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!