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.


Anonymous said...

Great article Tiff. It hits on many of my own personal struggles, while enlightening me to others. It is very hard for me to be deep with people as I am always wsiting for derisive feedback. I commend you on your honesty and natural writing abilities.

William Hanlon said...

Vent, vent, vent away! Especially if it's going to be as thoughtful as this.

People who deny racism, homophobia and gender bias ("get over it"; "stop complaining") are usually looking out for and consolidating their own self-interests. They often belong to a group that is targeted for discrimination, yet are in a socioeconomic or political class that shields them from the usual harm and thus can't fathom that it might happen to other, less-protected individuals (or may even benefit from their denial because their powerful associates pat them on the head for their help in enabling discrimination); or they simply belong to a group that has historically benefited from keeping others down.

The Kellis of the world are merely attempting to elbow themselves into a more advantageous position, without troubling to merit it (which they don't, usually). What can be better than beating out every Black, gay, fat, transgendered or slut-shamed person on the planet, just for the mere sake of not being those things when you wake up in the morning?

TiffJ said...

@Anonymous: Thank you. A lot of those issues had been plaguing me for months, and while I promised myself I wouldn't keep trying to challenge negative tropes about Black women and/or Black women and weight, I felt compelled to call out a lot of the b.s. I've been reading. Perhaps *not* challenging the ignorance I see perpetuated by my own community isn't an option, but after a while, it becomes exasperating. As far as the weight goes... sharing my personal struggles is something I HATE doing, when referencing fat-shaming and ignorance.

Because I feel like I'm somehow EXPLAINING to some ignoramus, why I'm not skinny just to placate their discomfort or make them be less judge-y, when really, I just want them to stfu and stop assuming they have the issues Black women face w/ their bodies, on lock. They don't. And I'm usually not interested in trying to change someone's(who doesn't even know me) mind about mechanics of MY body. I don't hate myself, and they can continue to stew over it.

TiffJ said...

@William Hanlon: People who deny racism or who want marginalized groups to shut up about their marginalization, really serve no purpose to me or anyone else. They can stay content, basking in their blissful ignorance or crawl under a moist rock. All I need them to do, is not infringe on my civil rights, not try to engage me in an argument about whether or not *they* think I'm being marginalized (because facts are facts... their opinions don't matter to me), and to stop trying to deflect and or deny other people their basic rights as human beings.
Oppressing groups because of their gender, race, ethnic makeup and sexual orientation is wrong. Period. No amount of whining about Post-racial America or how *rough* they think they've had it, grappling on the block, will convince me that my oppression ain't still a reality. I live my life everyday... so trying to reason with someone with zero experience on the matter is useless:

As far as Kelli Romero goes, I think she believed she'd found a safe, cushy place on the web to spew hate, bully, and troll freely like a pig happy to be rolling around in a hot, steaming pile of shit however, she failed Basic Trolling 101 when she showed her face and used her real name while doing so. Which makes it easy for people to strike back or track her down to report her for harassment. FAIL

Unknown said...

dope post. you hit everything that needed to be discussed.

like i told you before, there is big $$$ in putting down black women, thats why you never hear "why are white women fat?" or "why can't white women get married?" etc.

even CNN has done these kind of segments.

TiffJ said...

@Brother OMi: like i told you before, there is big $$$ in putting down black women, thats why you never hear "why are white women fat?" or "why can't white women get married?" etc. = BINGO. And we fall hook, line, and sink for it every time and buy into the hype. While I *definitely* think that Black people... especially women, need to take our well-being more seriously, I just don't buy that we're the faces of this "obesity epidemic". I also resent and reject the generalization that we LOVE being unhealthy and overweight and that Black men prefer Black women fat to suit their personal preferences. We live in a new era and time that favors healthy bodies and minds.

Now I don't know what circles some folks travel in, but from my vantage point, most of the Black people I know (whether they're skinny or plus-size) take health and wellness very seriously! Some of our folks need to "get real" about their growing disdain for Black women, stop believing the hype about these pseudo-scientific studies that deem virtually ALL of us unlovable, unattractive, unreasonable, and mostly unhealthy (mentally and/or physically).

Health is important... Hate and shaming people (particularly when their situation has no direct impact on their lives) are counterproductive.

Anonymous said...

Great rant. I'm trying to wrap my head around the "I don't see race" excuse so many people use. Since they obviously DO see it, all I can figure is that it's a (lame) way to say "I don't think it should be an issue, even if it is, but I don't want to think about it because it makes me uncomfortable so let's go back to talking about shoes/wine/boys/whatever." Actually that's probably it. A lame and dismissive way of sticking one's fingers in one's ears and going lalalalalala.

Some time early this year I concluded that Existing While Female is a petty misdemeanor in all 50 states. No matter what you look like, no matter what you say or do, it's WRONG. You can't win. Since everyone's tastes are personal it stands to reason. But it's really annoying how people think women exist to be rated/assessed against arbitrary and shifting Hot or Not standards, and worse, that somehow we have to submissively put up with it, as if we were consumable commodities on a store shelf, and total strangers are important enough for us to want to please.

One more thing to keep in mind: The web is a sea of negativity. There are more depressed and lonely people on the internet than there are happy and connected ones, so bloggy conversations are bound to skew negative. People generally love to complain, much more so than they like to "pinterest" things and compliment people. The internet is a very, very crabby place overall, and that's why I love Pinterest: Finally a place to LIKE stuff!

TiffJ said...

@Pinky: Hi there! The "I don't see race" argument is nothing more than a silencing technique used by people to shut you up and "get over it"... It's also used when discussions about gender oppression and any other marginalized group, come up. Silencing and gas-lighting is how folks who benefit from race, gender, and class privilege try to get their egos and sensibilities placated. Ignorance is indeed bliss for some folks. And anybody who challenges that comfy, "safe" place, is immediately a threat. I also take issue with those very same silencers, trying to dictate to oppressed groups, how they should feel about being marginalized. It's ridiculous.

Re: Existing while female and body acceptance-- People love trying to trot out the "Let's have an open and honest discussion about how and why women and/or Black women suck/are fat/are sluts/are angry!" when it's really THEM trying to force their moral authority on others! Why do any of us need to have an "open and honest discussion" about our bodies and health, with strangers who aren't our doctor or therapist??
Women can't even get proper healthcare benefits for things like birth control without being slut-shamed.

Re: the trashing of Black women in the media... they've kicked it up a notch; coming out with Tragic Black Women tropes every year. The thing that vexes me the most? Some Black folks (women included)have adopted the model and started throwing "Tragic Black Women" under the bus. And it's disturbing. As stated in a comment above... trashing Black women and coming out w/ these quasi-scientific studies about what's apparently wrong with us, is big business... apparently.

And YASSSS to this-> But it's really annoying how people think women exist to be rated/assessed against arbitrary and shifting Hot or Not standards, and worse, that somehow we have to submissively put up with it, as if we were consumable commodities on a store shelf, and total strangers are important enough for us to want to please.

And your comment regarding the internet... !!! to all of it. I think I may have to Facebook Quote it. Lol. It's great... and oh so true. I LOVE the positivity of Pinterest too; which is why I was taken aback and then f*cking agitated when this Kelli Romero broad attempted to make it an unpleasant place for me and several Pinterest users, with her sloppy attempts at trolling. None of us are there for that!