Friday, June 09, 2006

Black women, body image and eating disorders

Since I work so many hours during the weekends I will have to make posts during the week (with very little time to edit, sorry)so that you guys will have something to read . I thank all of you for visiting my blog and reading what I have to say. This is the post for Saturday 6/10/06. The media constantly focuses on white women and their obsession with their bodies. A number of years ago their was a survey which found that black women were overwhemingly satisfied with their bodies. Well today I would argue that things are not quite the same. Today many young black women have serious issues with body image. Many flirt on the edge of various eating disorders. As hip hop has become a larger part of American culture and accepted by the mainstream , the images of the scantly clad women have made their impressions on young black women. One of the most notable things about the physiques of the video girls( i refuse to call them hos) is that they are not stick thin. This sort of takes them out of the idealized beauty of mainstream America. That said, the bodies of these women are far more difficult to obtain because it takes more than going to the gym and eating carrots. Most of these women have very flat stomachs(sometimes 6-packs stomachs), large hips, big round behinds, thick thigns and slim tappered calves. Breast size can vary as it is not as important in African-American culture( perkiness is important). Three of the most celebrated video women: Buffy the body, Ka-toi and Melissa Ford are the embodiment of the perfect video girl ,with their extreme hourglass figures they resemble the black version of Jessica Rabbit. Many young black girls find themselves wanting to desperately look like these women. Unfortunately no amount of dieting can make you look you these women, with therportions of Buffy,Melissa and Ki-Toy it simply comes down to genetics. You either got it or you don't. Just as their are young black girls who want to look like the video girls there are also those who desire to look like supermodels ,who mainstream America tells us are beautiful. More and more young black women are being diagnosed with the eating disorders anorexia and bulemia. I think one of the reasons is that more blacks are being intergrated into white society so there is a sort of negative acculturation happening in that young black women are picking up the negative relationships that many white women have with their bodies and food. When I was a teenager I would never hear young black girls talk about wanting to be very thin. Unfortunately, today its become more common to hear young black girls talk about wanting to fit into a size 0 or 2. A few years ago I worked at a department store which was patronized by a mixed clientele. There were a few young black saleswomen who were a size 0 or 2. What we noticed was that the white women patronizing the store would frequently comment on the fact that they (salespeople) were so thin and also state that they wish they were lucky enough to be so thin. This happened so rarely with black customers , admiring the thin bodies of the saleswomen that it can be counted on one hand. In recent published statistics it has been pulished that of all women in America , African-American women are the most overweight. I think their are many reasons for this, tradionally African-American culture is more accepting of women having a few extra pounds. A second reason is that some African-American women avoid strenuous exercise for fear of messing up their hair. A third and not deeply examined issue is that many black American women suffer from an eating disorder-they are chronic overeaters who binge. Many poor black women find themselves having to pick up the slack because they are unmarried and have children with deadbeat fathers. Therefore , they are working two or three jobs to pay bills. When they come home they find themselves to tired to cook a nutritious meal therefore they overly rely on fast food and processed foods which have little to no nutritional benefit for the body. To deal with the stress many simply overeat to make themselves feel better. While the temporary feeling that eating junk food may feel good or like a rush, it is only later that black women see the damage(obesity,high blood presureand diabetes) that their overeating has caused. Give me your thoughts and opinions please. Conflicted con. I know you have your opinions on this post.


Sista in Tokyo said...

Hi Ms. Channel! Thanks for stopping by Sista in Tokyo and for referring me to CollegeGrad of Financial Confessions. I've contacted her and we will hook up soon in Tokyo-- thanks!

Anyway, great post! I am one of those petite black women that you speak of, and I can't tell you how many times I have to correct people (with an attitude) when they ask me stupid sh*t about my petite frame. Admittedly, I feel a bit of pressure to remain this size.

Funny though, this pressue only emerged when I moved to DC. Until then, I wasn't really aware of my petiteness until others pointed it out daily. Or, whenever I would return home family members will say, "Girl, you haven't gained weight yet?"-- Almost as if they are just waiting on me to become big or something.

Indeed, black women have serious issues with self-image and I have to keep myself in check often so that I don't become caught up in such nonsense!

--Sista in Tokyo

Coffey0072 said...

Hi. Someone commented on my blog that I should peruse this article. Glad I did.
It's unfortunate how women (both Black and White)let the distorted expectations of men, dictate how they should look.
These video "vixens" are in fact bodacious, but keep in mind that some of them have surgically enhanced features (as taboo as cosmetic surgery is in the Black community, it IS also on the rise!).
Case in point: Countess Vaughn of The Parkers and Moesha fame, had her derriere surgically enhanced, to mimic the Buffie the Bodies and the Melissa Fords featured in these rap videos.

I think women, Black women especially, need to take back power, and stop letting the media and lascivious rappers dictate how we should look! More importantly we need to take care of ourselves.
I am full bodied (with obvious T & A) and have grappled w/ body image for years... I finally decided enough was enough. My only aim is to be healthy, proportionate, and active.

I also refuse to use that very same T&A to get ahead and I refuse to perpetuate these hypersexualized stereotypes about how black women should look and act. Men have delusions of grandeur when it comes to women, and think that Halle, Tyra, and Buffy the Body are their due. Men who place these ridiculous physical expectations on women are indeed insecure and are trying to compensate for lack of something- (looks, money, sexual prowess, intelligence? Who knows).
A lot of these video vixens don't even look like that in person, and are a dime a dozen. Most of them don't move on to productive things, unfortunately, and rely on their physical attributes to get ahead (usually in vain: i.e.Karrine "Superhead" Steffans) because the industry and these men exploit them for what they're worth and then continue to oppress them. They want us to look perfect, but many of them don't. And it seems okay. Because we've allow it to be so.

I wish more Black women would reach a collective epiphany, and stop letting the media and Mens'fantasies make us feel bad for not having a certain "look." It's like we can't win for lose.

Sorry for essentially blogging on your comments section. lol.
I get passionate about this topic! ;o)

beautyinbaltimore said...

No, thank you a lot coffey for your point of view. You actually brought up some very valid points. I wished I would have touched on the idea that many men have about being entitled to a "10" when are not.

Busola said...

I get where you're coming from on this.

It's really bad how we as women generally let others dictate how we should look.

Was reading through a forum the other day (won't mention any names) and the way the guys went on and on about how their perfect woman would have a stick thin waist, and an ass and hips that could comfortably sit a whole family was quite disturbing.

Someone even photo-shopped a girls pic, increasing her boobs so they looked like melons, and her bum so they......well, looked like melons too, and it was quite obscene. If someone actually looked like that, they'd have to take her into medical care.

Anyway, read somewhere that most of the time, these distorted imsges are directly related to viewing pornographic material. Apparently it's a slow process, first of all, you start of finding 'normal' people attractive, then if you continue to view it on a regular basis, you're more likely to become fixated on the attributes of the porn stars (you know, sillicone enhanced boobs, and/or butts, as the case may be) next thing you know, you don't find 'normal' people attractive anymore, and can only get off on these exaggerated attributes.

It got to the point that one of my guy-friends was complaining about a girl friend of his. His argument was that she looked like the girls on tv, so couldn't understand why she wasn't as 'nice' a person as he expected.....and I'm thinking to myself.....boy, you picked her because she looked like someone on tv, not because of her personality....what do you expect????

Anyway, guess what I'm trying to say after much rambling is that really, the jokes on them (the guys that do this). Prime example, the guys on the forum I mentioned earlier.....always seem to have some sort of girl trouble or the other, going on about how women are nothing but gold-diggers, etc etc.

Well, the lesson is, maybe if you weren't so fixated on her having enough boobies to feed a 3rd world country and an ass that looks like two (or more) heads put together, you might get a nice, decent woman who isn't just out to get your money!

You'd think that would be an easy lesson to learn wouldn't you.

ps , sorry for the sermon, but guess this is a v edgy topic for me too.

Nneka's World said...

I agree with coffee, yeah I used to moan about the shape of my body and getting insults from people when I went home to visit, saying that I was too fat to find a husband and some other bull shit as well. I had no self esteem always worrying about how I look and all. Now I don’t give a hoot anymore, I keep fit for me and me alone, if people don’t like the way I look that is their business.

When ever i read the mag or see pictures “celebrating beauty” It makes me sad, because there are impressionable young girls out there who look up to this and think they have to be a size 0-2 to fit in. Everybody is made differently they should celebrate their body. Even girls in Nigeria, condemn you when you happen to have some curves, I got that a lot, but as far as I am concerned that one is their business, I don’t find having no bum and no boobs looking like a teenage boy attractive, I like curves. I have learnt to celebrate my curves and not hate them.

The men are just as bad, i have male friends who tell you what they want thier woman to look like, meanwhile they either have bellies stretching from here to australia or look like they need a few good meals down them!
If they want a perfect woman, they should start with themselves, as they say charity begins at home.

Maybe one day, we would stop worrying on trying to look like buffy the body or paris Hilton, just get a life, and the men dem would just like you for you.
Media is a bi***

Coffey0072 said...

I need to blog about this. lol. I really do so that I can stop clogging up your comments thread.

While I haven't had any complaints from any man (not that I'd care one way or the other) about my appearance... except for once, when I broke up with a man much older than myself, about a year 1/2 ago, he tried to take a cheap shot... and said and I quote "You have a sensuous look, some men may be into that, others may not be, so good luck in your dating endeavors" I, in turn said, "Well, you're short, bald and middle-aged and YOU liked my sensuality, otherwise you wouldn't keep calling me and begging me to give you another chance." Needless to say, that shut him up.
He wanted to make me feel bad, so went for what he thought, was the juggular... Assuming I was insecure about my curves.
NNeka and Busola,touched on some really interesting things! Men watch porn, not realizing that many of those women are in fact, very insecure and have very little education, they undergo painful cosmetic surgery (non-stop), and grapple with Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
Men date women JUST because of their appearance and trophy appeal, and then are shocked when the woman has next to NO personality and isn't well-rounded, they throw their hands up, flummoxed as to why!
Nneka, other girls may criticize your curves, because they ENVY your confidence and the way you carry your "womaness"

This entry prompted me to dig deep into my archives and ask you all to read this entry:

beautyinbaltimore said...

Thank you for your response, Busola wrote about some men watching to much porn and that causes them to want women who resemble porn stars. I have a friend whose boyfriend watches a lot of porn and she said he would want her to do a lot of the degrading sex acts in movies.Likewise, when Kurk Franklin was on Oprah disscussing his porn addiction he said the same thing, he would ask his wife to perform some of the acts he saw in the movies. I don't know why men are wired differently from women when it comes to sex. I always find it funny that men complain about the stress they have when they land a woman who looks like a video girl. What did they expect, because of her looks she has a lot choices or opportunities as far as her pick of men. Therefore, she will expect you to match(money,gifts etc)of her other admirers.

The Stiltwalker said...

this was a good post and you made a very good comment about the whole body thing and what black men proclaim to be 'fine': you either have it or you don't. It's sad that black people will go around embracing the fact that they're all different shades but the minute a black woman walks in the room with a flat ass it's something close to a sin.