Thursday, February 25, 2010


    "I like em thick!" A sentiment often heard throughout Urban, hip-hop or Black culture. The images of round, plump, stately women have often been associated with Black females since the formative years of American slavery. There was even a surge of promotional figurines during the early 1900's with a darker-skinned, heavy-set slave dubbed the "Mammy" character (one of four major stereotypes originally associated with Black female images**). Mammy resonates so well because her likeness could be found in many plantations, she wasn't offensive, symbolized a maternal figure and of course... food. The preparation and ingestion of food.
     Never mind the key fact that slaves were given the absolute worst foods on the plantation, yet from the worst created nourishment (albeit not optimum) because everyone knows the power and resilience of our people. Mammy's imagery and stereotype has been seen throughout American history, media, and is still traced in many modern advertisements (yes, even now-I know you've seen the Pine-Sol lady always cheering you on whilst mopping the floor, or noticed that the Aunt Jemimah bottle has yet to change its packaging...). An image and stereotype that has permeated the mindset of an entire people. Most Black American families are hard pressed to find at least one female family member who isn't obese, or has an affinity for fatty foods (often disguised as "soul food"-but I digress) proudly comfortable with her larger size. There is nothing wrong with a larger size, as everyone is built differently, but I find it perplexing that within our communities it is almost glorified at times to be larger without focusing on simply living the healthiest lifestyle possible.
      Only in OUR communities, or urban metropolis' that are heavily populated by brown and black people with lower socio-economic status' and limited education options, are there few grocery stores but bodgeas and service stations on every corner. Where are the Whole Food's or grocer's that carry local produce and organic options??** In addition to lack of healthy food options, there are few gyms in our communities, less and less of our youth participate in organized sports or physical activity post-school or during the weekends, and the strip malls are filled with stores catered to the "FULLER woman". Surely you've noticed that the average size of young females in middle school and high school has increased dramatically in the last decade, and in-spite of fast food restaurants attempting to provide nutritious food "options" on their menus, many people still choose the same calorie-laden, primary number meals. Don't forget the soda.
While it may be more socially accepted (globally accepted for that matter) to be slim, America in particular is hypocritical as within OUR communities we've been conditioned to generally support our obesity/ thickness/ "meat-on the bone" physiques as opposed to promoting a healthier lifestyle inclusive of proper nutrition education to ensure optimum fitness and quality of life. "Thicker" (Brown) women book magazine spreads, top billing in exploitative videos, and have sparked plastic surgery trends of women desiring a larger behind or breasts- traits easily associated with heavier women. In short, they remain sexually desirable to (Brown) men in their own right. That's not to say that bigger women aren't also under collective attack as Americans peddle weight-loss aids like prescription drugs. Surely there are self-conscious issues with being obese, but I do believe that larger women are more accepted in minority communities and that historic conditioning may have a part in that.
     It becomes tricky when making comments about one's size without taking all of these many factors into account. I have played a part in the mindless promotion of thickness, and just the other day realized my lack of sensitivity, as I have always been rather thin-always healthy though- in comparison to my peers. I may never fully-relate to a fat girl's blues (no matter her color) just as a bigger girl may never-fully comprehend issues associated with being thin, Black, and a fan of hip-hop culture where your image is rarely reflected. My point is that in the midst of Black men so quick to tear us down, as females we should aim to encourage one another more to live healthy lifestyles... exercise together instead of gossip (or do both!), and swap healthy recipes instead of men (or both...LOL). In other communities different body sizes are celebrated as a diversity and I feel we can do the same within ours so long as the root focus is on living your best life. No matter your waist, breast, or butt size.
**= Additional Blog Post dedicated to the topic**



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