Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

Duke Study Regarding Black Women and Weight Maintenance vs. Loss

I'm discussing an  interesting that this article about a Duke University study recommending that higher weight Black women maintain their weight (  

It's progress from the lose weight at all costs perspective however:

1. It still promotes the balderdash that Black women have fewer social pressures to lose weight.  They don't realize that we have just as much pressure but we are bigger as a group and the pressure may start bearing down on us at a size 8 vs. a size 6.  

It also assumes that social pressure HELPS anyone lose weight when we know it's just the opposite.  Maybe THAT's why Black women tend to gain even more weight at we age vs. other race/gender groups.  

2. The study acts as though dieting and exercising makes everyone lose weight (It DOESN'T -- we know that. 

3. The study apparently done by an African American thin man, seems to still subtly put Black women down as though we are lazier and less disciplined than other race/gender groups.  For these reasons I hate this article.  It's more beat down for Black fat women.

4.  This article doesn't mention that it's dieting itself that makes most folks gain weight.  Higher weight people who aren't on a diet tend to keep stable weights.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

On Mothers, Weight and Race

Re: the article "Mothers are most important influence on daughter's body image"

A few notes re: media impact and "intersectionality" -- The media ARE incredibly important because of their profound influence on those mothers and a girl's peer group, I LOVE the picture of the higher weight mom and daughter running and it reminded me how my mother shamed me for my shorts riding up in the middle between my "fat thighs,"  African American girls in particular are shamed for naturally kinky hair (as I was)...My mother was angry when the money and time she spent trying to keep my hair straight was sabotaged by sweating during exercise and swimming was not an option.  The doctor in the article is really ignorant about eating disorders and body image causes and effects.  She should NEVER be sources again in this area!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Regarding RADIANCE and Editorial Racism

Regarding the previous post -- I am no newbie to getting rejected by publishers.  What readers should know is that I did NOT submit or query RADIANCE to do the article, the editor sought me out, pursued me and begged me to do not just an article but a series on "the experience of being a fat Black woman." Only she expected this happy, Black fat fairy-land of her imagination (and too many others I met at NAAFA, not you or Lynn but others) where Black women are loved and accepted as we are and aren't victims of the pervasive, vicious fat bashing of the broader culture.  

When she read the first series installment that did not support her fantasy, she questioned my credentials to write about my own experience though I have a doctorate in communication from The Ohio State University. She said I needed a doctorate in psychology if I wanted to write what I had written.  And if I remember correctly, she told me she didn't go to college undergrad and had no "credentials" to be a magazine editor and publisher.

I asked her who were the "plenty of happy, fat Black women" she knew and that's when she told me that she always saw happy, well dressed Black women on Sundays going into a church she'd never attended.  She never talked to these women.  She didn't have any  "happy fat Black women friends"  (and we know the superficiality of the "some of my best friends are" non-sense when people do make that claim).  She had never talked to a fat Black woman about the experience of being fat.  

I am sorry that editor, who invested so much time in a magazine that was positive about large women, at least large White women, did that to me and displayed such racist discrimination and ignorance against fat Black woman.  There are always exceptions in groups (When covering a disabled man for a Cincinnati Post story the subject said, "Just call me gimp." I didn't .  Most disabled people find that a nasty term.).  But the editor pursued me and asked me to write representing my group but then had some illogical reproofs because my experience didn't fit a White privileged fantasy she had about us.  This is the problem that drove me out of NAAFA all those years ago.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Note on Fat Black Women Who Love Ourselves "Too" Much

 A note on Black women "being too accepting of higher weights,"  most of the studies that even include Black women and media/self-esteem/weight issues, don't seem to understand that because Black women as a group are statistically much larger than White and Asian women, our self-hatred kicks in at higher clothes sizes but those small sizes (say a size 10 for a Black woman, where Black "plus size" models are typically size EIGHT to 12) are, for us as a group, just as unreachable and depressing as say a size 4 or 6 for most "fat" White women. That doesn't make the self-hatred and the hatred we experience from media-empowered, fat-hating folks who think HAES (Health At Every Size) is "haze," any easier/lighter.  That doesn't mean that Black women have higher body/self esteem because our reference point is different.  That doesn't mean there isn't vicious fat hatred in the Black community...because there is.

Also in the Black community, there are roles (those of service to others with no self-hood, sexiness, beauty, deference or support) for fat Black women such as a race woman, a church woman, a mama to all.   But to only be able to get any accolades for being a person without personhood, where even the desire to be loved, pampered, considered beautiful or worthy to be helped or assisted is considered selfish and bad...where now the fact that those who have chosen those roles to have a place at all, are condemned for being "unhealthy" and thus threatening to end their source of service to others supposedly pre-maturely, is not an alternate Black universe where fat is accepted.
 I also think that some (most?/nearly all?) Black women may not be entirely honest when we do report to researchers how much we love our fat bodies (or at least without saying how much we have to push back against the fat haters to do that, to breathe, to lift our heads up and live another day) because it seems additionally demoralizing or shaming to have to admit to such feelings or discrimination if the interviewee is a white woman of any size or a slim woman of any race.

Sometimes after heated exchanges with some White women about how a fat woman can be beautiful, a fat woman can be healthy, a fat woman can be physically active, etc., I feel the carpet pulled from under me again because the fat-hating woman will then say, "Oh well, it's easy for you -- you're Black."  I usually don't have the energy to go anymore rounds at that point!  Some thin or thinner-than-me Black women have been just as bad but they just conclude I'm crazy -- period.  I don't know which is worse...Except that the Black women like that I've encountered so far had no power to affect me professionally, such as killing a magazine series they strongly solicited as did the RADIANCE editor I mentioned in a previous post..

Monday, May 6, 2013

Let me stress this about being fat...

When asked by Mary Handzus: The stress from stigma from society, especially the one that a person was born into, can be crushing.   The medical community has learned a lot  about the effect of stress on health.  I wish that they'd wise up and see its role in the health problems of fat people in a society that worships thinness.    One thing that  comes up in conversations about this is that someone will say, "Oh, I know a number of people who are overweight* and  seem quite happy - outgoing, upbeat, usually smiling.   You're probably just too sensitive."     I'll usually reply that we don't really know what's going on inside with  those other people inside - they might really feel hurt. What do you say in response to this?

I said: A SERIES on being a fat African American woman that I was ASKED to do for RADIANCE back in the day was rejected because the editor said she saw a lot of happy fat Black women on their way into (not her) church on Sundays.  I told her they were probably happy because they were going to see the only man who loved them fat.  I wouldn't be able to say that comeback today with all the sin-fat connections made in so many religious communities these days.  Black churches, populated with a majority of Black women,  many fat, are a focus for dieting campaigns these days.  Administrators at my HBCU shamed me for objecting to a lose-weight prayer walk where we were supposed to walk and pray to get thin.  I was all in for the walk...but with all the things that require prayer in this world, we should focus such energy on ending our fatness?

Health At Every Size is What I Wish Were "Epidemic"!

Health At Every Size (sign the pledge please) is the site I recommended if you are looking to stop the self hatred that is so increasingly foisted upon women of size and is only getting worse, not better for men -- health at every size. Also the Association for Size Diversity And Health is a wonderful organization to join to get the real scoop from scientists and health professionals who AREN'T part of the weightloss-diet-marketing industry that rips us off of more than our money and self esteem.

I am sending out a prayer to find more sacred places and people in my life who are comfortable in their own skin, who can see the beauty and health in every size and see that in me, who don't hate their body and step out of the circle of shame and hostility that swallows so many of we of size.

I spent part of Saturday literally begging, more than once that a group of people, especially the otherwise wonderful women would stop praising one for fitting into size 4 jeans (and acting as if I too should be in agreement).  I just wanted to be at peace and in a safe space which cannot happen if size and weight and dieting is the topic of conversation, along with the hostility I feel from those who hate their own bodies and by projection seethe hatred for my body too.  Life is too short.  It's a holiday too.  Everyone at every weight is potentially beautiful at that weight, lovable at that weight, healthy at that weight.  As Marilyn Wann says, the only thing you can diagnose about a fat person is your own level of fat prejudice!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Flying While Fat! So?: This fat girl couldn’t fly home without a fight

This fat girl couldn’t fly home without a fight. 
On Easter Sunday I was flying home after having participated in a National Popular Culture Association Conference in D.C.  I had presented a Fat Studies/Media Studies research paper titled, White Supremacy, Fat Hurdles and Thin Privilege in Media Representation: A Layered Model for Media Hegemony and Effect, as well as attended many Fat Studies division sessions. One of those sessions had been a Theatre of the Oppressed workshop where we improvised and acted out strategies to fight size discrimination.  Perfect preparation for the not so fat-friendly skies…Do you hear the suspense thriller music rising in the background?
I pass most of the time on airplanes, and waiting for airplanes, catching up on important books I’ve bought but haven’t been able to squeeze in the time to turn the pages.   Flying from the PCA conference in DC to Atlanta, I was reading the rather fabulous Fat! So?: Because you DON’T have to APOLOGIZE for your size!, by the incredibly fabulous author, Marilyn Wann (who I had the grand honor to meet for the first time at the conference couple of days earlier).
As the plane docked in Atlanta, I knew I would be lucky to make my connecting flight to Montgomery, at the opposite end of the massive airport, in time.  So I stood as soon as I could to get my overhead bag from where I had to stow it, several rows in front of me.  I ended up standing next to an affable passenger in a Delta pilot uniform who was also standing, prepared to leave. 
The pilot, a Jewish family (the father and son wore yarmulkes) and several mature women and I were joking about the reputed selective hearing of some husbands and fathers.  I told the pilot the story of the time my father stood waiting for a northbound train in Baltimore’s Union Station.  Every other person left the previously crowded platform on which my father stood and moved to another.  My father’s train came, took all the people on the other platform and went to New York.  My father was left to swear repeatedly that no announcement had been made about the train’s platform change.  Everyone else just “intuited” to move to another gate.  Right… The pilot laughed, then a lull in the conversation.
I mentioned how doubly safe I’d felt on the flight with him, a pilot, sitting a few rows ahead and surrounded by a couple dozen young, jovial DC Emergency Medical Technician recruits, headed for an Anniston, Alabama hazmat training.  The smiling Delta Airlines pilot agreed I had nothing to worry about with the EMT recruits sitting near the emergency exits.  And then he decided to go to a nasty, dark place…
“What you really have to worry about is when some big, fat guy is sitting there and if there’s an emergency, you have to get out behind him through a whole about this big,” he said, making a gesture with both his hands about the size of two oranges. 
“The hole’s a lot bigger than that,” I retorted good-naturedly, “And the good thing about fat,” I said laying a loving hand on my own belly roll, " that it’s soft and can squeeze through some tight places.”
Now the pilot’s laugh had an indignant tone that hadn’t been there during our jokes about selectively deaf- husbands who couldn’t hear their wives or children when they didn’t want to.  
“Yeah, right…” the pilot continued laughing, “Take a look at those seatbelt extenders.  In big block letters it says, ‘FATSO.’”
With the flash of a French fencing champ, I pulled the Marilyn Wann book from under my arm and held it up to him like a placard (…Here’s your sign…) and said, “Yeah!  Fat! So?”  The look of shock on the fat hating pilot’s face was one I wished I could immortalize in stone.  Eyes wide, staring from the book cover to me, and back again, motioning toward the book with cupped hands, in a begging gesture, he sputtered,
“What the…?”
Perhaps from the Pedagogy of the Oppressed work, my subconscious immediately knew what to do without conscious thought.  I began a mini, righteous rant,
“I’ve just come from a workshop where we’ve worked on healing and protecting ourselves from fat hatred and discrimination that is so prolific in the media and in the airline industry (One of the scenarios we had worked on was about a woman participant, who on the flight to the conference, was manhandled and female strip-searched from the waist up, because the man working the scanner said the woman’s fat was, “too dense” to allow the scanner to make sure she had no hidden weapons on her upper body. Back to my verbal defense…),
“It’s hateful people like you, who despite your talents and friendliness, use your unearned thin privilege to cause so much damage, so much pain, to so many paying customers who are just trying to get from one place to another…And to do that on Easter none-the-less, is even more reprehensible,” I paused, realizing that perhaps I wasn’t being religiously inclusive enough and asked the mother of the Jewish family, “Is it still Passover?  Is he doing this during Passover too?” 
She assured me that Passover was still going on, “We like to suffer a long time,” she said, I corrected her, “Oh it’s not that Jews like to suffer a long time but that they were made to suffer for a long time, just as fat hating people with power like him make the zaftig suffer for a long time.”  She laughed in affirmation.  Did I hear murmurs of, “You tell ‘im,” or was it just my imagination?
The pilot loudly said, “Okay!  Okay!  I’m sorry.”  He said it in a way that made me think he just wanted me to shut up but I said, “I accept your apology.”
I turned to a chubby African American female flight attendant (I am a fat African American woman too.) who had overhead the entire conversation.  She was beaming with what seemed like relief and thanks.  I raised my book to her in a silent gesture of the famous shout out, “This is for all the fat girls (and guys),” as the 1998 Emmy Winning Actress Cameron Manheim said when she accepted the award for her work on The Practice.
Instead of leaving the plane ahead of me, the tall pilot scurried forward to an emptied row ahead of us, stooped into it to let me pass while he starred directly into my eyes.  Did he fear as I followed him up the aisle, I might hit him in the head with the book literally, after having done so figuratively?  Or was he doing me a favor to make up for his earlier disrespect?
This was certainly not the first time I had to defend against such a verbal assault.  But I think it was the first time I didn’t feel traumatized, frozen, and beat-up afterward.  Perhaps it was because part of me was amazed that the nasty, thin pilot was not directing his venom at plump me personally, but at some composite corpulent man with a seat belt extender, sitting at an emergency exit window.  But I’ve been amazed at Whites who have denigrated Black people while speaking to my obviously African American face, usually followed by the even more insidious, “Oh I don’t mean you…You’re not like other Black people.”  And I left those encounters shaken and in a state of post traumatic shock, no matter how well I may have stood up for myself and “my kind.”
Maybe because of a few days of scholarly and interpersonal support, acceptance, empowerment (Dare I say love?) I received from so many people at the PCA Fat Studies sessions that some part of me was strengthened and no longer stripped by such hatefulness?  I certainly hope so. And I hope to the friendly skies, this feeling is forever.