Coffee Rhetoric: Fat Black Women
Showing posts with label Fat Black Women. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fat Black Women. Show all posts

October 29, 2013

Examining American Horror Story: Coven

FX's Exercise in Witchcraft, Sex, Gender, and Race


Prior to season three’s Coven, I’d never watched the American Horror Story series. I had a brief dalliance with the first season’s Murder House installment, but my interest waned, and I gave up after the first three episodes. I didn't bother with season two and, fortunately, American Horror Story unfolds like an anthology, and features a new story each season, so there’s no sense of urgency for late-pass stragglers like myself, to play catch up via weekend Netflix marathons.

When I learned that Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates, Jessica Lange (a series regular), and Gabourey Sidibe were among the cast for AHS: Coven and saw the gothic trailers and dark cinematic look of season three, I was giddy, primed, and ready to watch, especially after seeing Angela Bassett in one promo, languorously draped on a throne, all  flawless skin and Senegalese twists, menacingly warning, “She done messed with the wrong witch.” Season Three takes place in New Orleans, at a boarding school for young witches learning how to channel their powers, evade attention from the public, and protect themselves.

May 28, 2012

These and Those: My Petition or In Which Coffee Rhetoric Vents


I’ve been blocked for the past two weeks or so and have been dying to spill open. I’ve stopped-and-started several different blog posts but couldn’t quite streamline my thoughts enough to compose them separately.  I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone and vent them all in one post via a series of mini-posts.

On Fat:  Very rarely do I feel the need to explain why I do what I do and am what I am, about me and mine, because folks who have no direct impact on me or who know nothing about me don’t deserve an explanation or to have their foolery placated however, allow me to wax poetic about the thunder in my thighs.  I’ve noticed whenever the topic of Black women’s bodies and/or images (especially when weight is the topic of discussion) come up, folks… men and women…  seem to get particularly up-in-arms about Black and their personal struggles with weight.  When Alice Randall wrote her controversial article in the New York Times’ op-ed  section, suggesting that most Black women were fat because they wanted to be so, there were a fair number of blog posts challenging her sweeping generalizations about Black women and weight (most of which she framed using her own, random experiences).  There were also the ubiquitous comments from the concern-troll chorus who opined “Black women are fat, because they eat too much and don’t exercise! You’re in denial about your fat, fatty!!” Cut-and-dry, because anybody can be a pretend licensed physician when rage-typing about fat, non?  

Full disclosure about yours truly (and this is the last time I’ll broach the topic of weight); First and foremost, I am a full-figured Black woman.  

My weight has always fluctuated and I’m prone to bloat, some of which I hold in water, apparently, and can pee right on out if I drink enough fluids or eat enough produce.  I’ve been smaller than I am and I’ve been much bigger (which I don't wish to be again). Contrary to popular anti-fat belief; I am active, I’m not diabetic, and I’ve dated actively… and no not as a “jump-off” for fat fetishists or chubby chasers.  I’m not a fucking “Mammy” or the "Sassy Black chubby friend" to anybody, so those of you who like to toss those ridiculous phrases around freely when describing women with my body type, can stop... especially when it doesn’t always apply.

Up until about four years ago, I was a vegetarian for more than a decade. I’ve walked two marathons so far, in my adult life; one for Breast Cancer, another for Obesity. I’ve also grappled with an eating disorder and put my health at risk trying to force myself thinner.  I subsisted off a diet of Saltine Crackers and Extra-strength Dexatrim.  Sometimes I’d chew my food and discretely spit it out in a napkin… never swallowing.  I put my health at risk; my nail-beds turned an odd orange color and my skin, an took on an odd grey pallor… but, but my face was so angular! And while I wasn't necessarily skinny, I was a lot thinner than I was.  Then I made (what I considered to be) the "mistake" of masticating and swallowing my food... and I gained back all of my weight and then some.  I eventually lost it having spent an entire summer exercising along with a plus-size aerobics instructor named Idrea on a VHS tape I'd found and maintaining a mostly vegetarian diet.  

Once I started eating meat again and I gained back a few pounds. Would I mind being thinner? No. Do I loathe myself because I’m not thin? Nope (and folks are apparently upset about it, because they think I should be wallowing in a sea of shame and self-loathing). Do I sit around stuffing my face with cake, pie, and ice cream? No. Sounds delectable, but no.  Do I believe that Black people need to take their health and overall well-being (both physical and mental) seriously? Yes.  While I’m not a gym rat, I am active and try my best to stay as such.  I am not diabetic, but I do have a fat rear, big thighs, and wide hips.  This doesn’t bode well for the fat police and quite frankly, I don't care.  I’m not a pro-fat advocate, but hearing the word “fat” stopped making me wince ages ago. Because while I realize there's room for improvement (as far as my body goes), I've grown comfortable in my skin. And most people will read that as me being "in denial". Fortunately I'm not here to placate most people, so feel no need to try and convince or prove anything. 

What I do endorse, is Black women maintaining their best selves.  And to people who are prone to fat-shaming or accusing Black women of being proud fatties who’re in denial, I implore you not to worry or get so incited to wrath about it, because fat isn’t contagious… it won’t rub-off on you like the plague… you can’t get fat via osmosis, so you can stop taking the struggles of someone else and their road towards body acceptance, so personally; as if it’s impacting your lives.  Those of you who don’t struggle with weight, get incited to wrath on social media forums and it makes me… well… chuckle.  If someone is grappling with weight, chances are they’ve already discussed it with their physician (and, um you’re not him or her) and are probably working towards being healthier; so keep that in mind when some of you whine, “Why can’t we be open about discussing how fat Black women are?” Having a frank discussion about the health of our community versus waging an all-out attack on a group of women, using nasty rhetoric isn’t having an “open discussion.”  And spare me the argument about semantics... "fat" vs "thick". That's a futile disagreement and it doesn't interest me.


Black women in my sphere are taking their health seriously… they’re full-figured, in-between, and/or thin and/or have lost a great deal of weight (and still fight the good fight to keep it off). None of them are in any state of denial. If someone is fat, they know it and don't need to be clubbed over the head by angry masses about it. As someone pointed out in the comments section of my Alice Randall post, there’s a distinct difference between wanting to be fat and accepting being fat... and body acceptance isn't about denial or advocating for fat, as much as it's about not wallowing in self-loathing and doing the absolute best to work with and maintain the body and health you have now... which sometimes results in lost poundage, inches, and good overall well-being.

And If it still bothers you to see fat bodies (even when fat bodies are at the gym, walking around your local track, in the produce section of your local Whole Foods, or hyuking it up enjoying herself at your favorite wine bar)… then I’m sure there’s a nice cave you can sequester yourselves in. Cheers. In the meantime, for fatties who like to stay healthy and active, For Harriet (a blog that legitimately aims to help elevate the state of Black women and our health and wellness), compiled a helpful list of online communities to aid Black women in staying healthy and fit. Additionally, fashion blogger and size-acceptance advocate, Gabi Fresh also encourages active and healthy full-figured women to head to the beach and enjoy themselves, as she did on a recent trip to Las Vegas with her boyfriend. Gabi showed off pics of herself clad in a striped bikini on her blog, titling her post, Fatkini 2012


On Having My Very Own Pinterest Troll:  I recently contended with a prolific Internet bully and Pinterest troll named Kelli Romero, who wrote “EWW YUKK!” among other obnoxious comments, when I pinned my op-ed post about Alice Randall’s article to my “Women’s Issues” board. She also wrote, “Sorry, but you look gross” mistaking a nude photo of Anansa Sims for me… and much to my delight actually… after I told her to keep her negative, trollish comments (which I likened to defacing private property) to herself and to stay off my boards.
Upon checking her activity, I discovered she made trolling various body acceptance boards and many others featuring plus-size models or bodies, a full-time job.  She also made sure to spew a bunch of racist and homophobic rhetoric in the comments section underneath other people’s boards and seemed to delight in going out of her way to look for those with pornographic material, just so she could type “Gross, I’m reporting this page!” in the comments section.  Needless to say, Kelli (who appears to be the mother of two adult women and a grandmother and therefore, too old to be a bullish, racist, homophobic internet troll) lost the battle when she was challenged head-on, by a fed up Pinterest user, who beat her at her own game, or at least shut her up. When confronted, she deleted her comments, some were flagged (since Pinterest has yet to employ a "block" option), Kelli seemingly cleaned up her hateful activity, changed her Pinterest avi (from a picture of herself) and name, and she hasn’t done any trolling since… at least for now. But like most online (or real life) bullies tend to do; she insinuated herself into the role of victim, but not before cleaning up her own filth, so her Pinterest defender(s) couldn’t see the trail that led to someone creating a Pinterest board in her dark-sided honor, emblazoned with some of her favorite troll-rhetoric. 


On Intra-racial Stereotyping:  Improving the quality of one’s life is something Black women… and anyone really… should aspire to do.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Often, Black women are relegated to the bottom of the totem pole. We’re told that we’re too fat, not attractive enough, to angry to be considered as marriage material, unattractive, too dark, too light, too awkward, too... well you get the hint. And often, a lot of those hurtful tropes are perpetuated by Black men. So imagine my disappointment upon noticing a pattern of intra-racial stereotyping on different New Media platforms, being perpetuated by a subgroup of so-called Black Women Empowerment collectives (or at least they attach themselves to the movement), targeting other Black women.  The rhetoric is a nasty and divisive way of thinking and it does absolutely nothing to “uplift” Black women, as alleged. 

So far I’ve read comments accusing darker-skinned actresses who don’t play sexpot roles described as Mammies, Black women who pursue intra-racial dating preferences labeled as “Black male identified” or as not being feminine enough, Single Black mothers brushed off as “Ghetto Queens”, a call for Black women to divest from Black communities entirely, so on and so forth.  When did we start extolling the tenets of White Supremacy to denigrate one another?   

Perhaps I’m confused or was hopeful, but how can we honestly build as Black women, when some of us seem intent on condescending to those we perceive to be lesser-than or spiteful towards those who hold opinions that are contrary to the rhetoric that's being put down?  
To say you’re building a movement to help empower Black women, while seemingly putting your foot on and mocking those who’re poor, uneducated, or already downtrodden seems counterproductive. Moreover, why can’t we accept people’s dating choices without resorting to petty name-calling? Haven’t we already realized by now, that none of us are a monolith? Shouldn't we be past that tired interracial vs intra-racial dating argument at this juncture? Who cares? We are probably the only group of women who put so much painstaking emphasis on it.
Being empowered, is being free to make choices that suit your lifestyle... without fear of being chastised for it. If a young Black woman is making destructive lifestyle choices... then let's either figure out why and offer solutions to help her as opposed to calling her a "ghetto queen"... or simply, shut up and be happy you aren't unfortunate enough to have to navigate those particular trials and tribulations.

As was pointed out to me during an email discussion with another hyper-aware Black woman I love building with online, it seems Black women are so desperate to be loved and accepted, we’ve resorted to turning on one another and breaking off into factions. And if that works for you, then fine... godspeed. We won’t always thrust our hips in accordance with the djembe beat. Perhaps Zora Neale Hurston was onto something when she opined, “All my skinfolk ain’t kinfolk.”  


On being an Angry Black Woman:  I am a Black woman. And I reserve the right to express anger when and where it’s warranted. I take issue with the term "Angry Black Woman", because it robs me of the right to be human. Often, Black women are considered to be nothing more than mules … unemotional Super Women, unfairly saddled with carrying heavy loads without the capacity or right to become exasperated. I've always wondered why I have to be an "Angry Black Woman" and guilt-tripped about expressing a very real and human emotion. I rarely hear White women described as "Angry White Women" or Asian women described as "Angry Asian Women", etc. when they express their dismay over an indignity. 

In many instances, a Black woman's displeasure about certain situations is justified. To rob me of the right to emote as any other woman does, then stereotype me by comparing me to folks on TV, who're getting a check to act over-the-top foolish (aka Nene Leakes, Tami Roman, and the rest of the Basketball Wives) is ridiculous. And I'm tired of the comparisons, especially since no Black women I interact with in actual life, act out in that way. 

Black women have the right to emote and express righteous indignation when and where it's warranted and should exercise that right without having to worry over trying to placate the self-righteousness, ego, or ignorance of someone else.

I'm over seeing us at war with one another. Just... live and relish your lives in the ways in which it works for you, and allow other people to do the same with theirs. We don't have to agree and you don't even have to like how other people go about choose to live. In fact, we don't have to build or be bothered with one another in order to live and let live. Seems simple enough. 


On Race and Oppression: If you're a non-Black person or not a person of color who doesn't believe that racism still exists or who rolls your eyes whenever you come across conversations that deconstruct White privilege and supremacy, homophobia, or patriarchy that is definitely your right however, bum-rushing online communities where people of color or marginalized groups build with one another, deconstruct racism, and do anti-racism/anti-oppression work to derail conversations to suit your own interests, is not the way. You may not want to believe or even hear that marginalized groups still experience discrimination, but it's not your place to dictate to people how you think they should navigate being discriminated against or even how to address these issues. You don't get to demand that people "just get over it", and grow defensive and try to paint yourself as a victim when you're taken to task for your ignorance. If you're truly an ally of anti-oppression work and are interested in participating in the discourse, the first rule of thumb is to listen... LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN and read carefully. 

Trivializing people's experiences and suggesting that they're exaggerating or that it's all in their head is not listening. Moreover, it's obnoxious. If you're a racist, misogynist, or bigot, then I suppose it's par for the course; in which case, perhaps you shouldn't try to participate in the discussion and steer clear of those forums, lest you just paint yourself as an internet troll. 

Unless you can morph into a person of color, a woman, a woman of color, a gay person, a gay person of color, a Transgender person, a sex worker, a person who has been sexually assaulted and/or harassed, a person who has been denied basic human and civil rights, etc... you don't have even an inkling of what it's like to navigate their world. These stories are bitter pills to swallow, because they aren't meant to soothe your ego, make you feel better about yourself, placate your privilege, or comfort your sensibilities.

May 11, 2012

NY Times Writer, "Black Women Want to be Fat"


In case you’ve been napping from the fatigue beating a dead horse induces and haven't heard, brace yourselves, because yet another article has surfaced, throwing Black women under the bus. Black women are not only the Face(s) of Spinster-hood apparently. Now this country's obesity problem is being framed to be an affliction suffered solely by that demographic.  In a growing list of articles and blog posts seemingly aimed at acquiring a paycheck and garnering blog hits as opposed to informing, thinking critically, and helping resolve; writer Alice Randall penned a “Black Women are Proud Fatties; Proud Fatties are Black Women” piece that ran in this past Sunday’s New York Times op-ed section. Through a couple of personal anecdotes and random stories about acquaintances, Randall surmised that most Black women are fat, because they want to be that way. And you do know that Black women are a monolith sans the capability of acting and thinking singly, right? (This is asked with the utmost sarcasm, of course).
“What we need is a body-culture revolution in black America. Why? Because too many experts who are involved in the discussion of obesity don’t understand something crucial about black women and fat: many black women are fat because we want to be."  Randall writes in her op-ed piece.
She goes on to opine…
“How many white girls in the ’60s grew up praying for fat thighs? I know I did. I asked God to give me big thighs like my dancing teacher, Diane. There was no way I wanted to look like Twiggy, the white model whose boy-like build was the dream of white girls. Not with Joe Tex ringing in my ears.”
Needless to say, Randall’s article sparked a flood of rebuttals via New Media, mostly penned by Black women, fed up with being publicly dissected and made to shoulder a burden that should be shared by Black men and actually a good portion of this country.  Go ahead and add this post to the 'exasperated' list of folks who eye-rolled at Randall's article.

While I've gleaned that Randall is attempting to advocate for health and wellness, I can’t help but take her to task for using her own personal experiences to speak for and judge everyone else. Across my social media platforms and/or timelines, I read nothing but updates by Black women (including and especially women of size) checking-in at the gym and touting the benefits of “cleaner eating”. A lot of us are in fact, taking our health seriously. As a relatively healthy, fuller-figured Black woman myself-- (full-disclosure, I did have a brief stint with an eating disorder when I was a teen and again as a young adult, in an attempt to will my body slimmer) --  and contrary to what Randall suggests; I don’t walk around fist-pumping in the name of fat nor do I have an aversion to healthy eating habits-- (up until about five years ago, I’d been a long-time vegetarian)-- or being active. More importantly, I’m not fuller-figured via some man’s request and my experiences don't mirror every other plus size woman's. While I admittedly grapple with my body's fluctuating weight, I don't wrestle with the idea of being mostly comfortable with myself like many people would prefer... at least not beyond the norm of any woman who fusses over her looks. And it took a bit of work to learn to accept maintaining my body in its fullness, while shirking the opinions and judgement of others who haven't a clue about my well-being or social life. 

Randall also makes the foolish (and common) mistake of generalizing the preferences of Black men (once again, due to her own personal experiences), suggesting that most of them prefer a woman with a fuller-figure and will express dismay at their partner’s weight loss…
“How many middle-aged white women fear their husbands will find them less attractive if their weight drops to less than 200 pounds? I have yet to meet one.
But I know many black women whose sane, handsome, successful husbands worry when their women start losing weight.”
The backlash from Randall's article has been palpable, and she has felt the impact and responded to it:
“My statement was that many black women are fat because they want to be. I said the word, “many,” there was no “all.” When I talk about, “want to be,” I use an example of husbands. Let me use an example that’s even more profound to me—grandmothers. My grandmother was big as three houses. She was a brilliant, strong woman who ended up having grandchildren and great-grandchildren that went to Harvard and MIT and the like, to do big things.

When I think of what it is to be powerful and beautiful, I think of her. That’s something I wanted to be. In the heart of my hearts, when I think of strength and beauty, the first thought I have is of her. I am acknowledging her influence on me. I wrote and published four novels in 10 years. That’s doing a lot of work. The way I get that work done is not sleeping much or taking time to exercise and take care of myself. Those are choices I’ve made.

I haven’t gotten fat because of eating horrible foods, but by overwork. That’s a choice that most blacks make—going out and working the job as a domestic servant."  (source)
And there she goes once more... Alice Randall has made a blanket assumption about Black men, based on her experiences. Even when she attempts to personalize the article in her follow-up statement by asserting her own internal issues with her body, she seemingly projects it onto other Black woman.

This brand of writing, which analyzes Black women’s bodies, rarely ever features anything particularly revelatory we aren't already aware of or haven't read lately. The emphasis is always put on Black women and is often written by other women (who are just as culpable for trying to police female bodies).
Living our best lives is important. Indulging a sedentary and excessive lifestyle is detrimental to anyone's health, so enough with the "Fat Black Women Represent Obesity in America" trope; last year it was "Single, Educated but Sad and Unattractive Black Women” -- and that one gets resurrected every now and again.  When it comes to Black female bodies and obesity,  there’s an amalgamation of factors at play and it’s not as cut-and-dry as Alice Randall -- (who has a agenda book to promote, apparently) -- and other people would like it to be, whether you like and/or agree with it, or not.

For once I’d like to read an analysis about the issue of Black people's (not just women) health and wellness, which advocates healthful lifestyles, but is supportive in its exploration while presenting carefully documented reasons and solutions. I’d like to read more commentary from licensed experts, who’ve done the field work and painstaking research. Because honestly, these Bloggers, quasi-social scientists, and journalists playing couch-Physician while wagging their fingers at Black women for not “fitting-in” or to try to shame them into submission, is not the way.