does this make it universal?
As a white twenty-something, I may have absolutely no authenticity or authority to even discuss the issue. But what everyone needs to keep in mind is that obesity can kill you. There is a difference between having amazing curves and putting your health in danger. If African-American culture is more accepting of different curves and body types, that’s great, and other cultures could do well to adopt those standards. But if overeating is causing diabetes and is created by poverty or depression, that’s when we have a problem.
Contact the author here: jennY@morningquickie.com